The big question for each position group as UGA spring practice enters final stretch
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The most interesting question for each position group as Georgia enters final stretch of spring practice
Quarterback: Can Carson Beck emerge as the No. 2 quarterback?
By all accounts, Beck had a strong performance in this past Saturday’s scrimmage for Georgia. While he lacks the game experience that Stetson Bennett does, Beck has a greater upside. If he’s able to translate that potential into a few more strong performances over Georgia’s final five spring practices, he could make a strong case to be Georgia’s No. 2 quarterback come the 2021 season.
JT Daniels is clearly entrenched as the start. Freshman Brock Vandagriff is still trying to adjust to the speed of the college game, as Beck himself was as a freshman.
How Beck and Bennett play on G-Day could be very telling for the future of the Georgia quarterback position, and not just in 2021 but potentially 2022 and beyond.
Running back: Can Kendall Milton close the gap on veteran running backs?
Zamir White and James Cook don’t have much to prove this spring. They’re clear leaders at the position and the coaching staff knows what they bring to the table.
Come G-Day, most of the attention at the running back position will be on Milton. He’s easily one of the most popular players on the team and he showed some impressive flashes during his freshman season.
Kirby Smart traditionally hasn’t used G-Day to highlight running backs. But with no Kenny McIntosh, the final spring scrimmage might be a good opportunity to see what Milton can do with a bigger workload. If he succeeds in that role, against a stout Georgia run defense, it could be another encouraging sign for the California sophomore.
— Kendall Milton (@therealkmilt) March 22, 2021
Wide receiver: Can the group avoid injuries?
For as much praise as Justin Robinson, Adonai Mitchell and Demetris Robertson have gotten this spring, the position group is still defined by its injury situation.
Dominick Blaylock and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint were never going to be full participants due to their injuries stemming from the 2020 season. Then George Pickens suffered an ACL injury that will impact his availability this fall.
Jermaine Burton and Arian Smith both suffered minor injuries, with the former hyperextending his knee and the latter spraining his wrist. We know Burton won’t be a full participant for the rest of spring while Smith’s status is still unknown.
Depth figures to be an issue for the position group on G-Day. While the development of the position is still paramount, Georgia really can’t afford to lose any more bodies at the position for at least the rest of spring practice.
Tight ends: Can this group build off a strong spring?
While we’ve focused on individuals at quarterback and running back, we can’t quite do that at this position as a trio of tight ends have all earned consistent praise this spring.
Sophomore Darnell Washington has really improved as far as the mental aspects of the game while continuing to use his Hulk-Esque 280-pound frame. Brock Bowers has been one of the few early enrollees to earn consistent praise this spring.
And Daniels had some very encouraging words to say about the improvements made by John FitzPatrick.
“Fitz has received a lot of praise for the way he has worked and how much better his ball skill have gotten,” Daniels said of the junior tight end.
The injuries at wide receiver this spring have forced Georgia to turn more towards its tight ends and running backs. So far, the position group really seems to have made the most of these opportunities.
Offensive line: Do we get any clarity at the left tackle position?
The left tackle position will determine how the rest of the offensive line shakes out. Should either Xavier Truss or Broderick Jones convince the coaching staff they can handle those duties, it would allow Jamaree Salyer to kick down to left guard and Justin Shaffer over to right guard.
There are other battles along the offensive line worth monitoring — Warren Ericson and Sedrick Van Pran continue to compete at center while Austin Blaske and Tate Ratledge are looking to crack the lineup at guard —but the left tackle battle will play a significant part in determining how the rest of those turn out.
As for what Smart thinks about the offensive line, intel and updates have been hard to come by this spring. G-Day might give us some idea as to where things stand with the group, but Georgia will be able to mix and match combinations at the position.
“Still moving some parts around but certainly got work to do to get to where we need to get,” Smart said this past Saturday. “We’ve got some young guys out there trying to play and when you do situational football, it’s really hard to evaluate because you do 80 third downs in a row and you’ll never do that in real life.”
