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Making the case why several 2019 signees will or won’t have breakout seasons
Kenny McIntosh, why he will: Georgia has a void at running back and McIntosh will have a chance to fill it. He made the most of his small sample size in 2019, finishing with 174 rushing yards on 25 carries. He had the longest run of the season for the Bulldogs, showing some explosiveness and finished with a team-best 6.96 yards per carry.
McIntosh might not have the recruiting ranking of some of the other running backs in the room, but he’s got strong bloodlines and a sample size that indicates he might do well with a larger workload.
Why he won’t: With Brian Herrien out for the Sugar Bowl and D’Andre Swift still extremely limited, a majority of the carries went to Zamir White. There’s a good chance that will be the same case in 2020, as White now seems poised for a strong season of his own.
And while McIntosh will almost certainly earn more carries than he did a season ago, it’s not a guarantee that he’s the clear No. 2 running back either. James Cook and incoming freshman Kendall Milton will compete for those carries as well.
Dominick Blaylock, why he will: Against Florida and Auburn in 2019, Blaylock made huge catches. With George Pickens and Lawrence Cager out for the first half of the SEC championship game, Blaylock seemed like he would have to opportunity to emerge as a go-to receiver for the Bulldogs. Then he tore his ACL, ending what was a promising freshman season.
If the Georgia passing attack is going to get on track, it will need another receiver to step-up alongside Pickens. From a talent standpoint, Blaylock seems like the best candidate. He had a team-high 17.22 yards per catch last season, with his 18 receptions totaling 310 yards. If Todd Monken and Jamie Newman fix the Georgia passing game, Blaylock seems like the player who might best statistically benefit from it.
**Also we’re not including Pickens on here because he’s pretty clearly already broken out as a player. Did you see him in the Sugar Bowl?
Why he won’t: The ACL injury. For every Nick Chubb, there’s a Malcolm Mitchell and Keith Marshall, players who were never the same after the injury. We simply won’t know what to expect from Blaylock until he gets back onto the field.
Blaylock will also likely be pushed by incoming freshman Jermaine Burton in the slot wide receiver position. If Blaylock isn’t ready to go to start the season, it could make things difficult for him to get integrated into the offense.
Xavier Truss, why he will: Georgia has a need at both the left and right tackle spots. Jamaree Salyer seems poised to fill one of those. Who will fill the other slot?
A name to know is Truss. He redshirted as a freshman and even with Georgia bringing in Broderick Jones and Tate Ratledge this past cycle, Kirby Smart emphasized the importance of landing Truss in the cycle before.
“When you have Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson, you understand that there’s an opportunity for these guys to leave,” Smart said back in February. “I’m not a big believer that the next guy is just going to walk in and play for Andrew Thomas and Isaiah. You have to plan things a year out.”
Truss did travel with the team a season ago and is the highest-rated recruit to ever come out of the state of Rhode Island.
Why he won’t: Truss will likely battle McClendon head-to-head for that spot and there is the chance that McClendon beats him out. There is also the possibility that Jones ends up being that good and wins the starting job outright. He was a 5-star prospect for a reason.
Warren McClendon, why he will: See the reasons why for Xavier Truss
Why he won’t: See the reasons why he won’t for Xavier Truss
Travon Walker, why he will: After Georgia’s win over Auburn, which was clinched thanks to a sack made by Walker, Smart already called Walker one of the best 20 players on Georgia’s team. And that was after Walker spent part of the season dealing with a broken wrist.
Now with a full year in the Georgia system, Walker can begin to refine his game. One only has to look at the leap Jordan Davis made from part-time player as a freshman to major force as a sophomore and see the same thing could happen with Walker. And if it does, Walker could possibly be a top-5 player on the Georgia team and it won’t be No. 5.
Why he won’t: As gifted as Walker is, Smart’s defenses have never asked defensive linemen to be the best players. Walker will also have competition from the likes of Malik Herring, who will eat into his snaps on early downs. Walker might not put up the stats to justify a true-breakout, even if the average Georgia fan can recognize his talents.
