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The most important player at each Georgia football position
Quarterback: Jamie Newman
Until the status regarding JT Daniels’ eligibility is known, the answer here has to be Newman. No player is going to be asked to do more to change the national perception of the Georgia program than Newman.
Georgia badly needs to have an improved offense from a season ago and getting great play out of Newman would go a long way in reshaping that narrative.
Newman does have the added challenge of learning a new offense without getting a chance to take reps during spring practice, making a strong month of August vital for Newman. But he does have significant experience when it comes to starting at the Power Five level, which should help him in his quest this season.
Running back: Zamir White
Ask the common Georgia fan what their confidence is in the running game this season and they’ll tell you it’s fairly high. That’s even though the Bulldogs have to replace D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien from last season.
That’s largely because of the belief in White. The former 5-star running back has long been a fan favorite and will now get the chance to showcase the ability that made him such an elite prospect.
While Georgia did bring in Todd Monken to change the offense, it’s hard to imagine that a Kirby Smart coached team won’t rely on running the ball. Expect White to be the workhorse to start the season, with James Cook, Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton chipping in.
But if the Georgia running game is going to be as potent as it has been in year’s past, it will be due to the fact that White is able to carry the load.
Wide receiver: George Pickens
Pickens might be the best overall player on the team, which is really saying something given the talent Georgia has compiled in Athens.
One only has to check the first half of the Sugar Bowl to see how devastating Pickens can be, as he hauled in 11 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown in the first half against Baylor.
But if you wanted to see the real importance of Pickens, you need to look at the first half of the LSU game last season. Yes Georgia was without Lawrence Cager and Dominick Blaylock went down with a knee injury in the opening quarter, but without Pickens, the Georgia offense was lost.
If Newman does go on to win the starting quarterback job, Pickens will go a long way to both making Newman’s job easier and opening up the rest of the Georgia offense.
Offensive line: Jamaree Salyer
Prior to the start of the offseason, you might’ve said a veteran like Trey Hill or Ben Cleveland for this spot, given the inexperience along the offensive line. Maybe even Justin Shaffer in March after Smart praised his leadership skills.
After the month of May, it’s pretty clear Salyer is going to be the new star along the offensive line. He’s undergone a significant transformation this offseason, dropping his weight down to under 310 to better play one of the offensive tackle positions. It seemed as though every time Salyer showed evidence of his progress it caught the eye of Smart.
With Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson off to the NFL, Georgia literally has some huge shoes to fill at those spots. And Salyer has taken it upon himself to make sure he’s one of those guys for Georgia and that there won’t be a serve drop-off from losing two first-round offensive tackles.
Defensive line: Jordan Davis
While the likes of Julian Rochester, Travon Walker and Malik Herring are good players, none of them offer what Davis does. The mammoth defensive tackle plays a huge part in Georgia’s run defense, which ranked first in the country a season ago.
Davis and Smart have spoken about the importance of keeping the former in shape, which will be more important than ever given the current state of the world. Smart challenged Davis last offseason to do so and based on the results of the 2019 season, Davis held up over the course of the year.
Davis being perhaps the closest thing to a truly immovable object makes things so much easier for the rest of the defense. If he can develop as a pass rusher this year, especially on first and second downs, it’s easy to envision him becoming one of the best defensive linemen in the country.
Linebacker: Azeez Ojulari
If there’s one flaw with Georgia’s defense it’s that it didn’t generate enough sacks and tackles for loss last season. The player who did the most in the sack department was Ojulari, who racked up 5.5 in his first season with real playing time.
Georgia will need more production from the outside linebackers group this season if the Bulldogs are to produce similar sack numbers to that of Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama. While 5.5 sacks is a nice total, Ojulari is going to need to push closer to double digits if the Bulldogs are going to develop a more fearsome pass rush.
Ojulari taking that next step could have a Pickens like impact on the Georgia front seven. He’d command more attention from opposing offenses, thus opening things up for the likes of Nolan Smith, Jermaine Johnson and the rest of Georgia’s pass rushers.
Defensive back: Richard LeCounte
Heading into his senior season, LeCounte is an unquestioned leader for the Bulldogs. He’s one of the more experienced members of the team and he’s entering his third year as a starter.
This will be the first season LeCounte won’t be able to team up with J.R. Reed, an All-American safety who graduated from Georgia after the 2019 season. Likely replacing him will be Lewis Cine, a very promising sophomore who saw meaningful playing time at the end of the 2019 season.
Georgia figures to have one of the best secondaries in the country. LeCounte will no doubt be a big reason why. But if this position group is going to continue to be one of the best positional units in the country, it will need LeCounte to lead them to it.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
- Examining key points after 247Sports jumps on bandwagon picking Florida over Georgia
- Georgia football podcast: Analyst explains why UGA has all it needs to win national championship
- WATCH: What the Blue-Chip Ratio says about Georgia football’s 2020 schedule
- 10 offseason Georgia football questions, crystal ball and ‘Magic 8-ball’ answers
- WATCH: 5 questions for Georgia football as players continue preseason preparations
- REPORT: NCAA committee sets date college football coaches allowed to oversee player activities
- San Diego Padres draft Georgia baseball pitcher Cole Wilcox in third round
- BEFORE THE HEDGES: Who should the Bulldogs pursue at QB in 2022?
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