ATHENS – At about 3 p.m. on Monday, Georgia football players will get on buses and make the short ride to their temporary practice fields. There they will hold their first practice of an intriguing preseason.
Nick Chubb will be on that bus, and he will practice. So will Jacob Eason and the veteran quarterbacks he’s hoping to replace. Kirby Smart will go by bus or car, but either way will carry the expectations of a fan base aching for a championship.
There will be five weeks to prepare for the season opener, against North Carolina in the Georgia Dome. It’s expected that the first two weeks of practice will be about internal competition and evaluation. Then there will be two scrimmages, followed by depth chart decisions, a practice game, wrapped up by full-gear gameplanning for the Tar Heels.
Georgia enters all this with more than a few unresolved matters. Here are the biggest:
Well, obviously. The fan favorite is clearly Eason, but incumbent Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey, last year’s top backup, will actually take most of the first-team reps to begin camp, according to Smart.
Still, most around the program still expect it to come down to Lambert and Eason. Smart was asked about the process and timing of making a decision.
“I’d like to say the week of (the opener), but it may change,” Smart said. “We’re not going to sit down and put anything in concrete about this is what we’re doing a month out, 30 days out. Obviously when we get to the week of the game we would like to know who that is, and we would like for the reps to be balanced that way. But to say that is unjust because I don’t know what’s going to happen between now and then.”
2. CHUBB AND MICHEL’S AVAILABILITY
Chubb will have no limitations when practice begins, but the team won’t be hitting hard right away, so the real test will come later. Smart may say Monday whether Chubb will test his surgically-repaired knee in the first or second scrimmage. Barring a setback, the junior looks on track to play against North Carolina.
And he may even start, if Michel’s broken left arm prevents him from playing, as it appears it will.
So the main tailback question could end up being who’s next on the depth chart: Senior Brendan Douglas, experienced but not spectacular? Freshman Elijah Holyfield, talented but green? Or redshirt freshman Tae Crowder or converted receiver Shaquery Wilson?
After four-year terms by Blair Walsh and Marshall Morgan, Georgia will turn field goals and extra points over to a walk-on. It’s just uncertain who it will be.
Redshirt freshman Rodrigo Blankenship and sophomore William Ham have been competing since the beginning of spring. True freshman Mitchell Wasson joined the team this summer.
4. OFFENSIVE LINE
Who comprises the starting five seems to be the easy part. Where each plays is more of a mystery.
Senior Brandon Kublanow will be at center. That’s the only sure thing. The rest may depend on how Tyler Catalina, the graduate transfer from Rhode Island. If he is good enough to lock down left tackle, then junior Isaiah Wynn likely switches to left guard, with senior Greg Pyke at right tackle and Dyshon Sims at right guard.
But if Catalina is at right tackle, then it will put Wynn at left tackle, Sims at left guard, and Pyke at right guard.
And that’s all assuming Catalina earns the starting spot.
5. DEFENSIVE LINE
Sophomore Trent Thompson is a definite starter at defensive tackle, and junior John Atkins likely plays a lot at nose. After that, it’s an open question, especially with defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter suspended at least two games, possibly more.
Three more members of last year’s signing class – DaQuan Hawkins, Michael Barnett and Justin Young – figure to be in the rotation. So would freshman Julian Rochester, but he may have a suspension coming for his BB gun-related arrest in the spring.
The wild card in all this: Whether outside linebackers Lorenzo Carter or Davin Bellamy, or both, move down for snaps on the line.