ATHENS — Kirby Smart talks a lot about competition within the ranks of his Georgia football team, and how players work together and push each other to get better.
It’s all about the team, ultimately, but within that concept there is also battles for playing time and opportunities.
Georgia is no different, attracting competitive-minded players who come to UGA to win championships and be the best they can be and earn starting roles and important assignments.
Here’s what to look for in each position group during the 2 p.m. G-Day Scrimmage:
The mysteries here are which quarterback will be No. 2 this season and which one will be the quarterback of the future. They are not necessarily the same thing. JT Daniels is the starter, Stetson Bennett a well-season backup.
Second-year QB Carson Beck and early enrollee Brock Vandagriff have quite a competition going, and it won’t be settled in one scrimmage. Beck and Vandagriff are with the second-team offense on Saturday. Beck is one year further along and should look more comfortable in the offense, but Vandagriff has great athleticism and a big arm.
It’s hard to know how much work Smart will give the front-line players, but it will be worth noting how they look with limited opportunities. Kendall Milton has had a very strong spring, but assistant coach Dell McGee has shown great trust in Zamir White as the starter. Both players have improved. Milton has worked on his pass blocking, and White has improved in his route-running and ability to catch the ball.
James Cook is one of the most explosive backs in the SEC and the most experienced receiver out of the backfield. Versatile second-year back Daijun Edwards, after missing part of spring ball, could end up with more scrimmage opportunities to impress.
Receivers & tight ends
Watching the “how” and “where” is as important as looking at “who” in year two of the Todd Monken offense.
Who will step up? It’s a challenge that has been out there since George Pickens suffered a torn ACL earlier in spring drills, and again when Jermaine Burton ended up day-to-day with a hyperextended knee.
Adonai Mitchell could have a big day, along with veterans Kearis Jackson and Demetris Robertson. A deep tight end room features Brock Bowers, John FitizPatrick and Darnell Washington.
The left tackle position has been talked about a great deal, and to this point Xavier Truss has held off Broderick Jones and Amarius Mims. But there are more moving pieces than that, with Jamaree Salyer capable of playing guard or tackle, and second-year lineman Tate Ratledge pushing for a starting spot.
Smart has said it will come down to getting the five best on the field, and the G-Day Game will provide an opportunity to get a progress report on how that race is going. Fans will also see former 5-star Clay Webb get reps with the second team at guard, along with celebrated center Sedrick Van Pran.
Kirby Smart called out Jordan Davis for needing to get his weight under control, and Davis said earlier this week he’s at 350 pounds — at least 10 pounds over his optimal weight. The G-Day Game will show why Davis needs to lose weight to be able to get sideline to sideline and play more snaps against spread teams.
Jalen Carter, meanwhile, has impressed and could wrestle away a starting position from Davis or veteran Devonte Wyatt before all is said and down. UGA Is also waiting for Travon Walker to take the next step in his development after his strong freshman campaign in 2019.
It’s all about the outside backers here, with former No. 1 recruit Nolan Smith primed to replaced likely first-round pick Azeez Ojulari in the starting lineup and Smart experimenting with pass-rush specialist Adam Anderson at the Star.
Can Anderson play in space and provide adequate coverage? Anderson might seem too big at 6-foot-5, but his great speed and tremendous athleticism make it possible for him to give UGA one more defensive look that could prove valuable in matchups against certain types of offenses.
The most obvious need position on the team is in the secondary with UGA on the verge of having five players from the 2020 secondary selected in the 2021 NFL Draft. G-Day will make an important audition for UGA players, as the Bulldogs have already landed West Virginia Tykee Smith and are expected to get another transfer for the secondary, likely at cornerback.
Jalen Kimber has been the most impressive cornerback in the scrimmages, from all the reports, but second-year corner Kelee Ringo is making progress with his on-field reps this spring after missing playing time last year on account of a torn labrum. Ameer Speed is a veteran cornerback looking to work his way into significant playing time this season, while early enrollee Nyland Green is feeling his way through the playbook.
Jake Camarda is an All-American punter, but he has also been kicking field goals this spring and may get some opportunities in the G-Day Game. That said, Jack Podlesny would seem a clear-cut favorite to keep the field goal duties.
It’s always interesting to see which players Georgia selects to return kicks and punts, as they can be selected from almost any offensive skill position group or at times even the secondary.