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Georgia football first-half honors, recognizing most underrated player, key assistant

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Georgia defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt (95) celebrates with teammate Jalen Carter (88) after sacking Clemson quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei during the second half of the Duke's Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images/TNS)

Georgia’s No. 1 status at the midway point of its season isn’t as surprising as how the Bulldogs have managed to attain — and sustain — its perfect season.

Coach Kirby Smart says there have been plenty of things to work on during this bye week leading into prep for the 3:30 p.m. showdown with Florida on Oct. 30 in Jacksonville.

That’s not just coach-speak when one looks at the attrition the Bulldogs (7-0, 5-0 SEC) have overcome from an injury and personnel standpoint.

The secondary essentially lost projected starters Tykee Smith and Jalen Kimber to injuries before the season started.

The staff was also shuffled after Scott Cochran left the staff to deal with personal health issues, recently returning in an off-field role.

The quarterback situation has also been a challenge with starter JT Daniels dealing with upper-body core injuries that have limited him to nine quarters of action.

Talented redshirt freshman Carson Beck, originally named the No. 2 quarterback by Kirby Smart, was surpassed by veteran Stetson Bennett in practices, leading to Bennett starting in four of the team’s seven games.

The offensive line has settled after getting thrown for preseason loop when projected starting center Warren Ericson broke his hand early in fall drills.

There was yet another scramble in the opening game after starting right guard Tate Ratledge suffered a season-ending foot injury.

And still, it’s Georgia football that is No. 1, and unanimous at that.

Here are some halfway point award winners:

Key Assistant: Todd Monken

Monken’s ability to adjust is impressive, flipping from the NFL arm talent and pre-snap acumen of Daniels to a more scrambling, scrappy signal-caller in Bennett. Brock Bowers is the wild card Monken keeps finding different ways to play, while Ladd McConkey and Adonai Mitchell have developed into more reliable perimeter threats.

Most Valuable: Jordan Davis

Georgia is content being a team without any individual superstars, and that’s a tribute to its more recognizable player, Jordan Davis. Not only does Davis have a “Godzilla-like” presence on the field, as Smart says, but he is a great practice present that has helped maintain harmony off the field.

Most Talented: Adam Anderson

It’s almost as if the 6-foot-5, 240-pound Anderson hasn’t been fully turned loose. Yet. Fact is, Anderson’s pivotal games are coming up, as he’s the answer for the mobile quarterbacks Florida and Alabama will present. Anderson, despite limited snaps in the deep, Georgia LB rotation, leads the team with 4.5 sacks and ranks tied for fourth with 25 tackles.

Most Irreplaceable: Jake Camarda

Camarda is averaging 45.64 yards per punt, but it’s his placement and hang time that puts him over the top as one of the best in the nation. Camarda’s skills are worth dozens of hidden yards in each game, and his consistency is a luxury that is taken for granted.

First-Half Surprise: Brock Bowers

No one could have anticipated a true freshman leading Georgia in receiving at the halfway point of the season. Bowers is also tied with running back Zamir White in total yards from scrimmage (428) despite having having less than half as many touches (26- 85) as the Bulldogs’ workhorse back.

Most Under-appreciated: Jamaree Salyer

The senior offensive lineman isn’t talked about enough because of the nature of his position, but you can bet line coach Matt Luke recognizes the value. Salyer has stayed at left tackle, where he has been effective, even though his NFL future is likely at offensive guard. Salyer’s versatility — he also plays center — has been invaluable. Salyer is also one of the core leaders on the team, and that has also been crucial to the No. 1 season.

Most Underrated: Jalen Carter

There’s been a lot of talk about senior defensive linemen Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt, and rightly so, as both are high up on the NFL teams’ radar and have built solid reputations over the course of their careers. But Carter, who will be back at UGA next season, might ultimately end up being the best defensive lineman in the group. Carter leads the line room by a large margin with 20 QB hurries (Travon Walker has 12, Wyatt, 11), and brings an aggressive, disruptive presence each snap.

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