What Georgia football must accomplish to have a successful spring
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What Georgia football must do to have successful 2021 spring practices
The Georgia Bulldogs will begin their spring practices on March 16. They’ll get 14 of them to go through drills, install plays and improve before using their final practice as the G-Day scrimmage on April 17.
Georgia didn’t have spring practice in 2020 due to the pandemic and just about everyone saw the impact it had on the team come the fall. The offense struggled as it was under the first-year direction of Todd Monken, while the defense was unable to build the depth needed to weather injuries.
Barring a massive COVID-19 outbreak, Georgia should get the chance to address some of the concerns it has heading into the 2021 season on the practice fields.
So what does Georgia need to do this spring to consider the 15 practices successful? We outline the four areas below. Georgia will focus on itself in these practices, as it won’t fully turn its attention to the season-opener against Clemson until Sept. 4.
1. Avoid injuries
This one seems obvious. The Bulldogs enter spring practice with a number of expected contributors on the mend, such as inside linebacker Nakobe Dean, outside linebacker MJ Sherman, wide receivers Dominick Blaylock and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint and offensive lineman Micah Morris.
Hopefully for Georgia, the list is limited to just that and no one picks up an injury that carries any deeper into the offseason.
2. Continue to build chemistry in the passing game
Georgia coach Kirby Smart made it a point to stress this during his press conference with reporters last week.
“I think the rapport with the receiver group for all of the quarterbacks is going to be extremely important in terms of developing our offense and getting timing in the passing game,” Smart said.
Most of the attention will be on quarterback JT Daniels this spring. A year ago, he was still at USC and recovering from a second knee surgery.
Now he’s looking to continue to build on a strong finish to the 2020 season. He’ll return his top seven pass catchers from last season to go along with all five scholarship running backs from the 2020 team.
With all those weapons back, Daniels will have plenty of targets to spread around. It should be noted that in addition to it being the first set of spring practices for Daniels and Monken, it will also be the first spring practices for wide receiver George Pickens.
The Georgia offense took a clear step forward once Daniels became the starter. If Georgia is going to contend for a national title, the Georgia offense is going to take another step forward and it can start that practice this spring.
3. Try everything on the offensive line
Georgia has recruited extremely well on the offensive line, even compared to how well it has done at other positions. If Georgia wanted to, it could roll out an offensive line that features four 5-star prospects and a fourth player who was the No. 38 overall player in his recruiting class.
But that theoretical line-up doesn’t include contributors like Justin Shaffer, Warren Ericson and Warren McClendon. All three of those players started multiple games for Georgia in 2020 and figure to factor into the various position battles in the practices to come.
The Georgia offensive line has a ton of potential. But it will be up to the players and offensive line coach Matt Luke to turn that potential into on-field production.
“Our focus has really not been on what position each guy is going to play, but more about how do we get the best out of each person,” Smart said. “A couple of those guys are leaders on the team so it’s not just getting the best out of them, it’s them getting the best out of everybody else.”
That’s why Georgia is more than willing to experiment this spring, as it should be. Jamaree Salyer could line up at either guard or tackle. The same could be said for McClendon. Is Georgia better off with Ericson or redshirt freshman Sedrick Van Pran at center?
Georgia’s offensive line this spring should be viewed as a Chinese takeout menu. It will have a number of different combinations to try and it should go through as many of them as it can. Ultimately it has to find the one that best sets up the rest of the Georgia offense.
4. Figure out what exactly you have in the secondary
If there is one position group that is legitimately concerning at this point, it is at cornerback. Smart added that anybody on the team could be a cornerback and we’ve already seen some evidence of that as running back Lovasea Carroll has moved to the other side of the ball.
“That position is up for grabs,” Smart said of cornerback. “There are no guys that are proven returning starters. And every guy is working hard to learn the techniques and details that it takes to play winning football at that position.”
Georgia must replace all of its returning production at cornerback for the 2021 season. Georgia does have some talented options it can turn to in Kelee Ringo, Jalen Kimber and Nyland Green.
But none of those options have had to line-up across from a Devonta Smith or Justyn Ross type wide receiver. It’s imperative that anyone playing cornerback this spring gets better and shows growth at the position.
The transfer portal will always be an option for Georgia to improve its roster and with Clemson cornerback Derion Kendrick entering the transfer portal last week, that is a storyline worth following. Even beyond Kendrick, the transfer portal and cornerback position will Georgia will be something to monitor over the offseason.
Even if Georgia does land Kendrick though, it doesn’t solve the issues at cornerback. He would be just a one-year plug at cornerback. Regardless of whether it uses the transfer portal Georgia is going to have to develop some players this spring who can start and play the cornerback position at a high level.
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