ATHENS — Georgia football closed spring drills answering any long-term questions there may have been at the quarterback position but with a pressing issue at receiver and questions in the secondary and on the offensive line.
Coach Kirby Smart will enter his sixth season as the Bulldogs’ head coach with a loaded roster coming off four-straight Top 10 finishes.
Smart, 45, has raised the expectation level so high in Athens that it seems winning the SEC East Division has become an expectation, at the bare minimum.
It has been easy for Bulldogs’ fans to gloss over the news that JT Daniels is every bit as good as he looked going 4-0 the final four games of the regular season.
The USC transfer, less than a year into his tenure in Athens, has impressed Coach Kirby Smart and offensive coordinator Todd Monken enough for them to throw the keys to the jet to him.
Daniels, essentially, and likely effectively, will be running a Pro-Style spread offense with Air Raid principles from the line of scrimmage.
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Next up for Daniels is a trip back to California to work alongside NFL quarterbacks under the direction of renowned quarterback guru Jordan Palmer.
Second-year quarterback Carson Beck, meanwhile, exits spring looking fluid and comfortable in his second year in the system.
There had been speculation Beck might leave the UGA program if he wasn’t able to supplant veteran Stetson Bennett for the No. 2 spot this spring.
Bennett’s experience might still be the first man off the bench in the opener against Clemson should Daniels need relief, but Beck’s talent and high ceiling are obvious to all and actually call attention to the challenge incoming freshman Brock Vandagriff might face in 2022.
RELATED: Vandagriff impressed in limited G-Day work
Vandagriff looked good in the limited snaps he got in the G-Day Game, his athleticism and strong arm on display, but his fit and feel for the offense remains a process.
There might not have been a bigger injury on any championship contender than Georgia losing George Pickens indefinitely to an ACL injury in spring drills.
RELATED: SEC Network sideline reporter optimistic on Pickens’ return
The Bulldogs don’t have another receiver capable of making the sort of sensational plays Pickens made routinely (who does?) and had other wideouts get banged up.
Speedster Jermaine Burton missed half of spring after suffering a hyper-extended knee and Justin Robinson, the next man up at the “X” position Pickens played, suffered a knee injury that led to him missing the G-Day Game.
Track star Arian Smith sprained his wrist and went without a catch in the spring game, and neither Dominick Blaylock (knee) nor Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint (ankle) was healthy enough to play in the spring game.
The good news for Georgia is the Bulldogs have a deep tight ends room led by John FitzPatrick and featuring giant Darnell Washington (6-7, 285) and athletic freshman Brock Bowers.
WATCH: SEC analyst shares biggest G-Day takeaway
The Bulldogs also have a stable of backs capable of catching the ball out of the backfield, as James Cook and Kenny McIntosh possess receiver-like skills, and Zamir White and Kendall Milton appeared plenty capable.
But to answer the WR question with a question: Might Georgia still add an elite receiver via the transfer portal?
Transfer portal, take two. A director’s command? Yes, but also quite possibly a literal order with West Virginia nickleback Tykee Smith already on his way via transfer and UGA believed to be in search of a cornerback.
The safety position looks solid enough with Lewis Cine and a bulked-up Christopher Smith on patrol.
Second-year corner Jalen Kimber looked plenty nimble and skilled enough in the G-Day Game, exiting spring drills needing only to add weight.
But veteran Ameer Speed and former No. 1 cornerback recruit Kelee Ringo remain competing at the other cornerback position.
Regardless of who starts at cornerback or how the rotation works out, Georgia lacks experienced depth at the position exiting spring drills, to the extent a shootout is expected in the opening game with Clemson on Sept. 4.
Offensive line coach Matt Luke has plenty of big bodies and 5-star recruits to work with, but can he get them in sync before facing that juggernaut Clemson defensive line?
If there’s one thing Georgia must do in the opening game, it’s to protect quarterback JT Daniels — something Luke’s unit has failed to do in the past four games.
Daniels was sacked three times by Mississippi State, twice by South Carolina, twice by Missouri and three times by Cincinnati.
Clemson finished tied for first in the nation with 46 sacks last season.
So who will it be at left tackle in the opener? Xavier Truss, Broderick Jones, Jamaree Salyer or Amarius Mims?
Truss started at left tackle in the G-Day Game and Salyer played the position last season but is not effective blocking in space.
Jones has great feet and pass-blocking skills, but is he powerful enough physically to take on premium edge rushers and open up holes in the run game?
Mims is a first-year player who could ultimately grow into the best offensive line prospect on the team, but it seems a bit much to ask any true freshman to open their careers as a left tackle.
Perhaps the most telling comment from spring football came from the head coach after the G-Day Game.
RELATED: Kirby opens up on where biggest jump needed
“If we’re gonna be a good team, we have to protect the quarterback, and we have to be able to run the football,” Smart said.
“That’s one of the areas we have to make our largest leaps to get to where we want to go next season.”
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