Defensive line: Does this group generate more pressure?
The Georgia defensive line is the most talented group on the team and has the potential to improve in 2021.
The Bulldogs led the country in rush defense in 2020. But when it came to getting after the opposing quarterback, Georgia relied on its outside linebacker to come up with sacks. With that group not as deep as it was a season ago, we know those pressures are going to have to come from somewhere else.
Smart has said he expects Travon Walker to really contribute in that category. Will he be the only one to do so though? Jordan Davis is a dominant run defender. Will Smart and defensive coordinator Dan Lanning try and see what he can do against the pass this season more frequently? And does Jalen Carter continue to follow in Walker’s footsteps?
Georgia won’t want its quarterback to get hit but you should be able to watch and see how much time Daniels and the others have to throw. If the defensive linemen are the ones getting to the quarterback first, it could be a very encouraging sign come the fall.
Outside linebacker: How creative does Georgia get with Adam Anderson?
Smart spoke earlier this spring about getting more creative with the senior outside linebacker so he can be on the field more often. Anderson still figures to be a force in obvious pass-rushing situations, as he picked up 6.5 sacks last season.
The Georgia head coach though also spoke about using Anderson more in the Star position for the Georgia defense. He certainly has the athleticism to do so and the Bulldogs have used the likes of Lorenzo Carter and Leonard Floyd in a similar capacity in the past.
How much of that gets put on display in the spring game will be worth monitoring, especially as Georgia will add Tykee Smith later this summer. The West Virginia transfer seems like an excellent fit at the position.
The Bulldogs also open the season against Clemson and may not want to show all of their cards for what should be a top-10 preseason matchup. How Georgia uses Anderson as a chess piece on defense could be an interesting tell for what it is planning down the line.
Inside linebacker: What does the position look like without Nakobe Dean?
Dean has garnered constant praise this spring, largely for how he has been able to lead and call out the defense. That’s even with him being sidelined physically due to offseason surgery to repair a labrum injury.
The junior is a steadying presence in the middle of the defense and will be an instrumental piece to the Georgia team this season. Come the spring game though, all eyes will be on Channing Tindall and Quay Walker in how they perform without Dean on the field.
Georgia also has to replace Monty Rice at the position, meaning there will be a lot of snaps to replace at the inside linebacker position. We will also get to see what Rian Davis and Trezmen Marshall look like, as those two finally seem healthy and ready to go.
Secondary: Does anyone impress at cornerback?
Following the addition of Smith, Georgia seems to be at the back end of the defense, as safeties Lewis Cine and Christopher Smith also return.
The same cannot be said about the cornerback position. Smart has not been satisfied with the development of the position this spring, even as Kelee Ringo, Nyland Green and Jalen Kimber get more reps.
“They’ve played a lot of football and they’re good football players but we’re a long way from being ready in terms of what we need to do in the secondary because we’ve just got a lot of inexperienced players,” Smart said. “We can not have enough of those situations, scrimmages, passing, all the different looks we get because we need experience.”
Georgia figures to throw the ball a lot on G-Day. There might not be a position under a bigger microscope than this group with how they play on that single day.
Even if one player is able to hold his own and make a few plays, Georgia still won’t be set at the cornerback position. It will be something that follows them into the fall as the young players continue to develop.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
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- Georgia football podcast: JT Daniels comments demonstrate change for the better for UGA
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- 3 things: Georgia quarterback JT Daniels reveals inner thoughts on leadership, compassion, teamwork
- JT Daniels knows what must come next for George Pickens, Georgia offense
- Lebbeus Overton: Why UGA recruits the nation’s No. 1 junior differently than any other recent 5-star
- Georgia football 2021 spring practice updates, injuries and news
- Georgia football podcast: A popular internet meme provides a possible warning for UGA
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