Kirby Smart knew almost immediately that Georgia wasn’t going to experience the same type of personnel drain as the 2022 team saw. While 10 players entered the transfer portal and 13 more are NFL draft eligible, 15 of the 24 starters from the national championship game return for Georgia.

As for how their production relates to the rest of college football, Georgia finds itself 80th in Bill Connelly’s rankings in terms of returning production. On the offensive side of the ball, Georgia ranks 109th in returning production. The biggest reason why for the low ranking on that side of the ball can be attributed to the loss of leading passer Stetson Bennett along with starting offensive tackles Broderick Jones and Warren McClendon. Returning receiving yards make up 24 percent of returning production, passing yards 23 percent, the offensive line starts 47 percent and rushing yards 6 percent.

The Bulldogs do bring back their top two pass catchers in Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey. Georgia also imported the leading receivers from Missouri and Mississippi State via the transfer portal. Sedrick Van Pran’s return at center will also help whoever steps in for Bennett.

Related: Return of Sedrick Van Pran is a championship-making difference for Georgia football

Defensively, Georgia ranks much higher in returning production as it sits 42nd. The breakdown per Connelly is 70 percent returning tackles, 14 percent passes defended, 12 percent tackles for loss and four percent sacks.

Georgia returns its three leading tacklers in Smael Mondon, Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Malaki Starks. Leading pass rusher Mykel Williams also returns for Georgia. Chris Smith, Kelee Ringo and Jalen Carter will be the key players the Bulldogs must replace from last season’s defense.

But even having to replace those talented players, Georgia stands far better than it did in returning production compared to this time a year ago. Georgia ranked 96th overall, coming in 43rd on the offensive side of the ball and 122nd on defense.

It didn’t matter for Georgia in 2022 though, as the Bulldogs once again won a national championship. Georgia went 15-0 despite seeing 15 players taken in the NFL draft and another 13 leave via the transfer portal.

As for where Georgia stacks up among other elite teams, Michigan comes in at No. 6, Ohio State sits at No. 48, Alabama is No. 106 in returning production and TCU, who Georgia played in the national championship game, comes in at No. 122.

Given the way Georgia and Alabama have recruited in recent years, returning production doesn’t often mean as much for them as it does other programs. But ranking high on this list can often be a predictor of future success. TCU ranked 9th in returning production entering the 2022 season, while Tennessee was second in the SEC at No. 33.

As for Georgia’s foes entering this upcoming season, the highest-ranked opponent is Missouri, which comes in at No. 9. The Tigers came closer than any regular season team did to beating Georgia, as Missouri held a fourth-quarter lead on Georgia before falling 26-22.

SEC East foes Florida and South Carolina both rank outside the top 100, while Auburn and Ole Miss are the highest-ranked teams out of the SEC West at No. 28 and No. 30. Georgia draws both schools out of the SEC West this season.

As for Georgia, it will be looking to do something that hasn’t been done in the modern era of college football as it attempts to win a third-straight national championship.

While a number of key faces have championship experience, Georgia’s junior class only knows how to win national championships, Smart knows it will be daunting to do so again.

Related: The Michael Jordan quote that sums up what Georgia football is about to attempt

“The biggest challenge is the same as in the world we live in today, the society we live in – entitlement,” Smart said after the national championship game. “The minute you think you’re entitled to winning games and you don’t have to work hard – Coach Dykes and I were talking about it; the uphill battle for those guys is you think that you just inherit success.

“And I personally think next year is going to be a much more difficult challenge over this year because we had so many guys leaving last year.”

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