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Junior tailback James Cook is on the verge of a special season.

Georgia football championship mission: 3 takeaways from Scrimmage One of fall camp

ATHENS — Georgia football is on a mission, time is running out, the deadline fast approaching.

Can Kirby Smart and his staff come up with a national championship blue print these next four weeks?

The Bulldogs get one dress rehearsal, Sept. 26 at Arkansas, to work out an offseason’s worth of kinks and newness in a completely made-over offense.

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow and the Tigers provided the latest proof that titles are indeed won with work and commitment put in over the offseason.

RELATED: Kirby Smart says LSU offense ‘greatest challenge’

The chemistry Burrow had with his teammates, and the scheme former coordinator Joe Brady found for the offensive players, proved unbeatable.

Can Georgia’s defense prove just as dominant this season with the likes of seniors Richard LeCounte, Monty Rice and Malik Herring and Devonte Wyatt leading at each level?

RELATED: Georgia football stock report from Scrimmage One

The commitment is there. The Bulldogs players have shown buy-in and investment into one another and their team goals. This, even while challenged by COVID-19 protocols and inconveniences, and emotionally tested by social injustices.

It would be easy to quit. Some top players have. LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase was the most recent, perhaps realizing the Bayou Bengals’ attrition has been so heavy that any chance for a repeat is remote.

Smart and his Georgia players, however, have refused to give in. They share the same chip on their collective shoulder. Their legacy these past three seasons has been one of a team that fails to finish seasons.

There are no consolation prizes once a team reaches the elite championship contender level of being penciled in as a Top 5 preseason pick each year.

It’s impressive UGA is the only football team to finish in the Top 7 the past three years and has the third-longest consecutive home sellout streak in college football

The fact Smart has led or been tied 118 minutes and 56 seconds of the 120 minutes of regulation in the past two games against Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide only makes the losses tougher to swallow.

5 takeaways from Georgia’s 35-28 loss to Alabama in 2018

Georgia football: The big red engine that couldn’t, and to this point hasn’t.

The motivation is there to change that. So is the talent and coaching.

The first scrimmage was revealing, good and bad, so it served its purpose of exposing things for Smart and his staff to work on.

Here are three takeaways from the first week of camp.

Defensive standards

It wasn’t what Smart said about his defense in the scrimmage. It was what he didn’t say.

Sure, the No. 1 defense dominated the Bulldogs’ No. 2 offense, that’s a no-brainer.

But Smart indicated the No. 1 offense sustained a drive and held it’s own in the first scrimmage.

So what would Alabama’s first-team offense do? Very real question, with very real consequences. Very real narrative at stake.

How high have the defensive leaders set the bar for themselves? High enough? There was a lot of offseason talk, but only time will tell.

Jamie Newman first up

Newman might not have had the best or most consistent offseason, but he’s the top quarterback at the moment and would be the favorite to start at Arkansas.

It’s important Newman is showing no after-effects of the sprained foot that sidelined him during walk-throughs in July. The more quality reps he gets, the more consistency and upside he shows, the more real the championship hopes become.

JT Daniels has great upside, but he’s not cleared yet from his knee injury. Once Daniels is healthy enough, UGA could have decisions to make. Further, opponents will have the headache of having to be prepared for another option under center.

D’Wan Mathis is another great talent, but he’ll need to show more of a sense of urgency to warrant the support he has received from teammates. Mathis has come a long way and invested a lot, but the same could be said for many others waiting for their opportunity to start.

Carson Beck might some day be the best of the group in terms of his upside, but at this stage he needs to get thicker and continue to groom his skills. Georgia could win games with Beck, but there’s no point in throwing a true freshman into the fire.

Playmakers please

James Cook will be the worst-kept secret in the SEC by the time the season kicks off, though there are some who still aren’t buying in that this Georgia junior is on the verge of a breakout.

But beyond Cook, who can make defenses pay for doubling up on George Pickens?

Could it be Tre’ McKitty? The Florida State grad transfer tight end was the talk of the 7-on-7 workouts during voluntary conditioning.

Smart did say the freshmen receivers are hitting a wall. There’s been a lot of hard work and studying this offseason. Perhaps this weekend some can get a second wind.

Arian Smith, who’s recovering from a torn meniscus and isn’t expected back for a couple of more weeks, might ultimately be the player Georgia has needed to stretch the field. Smith could be the fastest player on the team, and he can catch the ball, too.

Georgia football Scrimmage One

• Georgia quarterback race has sense of urgency

• UGA freshmen receivers ‘hit the wall’

• New offense holds own vs. defense in Scrimmage One

• LOOK: Zamir White and backs had explosive plays in new offense

• Justin Fields present at Georgia football Scrimmage One

• Update on sidelined WR Dominick Blaylock

• Kirby Smart says many Georgia players are hurting emotionally

• Georgia offensive line playing musical chairs

• Scrimmage One report, stock up, stock down

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