Georgia spring football: 4 early takeaways from Kirby Smart’s reloading championship program
ATHENS — Georgia football put the pads on Saturday in Practice 3 of 15 this spring, an important physical first step toward the 2023 season.
The Bulldogs’ ultimate quest is to three-peat, something that has only been done once before in college history — at Minnesota — in 1934-35-36.
Kirby Smart acknowledges this Georgia football program, likely on the verge of losing another double-digit haul to the NFL Draft — has a long way to go.
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The Bulldogs sustained the loss of five first-round defensive picks and coordinator Dan Lanning last season, promoting Will Muschamp and Glenn Schumann from within en route to a 15-0 season.
This year, Georgia must overcome the loss of offensive coordinator Todd Monken, a pair of tackles that didn’t give up a sack, the most versatile tailback in recent memory, a veteran mobile QB and a mismatch tight end.
The personnel puzzle is an annual challenge for Smart and his staff, and while it’s far too early to suggest anything is settled, here are some early building blocks:
More “11″ personnel
At this point, it would seem the Georgia offense will operate most often with one running back, one tight end and three receivers.
Of course, down and distance have a great deal to do with formation and personnel, but as far as the base offense, a three-receiver set seems to make the most sense with the Bulldogs’ beefing up their receiver corps.
It’s all about getting the best 11 on the field, Smart likes to say, and incoming Missouri transfer Dominic Lovett looks to provide an explosive option out of the slot with Ladd McConkey and Mississippi State transfer Rara Thomas working as primary perimeter threats.
Georgia has capable tight end talent behind All-American Brock Bowers, most notably Oscar Delp. None pose the same catch-block dual threat as outgoing tight end Darnell Washington that made the double tight end set so valuable last season.
Mobility at quarterback
People can and will make what they want of Smart’s desire (insistence?) on mobility at the quarterback position, but it’s a very real persuasion.
New offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will likely add more quarterback runs this spring as UGA looks for ways to diversify its offense with two of its most versatile players (Kenny McIntosh and Washington) moving on.
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The fact Georgia is losing two offensive tackles that did not give up a sack last season is more reason to believe the Bulldogs might look to move the pocket event more than last season.
Carson Beck showed quickness and athleticism last season, but it’s hard to know just how durable Beck will prove to be as Smart said there are no plans to allow “live” contact on his quarterbacks
Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton were both used as effective running quarterbacks in high school, but like Beck, neither have been tested enough at the collegiate level to predict if they can have the same sort of durability Stetson Bennett had the past two seasons.
The Georgia middle linebacker is the heart and soul of the defense, but his offseason arrest on speeding and reckless driving charges became very public and put him in an awkward position.
Dumas-Johnson, like every other UGA football player, bears a degree of public accountability. That can be hard for anyone — much less a younger person — to properly deal with.
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Smart has yet to put the prominent defensive captain before the media this spring, an indication Dumas-Johnson might not yet be where the head coach wants or might not be ready to speak publicly.
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Dumas-Johnson, it’s worth noting, quickly grew into a media and fan-favorite last season with his straight-forward takes last season. Dumas-Johnson consistently revealed a competitive nature, making it easy to understand why teammates follow his lead.
Unlike many places where players can be openly requested, Georgia football chooses which players can speak to the media, representing a nod of approval from the head coach.
Smart typically avoids or limits putting quarterbacks in front of the media when there is competition at the position, and there are also some players who simply aren’t comfortable speaking publicly or have class or training room conflicts.
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The current players who have spoken with the media this spring:
• Ladd McConkey
• Kendall Milton
• Zion Logue
• Sedrick Van Pran
• Javon Bullard
The next Georgia interviews are on Tuesday, and Smart is not expected to talk with the media this week.
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