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Kirby Smart and Georgia start the 2020 season on Sept. 7

Why Georgia football, more so than other elite teams, needs to take advantage of new NCAA schedule

The NCAA announced on Wednesday changes to the calendar when it comes to the start of practice ahead of the 2020 season.

The key dates to know are that starting on July 13, required summer activities can begin, as opposed to just the voluntary ones that some teams are doing right now. At that point, players will have up to eight hours of strength and conditioning work to go along with up to two hours of film review a week.

Related: College football preseason schedule set, NCAA approves 6-week practice plan

Starting on July 24, teams will be allowed to continue those workouts as well as hold walk-throughs involving a football for up to one hour a day, but not going over six hours for the week. This will be huge for a team like Georgia, who will be installing a new offense this offseason.

But with Georgia’s first game coming on Sept. 7 as opposed to Sept. 5, Georgia will begin the walk-through period on July 26.

The walk-through period also allows teams the same one hour per day, six hours per week window to hold team, positional or 1-on-1 meetings. This would be rather important for say transfer quarterbacks Jamie Newman, JT Daniels and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken, as they would be getting in-person instruction as opposed to what they have been getting on Zoom calls.

The final big date to know, for Georgia, is August 9. This is 29 days from the first game which is the first day that Georgia is able to have a full-blown practice. Practice hours are not to exceed four hours per day and 20 hours per week starting on the first day of school, which for Georgia would be Aug. 20.

The last portion isn’t all that different from what it would’ve looked like in a non-COVID-19 world. The biggest tweak or change comes through in the walk-through period.

Those additional walk-through periods won’t make up what Georgia and many teams lost with the cancellation of spring practices, but it will help teams get more prepared for the 2020 season. And a team like Georgia, with a new offense, new quarterback and a made-over offensive line needs to find a way to get the most out of that extra six hours for that two week period.

The Bulldogs, regardless of what they do in the six weeks leading up to the Sept. 7 contest against Virginia, figure to be one of the top teams entering the 2020 season. The Bulldogs will be ranked high in the polls when they come out and are one of the betting favorites to win both the SEC and national title.

But unlike Clemson, Ohio State and even Alabama, the Bulldogs have more direct questions entering this season. Those almost all come on the offensive side of the ball, given the struggles in 2019 and the turnover at key spots.

The Georgia offense is at best a massive question mark. The lack of spring practices didn’t help answer any of those questions for Georgia.

Since the cancellation of those 15 practices, you could make the argument that more questions on the offensive side of the ball have grown. What does the addition of Daniels, who announced he was transferring to Georgia in May, mean for Newman? Will Daniels be eligible? How does the offensive line, which is now under new direction from Matt Luke, mesh and gel? Will Jamaree Salyer move to left tackle and fill the shoes of Andrew Thomas?

While those walk-throughs won’t represent what a full-blown practice might have, it does somewhat allow the quarterbacks to get reps in actually running the offense, even if it’s not in a contact setting.

When Kirby Smart spoke to reporters in March he mentioned that the lack of reps for the quarterbacks was his biggest worry.

“It’s going to affect that quarterback more than anything in my opinion,” Smart said. “There’s no substitute for reps, I feel, and you can’t argue that we’re not going to lose reps. We’re losing reps.”

For the most part, those reps will still take place in August. Georgia very likely won’t decide who its starting quarterback is based on up to 12 hours of walk-throughs. It may not even be able to do so given Daniels’ eligibility status is still an unknown.

The Bulldogs won’t be able to answer all the questions when it comes to the offensive side of the ball with the adjusted schedule. It still probably won’t have those answers by the time it plays Alabama on Sept. 19.

What the extra walk-through practices will allow is study for the tests that are coming. It won’t be an all-out cram session like the first couple of days of August will be but starting out earlier will help out when those big-time tests against Alabama, Auburn and Florida come.

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