3 questions for Georgia football entering Scrimmage One: Player separation, rise of Arik Gilbert

041622 Athens: Georgia linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson (10) tackles Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh (6) during the G - Day game at Sanford Stadium Saturday, April 16, 2022, in Athens, Ga. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

ATHENS — Kirby Smart and his Georgia football coaching staff have no time to waste with the opening kick fast approaching.

It’s a safe bet every snap in the Bulldogs’ opening fall scrimmage on Saturday will serve a purpose, and separating players is the name of the game.

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UGA co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann shared earlier this week what will take place between The Hedges at Sanford Stadium.

“You figure out who your best players are, what you need to do to be successful,” Schumann said.

The Bulldogs had a record-setting defense last season, holding opponents to a modern-era best 6.9 points per game in the regular season, carrying the offense.

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Things can change quickly from year to year, especially off a team that lost 15 players to the NFL draft and 13 players to the portal, including four former starters.

“Every year that will look a little bit different — our top calls every year are a little bit different,” Schumann said. “The way we use our personnel, it’s a little bit different.”

That’s why scrimmages like the one UGA is holding Saturday are so important.

Here are three questions for Georgia to work on answering in Scrimmage One:

What does defense look like?

You heard it from Schumann, figure out who your best players are, identify strengths and potential weaknesses, and scheme from there.

The spring game was evidence that between Smart, defensive guru Will Muschamp and Schumann, this unit will once again be assignment sound.

The Georgia defense simply doesn’t beat itself, but the degree of complexity to which it can cause problems for offenses is in question

It’s a very talented but somewhat young secondary, and a very gifted but also inexperienced linebacking corps.

How is Arik Gilbert coming along?

Gilbert has the potential to have more impact than any newcomer on the team this season.

It all comes down to how quickly Gilbert has been able to pick up Todd Monken’s playbook and if he has been able to get to the elite level of conditioning.

These are no easy tasks — to be clear — for any player, much less a 6-foot-5, 250-pound man in the peak of a Georgia summer who is more than a year removed from playing in a game.

But for this UGA offense to be as explosive as possible, Gilbert will need to grow into an every-down player — and not a situational player, as Monken was describing recently injured receiver Arian Smith.

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Smart is doing what he can to encourage and push Gilbert to greatness, which is what the former Marietta star signed up for when he transferred from LSU to Georgia.

To be clear, Gilbert and Brock Bowers share the tight end title, but Monken explained they are different with Gilbert having more of a receiver background, and Bowers more in the mold of an H-Back. If they are on the field at the same time -- quite possibly also with Darnell Washington -- it will create major headaches for defenses.

Skill position standouts

It’s clear what A.D. Mitchell, Ladd McConkey, Kearis Jackson, Brock Bowers, Darnell Washington, Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton can do, but who are other potential contributors?

Running backs coach Dell McGee compared freshman running back Branson Robinson to Nick Chubb in terms of physique, but it’s premature to carry that comparison over to the field

Especially when Robinson has yet to show he can move like Chubb -- or McIntosh, Milton or Daijun Edwards -- or break tackles like the NFL’s preeminent power backs.

Less-touted freshman back Andrew Paul has looked every bit as good as Robinson in early work and both figure to get tested by the UGA front seven in the scrimmage.

The Georgia offensive line can create space, but whoever is carrying the football will be challenged to get past what looks to be one of the most physical linebacking units in college football.

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