Georgia football offensive stock report: Explosive growth potential
ATHENS — Georgia football activity is heating up, and with it the passion of the Bulldogs’ fan base as it holds its collective breath waiting for a season announcement.
Georgia has a team capable of winning the national championship to be sure, even as the offense remains a work in progress.
New terminology, new base plays, new audibles … there’s a lot to learn in very little time.
The goals of the UGA offense remain the same. Coach Kirby Smart wants a team that can run and throw effectively that’s capable of making explosive plays.
But the offensive personality remains a work in progress, with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken and associate head coach Matt Luke working with run game coordinator Dell McGee, pass game coordinator Cortez Hankton and tight ends coach Todd Hartley.
Monken and Luke are new additions since the start of last season, both bringing significant experience and new ideas to the table.
Whatever the play calls, their success will be more reliant on assignment execution than creativity.
Here’s a “stock report” projection of how each position group stacks up to last year’s entering fall camp, noting that things can and probably will change on account of injuries and player development.
One word for the doubters: Depth.
Yes, Kirby Smart said in the spring he’d feel more comfortable if Jake Fromm was coming back for his senior season so Georgia could know what it has at the position. But Fromm is only one man.
The fact is, the Bulldogs are better at the position because of the depth, which recent trends indicate is more likely than not to factor in.
Georgia was one of only four SEC teams to start the same quarterback in each game last season — 10 other league teams started two more more.
Wake Forest transfer Jamie Newman is the solid pick to start at quarterback, with USC transfer JT Daniels working his way back from a knee injury and D’Wan Mathis and Carson Beck getting their first taste of full college action.
Newman’s play-making abilities will provide some early relief from the overall newness of the offense.
RUNNING BACKS (EVEN)
This is one of the position groups that could change, but at this point Georgia does’t have a tailback that has demonstrated the upside D’Andre Swift brought to the backfield.
That said, Swift was plagued by a sore shoulder when the season was on the line against LSU in the SEC Championship Game, limited to an ineffective role running outside the tackles.
Both Zamir White and Kenny McIntosh could prove more explosive than any of the backups were last season — including themselves.
Zamir White looked good in the Sugar Bowl, but not great as he appeared to still be shaking off the after-effects of his two knee surgeries.
Kenny McIntosh looked good when handed the football, but his opportunities were very limited.
James Cook could be the X-factor. Cook was underutilized — Smart said teams had schemed for him. That doesn’t figure to be the case this season, and if Cook emerges the arrow would quickly point up.
Kendall Milton has the look of a future star, but with no spring football there are still many unknowns with him and fellow freshman Daijun Edwards.
George Pickens is back to lead what figures to be a more talented and more efficient WR corps that a season ago when UGA was replacing five of its top six pass catchers from 2018.
A healthy Demetris Robertson should also provide a boost after the one-time 5-star prospect was hampered by a hamstring last fall.
Dominick Blaylock could be the X-factor here, depending on quickly and effectively he returns to strength after undergoing knee surgery last winter.
Tommy Bush is healthy after being sidelined by a groin injury last season, and there is optimism that Matt Landers might translate the talent he shows in practices to Saturdays. A healthy Kearis Jackson could provide some toughness and muscle in the group.
But it’s the incoming freshman class that might truly put this group over the top, with Jermaine Burton and Justin Robinson already impressing. Arian Smith and Marcus Rosemy are names who could emerge, though Smith will be out 3 to 6 weeks with a knee injury.
TIGHT END (EVEN)
This supposes that Tre’ McKitty is everything they are saying he is in workouts. If McKitty is a future NFL starter, as some in high circles predict, it would provide a spark to the madeover pass game. The Bulldogs were solid at the position last season, but not dynamic.
The question here is depth, as John FitzPatrick enters his third season in the program and incoming freshman Darnell Washington works himself into playing shape after minor offseason knee surgery.
OFFENSIVE LINE (DOWN)
Ok, so any time you lose two first-round NFL draft picks and a fourth-rounder selection it’s hard to suggest the unit will be any better coming out of the gate.
But this is more of a reload than a rebuild when one considers Georgia has five offensive linemen returning who have started at least one game.
Trey Hill is a third-year starter at center who figures to provide much-needed stability in the middle of the offense, while Jamaree Salyer appears ripe to finally deliver on his 5-star rating after two hard years as a backup.
Justin Shaffer proved more than capable in place of Solomon Kindley a season ago before being sidetracked by a neck injury. Smart singled out Shaffer for praise is spring drills, which was probably more telling than anything.
Ben Cleveland is back in the mix at right guard after his Sugar Bowl suspension, but there figures to be plenty of talent around him to provide a push. Warren Ericson, Clay Webb, Sedrick Van Pran-Granger, Austin Blake and Chad Lindberg are all high quality
Netori Johnson is back on the offensive side of the ball, and according to Kindley, Johnson is a candidate for the right tackle position. Warren McClendon and/or Xavier Truss could have something to say about that, too.
By the end of the season, this Georgia offense should be head and shoulders better than the 2019 group finished because of the infusion of talent at the pass-catching positions and quality of talent.
Monken and Luke figure to be a step up from the offensive coaching standpoint, and there’s more quality depth than ever before.
It will be key for the quarterback room to work itself out, and a dynamic running back and reliable secondary pass catcher must emerge.