The Georgia Bulldogs return to the practice field on Friday as they ready for the start of the 2021 season. Georgia should be one of the top teams in the country thanks to the likes of JT Daniels, Jordan Davis and Nakobe Dean.
But questions do exist for Georgia. At some key positions as well. While Kirby Smart did learn and get some answers out of spring practice, he’ll hope that his team is able to solidify some of those unknowns in the coming weeks.
Below are the big position battles to watch for Georgia ahead of its season-opener against Clemson.
X wide receiver position
This spot would’ve gone to George Pickens had he not torn his ACL back in March. With Pickens out for the foreseeable future, the Bulldogs will need someone else to step up alongside Jermaine Burton and Kearis Jackson.
The Bulldogs did bring in Arik Gilbert from LSU and will move the former 5-star prospect to wide receiver. His physicality would make him a prime candidate to step in for Pickens.
Related: Arik Gilbert expected to be cleared: ‘Obviously he’s special’
Georgia also has some in-house options as well it will turn to in Justin Robinson and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint. Robinson impressed during spring practice before picking up an injury that kept him out of the spring scrimmage.
Rosemy-Jacksaint meanwhile is recovering from a season-ending ankle injury he suffered against Florida. The sophomore did start two games last season in place of Pickens and Smart seems to have some optimism Rosemy-Jacksaint could be good to go to start the season.
“The receiver position has been the one that we’ve had the most injuries occur, and we’re also at a little bit of a deficit there in terms of our numbers because of the portal guys that left,” Smart said at SEC media days. “It’s not that we don’t have good receivers, we just don’t have depth.”
Freshman Adonai Mitchell had a very strong performance in the spring game for the Bulldogs. If he is able to acclimate himself to the college game, it might not take him long to be a factor at the position.
Tate Ratledge vs. Xavier Truss
You could put the left tackle position down as the actual position here. But the battle isn’t so much at this point between Truss, Jamaree Salyer and Amairus Mims.
It’ll come down to whether Georgia feels more comfortable with Ratledge at right guard than Truss at left tackle.
If the answer is Truss, Salyer will slide to left guard and move Justin Shaffer over to right guard. If Georgia ends up starting Ratledge at right guard, Salyer will take the left tackle position where he started nine games in 2020 and Shaffer will play left guard.
The Bulldogs have a deep and talented group among its offensive line. Players like Mims and Sedrick Van Pran will look to crack the rotation as the season goes on. Against a strong Clemson defensive line though, Georgia will want to have some confidence in either Ratledge or Truss to hold the line.
Both cornerback positions
Georgia has to replace four defensive backs that were drafted in the 2021 NFL Draft, including its top three cornerbacks. Then Tyrqiue Stevenson transferred to Miami, putting Georgia in an even deeper hole.
The Bulldogs dipped into the transfer portal to address some of the concerns in the defensive backfield, landing Tykee Smith from West Virginia and Derion Kendrick from Clemson. Smith is likely to help Georgia out at its star position.
Kendrick meanwhile seems like a strong bet to emerge as one of Georgia’s starting cornerbacks, given he arrives at Georgia having started 23 games for the Clemson Tigers.
Related: Kirby Smart reveals why Georgia needed to add former Clemson defensive back Derion Kendrick
The other cornerback position is very much up for grabs. The key names to know are senior Ameer Speed and redshirt freshmen Kelee Ringo and Jalen Kimber.
Ringo has the highest upside of the three but he’s also never played in a college football game. Speed has the experience edge and that could be enough to earn the starting nod against the Tigers.
Over the course of the season, look for Ringo, Kimber as well as freshman Nyland Green to eventually become well-known names at the cornerback position.
This isn’t the most glamorous position as Daniels should end any and all questions about Georgia’s top option at the quarterback position.
Behind him though, an interesting battle looms. Stetson Bennett has a clear experience edge but he’s got the lowest long-term ceiling.
There’s 5-star freshman Brock Vandagriff, who is the polar opposite of Bennett in terms of experience and upside. In the middle is Carson Beck, who redshirted in his first season at Georgia.
Related: Carson Beck, the forgotten UGA quarterback
None of these names are likely to see the field against Clemson, but they could get a chance to play in Georgia’s other September games against UAB, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. How each of these three players practice in August could determine who sees the field first and potentially who might be the guy who one day replaces Daniels.
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