Nolan Smith, why he will: Smith played a bunch as a freshman and that no doubt helped him make early strides. Like Walker, it’s easy to see why Smith was so highly thought of coming out of high school. With another year of working with Dan Lanning, Smith could make those small gains that turn pressures into outright sacks.
If there’s one area where Georgia can get better defensively, it is in the sack category, where the Bulldogs ranked 60th in the country in sacks per game. If the Bulldogs make a big improvement in that category, Smith will likely be a reason why.
Why he won’t: Azeez Ojulari. Smith likely would’ve picked up some more sacks a season ago had Ojulari not beaten him to the punch. The redshirt sophomore plays the same position as Smith and seems ready to have an even bigger year, especially now that he’s another year removed from a serious knee injury he suffered in high school.
Georgia will get creative in finding ways to employ Ojulari and Smith together, but on an every-down basis, Ojulari is going to make things difficult for Smith to fully blossom as a player. For Georgia, that’s a good problem to have.
Nakobe Dean, why he will: With Tae Crowder off to the NFL, there’s an opening at one of the inside linebacker spots. Dean flashed quite a bit after overcoming an early-season ankle injury, carving out a key role as Georgia’s third-down linebacker in pass coverage.
Like Walker and Smith, Dean arrived as a 5-star prospect and it was pretty clear to see why that was the case in 2019. Dean will have an opportunity to prove that once again in 2020, playing alongside veteran Monty Rice.
This isn’t to say that Dean will be the next Roquan Smith, but the former is farther along as a player than Smith was at this point in his career.
Why he won’t: Quay Walker and Monty Rice. Walker is also a candidate to take over for Crowder and he does have another year of experience on Dean.
As for Rice, he’ll be one of the leaders on Georgia defense, undoubtedly. But Rice could go on to have a stellar season of his own, taking some of the shine and spotlight away from Dean this season. Rice led the team in tackles a season ago, and if the Bulldogs are to once again have one of the nation’s top defenses, both Rice and Dean will be reasons why.
Lewis Cine, why he will: After starting at one of the safety spots for three seasons, J.R. Reed is off to the NFL. Cine got a crack at replacing Reed when the latter missed the Sugar Bowl due to a foot injury and the now sophomore played well.
Georgia likes to rotate its defensive backs but that hasn’t been the case at safety. If Cine can earn the starting spot opposite Richard LeCounte, he’ll have a chance to play a high volume of snaps that will allow him to grow and get better as the year goes on.
Why he won’t: Perhaps we are undertaking just how good Reed was for the Bulldogs. He was an All-American and replacing him won’t be an easy task.
And one only has to look at LeCounte when he was introduced as a starter as a sophomore. His 2018 season was not always rosy and he was not thought of in the same light as we do now. The same could happen for Cine this season.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
- The Georgia football freshmen that are most physically ready to contribute early
- BREAKING: Georgia football adds an anchor 2022 commit in CB Marquis Groves-Killebrew
- Georgia football podcast: An open letter to Jake Fromm from a UGA fan
- Zero Georgia football players among ESPN Top 32 early 2021 NFL draft list
- Chaz Chambliss: Carrollton’s staff shares their intel on the new UGA commit
- What social media is saying about newest Georgia football commit Chaz Chambliss
- Taking a deep dive at how well Georgia has been recruiting Metro Atlanta of late
Dawgs on Twitter
Pray 4 Love 🖤.. this world needs it
— Jamaree Salyer ♠️ (@jamareesalyer69) May 27, 2020
— Marquis Groves-Killebrew (@qfromtheville) May 27, 2020
👶🏽 Coming November 2020! pic.twitter.com/TM0zIRQ9aQ
— John Theus (@jtheus71) May 27, 2020
— Coach Kirby Smart (@KirbySmartUGA) May 27, 2020
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This is Sammy. He drives around just to remind the neighbors that this is his world and they should feel honored to live in it. 12/10 pic.twitter.com/Wud6qXclCi
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