Georgia inside linebacker Nakobe Dean (17) and Georgia inside linebacker Channing Tindall (41) during the Bulldogs’ game with UAB in Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

Georgia football stock report: Kirby’s cliches resonate, new stars emerging

ATHENS — A couple of Kirby Smart cliches came to mind in evaluating and summing up where Georgia football stands entering Week 3, as both explain personnel decisions and strategy.

Smart’s “Keep the main thing, the main thing,” and W.I.N. — “What’s important now,” — tell you what the head coach was thinking in starting fifth-year senior Stetson Bennett over redshirt freshman Carson Beck.

The main thing on Saturday was to make sure No. 2-ranked Georgia beat UAB, and that meant going with an experienced quarterback that would ensure a clean start.

Bennett not only was clean, he was downright spectacular, completing 10 of 12 passes for 288 yards and tying a school record with 5 touchdowns passes — in the first half, at that!

As for the W.I.N. acronym, “What’s Important Now” is the 2021 season and building a team that can win the SEC Championship and a College Football Playoff.

Some fans suggested Smart should be looking to the future and starting Beck, but it’s clear Bennett is considerably more comfortable in the offense at this stage, and it will take more reps for Beck to lead the team in as effective of a fashion.

The backup quarterback situation could prove moot once incumbent JT Daniels heals up enough to get back into the string lineup.

Smart indicated the Georgia quarterback situation for the Saturday SEC home opener against South Carolina at 7 p.m. (TV: ESPN) would be determined by

“It’s evaluated day-to-day, and that’s what percentage of health is JT at, how does Carson practice, and how does Stetson deal with success,” Smart said Saturday night. “It will be evaluated day-to-day, I don’t have any hypotheticals.”

Smart said that Daniels, who has an upper-body core injury, practiced Monday and Tuesday and felt better each day last week and was throwing footballs downfield in pregame warmups.

Daniels may be suffering after-effects from an inadvertent hit he took in the team’s Aug. 21 scrimmage, when a defensive lineman threw a blocker back into him.

STOCK SOARING

Stetson Bennett: It was a fantastic storyline to see the fifth-year senior validate himself with a 10-of-12 passing performance for 288 yards while tying a school record with 5 TD passes. It’s a credit to Bennett he has shown improvement with his deep ball and stayed razor sharp even when it looked like he might not play this season.

Kirby Smart: There were plenty of critics when DawgNation reported Stetson Bennett was expected to get the start, many fans suggested the head coach was making a mistake by not playing the redshirt freshman Carson Beck. But as the game played out, it became apparent why Smart is in charge and fans were put in their place, as Beck clearly wasn’t ready for the speed of the game or the moment.

Jake Camarda: Georgia has the best collegiate punter in the nation, and Camarda is performing at an NFL level with high, booming kicks that have buried opponents inside the 20-yard line. Hand him the Ray Guy Award now — Camarda has fully matured.

Brock Bowers: The best pass-catcher on the team until further notice, this true freshman has exceeded any realistic expectations with his stellar play the first two games, leading the Bulldogs in receiving yards in both.

Jordan Davis: Watching the 345-pound Davis run down UAB’s “mobile” quarterback in the open field was a sight to behold. Yes, Davis is that special of a player.

Channing Tindall: The pursuit angles from this 6-foot-2, 230-pound linebacker are wicked sharp, and his open-tackling abilities continue to impress.

STOCK UP

Kenny McIntosh: Though he didn’t get many touches, McIntosh appeared to be the best and most effective of the backs in this contest. McIntosh looks better than James Cook catching the ball out of the backfield, as he can break tackles and run with more authority. On the handoffs, McIntosh possesses a cutback ability that others do not.

Ladd McConkey: McConkey is turning out to be quite a player, showing receiving and special teams ability. This looks like a player who is headed for big things at Georgia over the course of his career.

Adonai Mitchell: The freshman receiver got his first receptions, 2 for 42 yards, and now has something to build on. Look for Mitchell to play a bigger role moving forward.

Justin Robinson: Robinson reeled in his first career touchdown pass against the Blazers, a 12-yarder, and now that he has his feet wet he also figures to build momentum.

Kelee Ringo: Smart predicted teams would go after Ringo with the Clemson game film out, but Ringo responded with his first career interception.

STOCK EVEN

Arian Smith: Did you see Smith catch a 61-yard touchdown pass against a Conference USA team? That’s what is supposed to happen when you have a second-year Georgia player with World Class speed and NFL upside should he pick and prioritize ootball over track.

Jermaine Burton: Did you see Burton catch a 73-yard touchdown pass against a Conference USA team? That’s what’s supposed to happen when you scheme up a player to be wide open. Burton is supposed to make plays as a starter and go-to target. He’s not supposed to have holding calls that wipe out 24-yard gains, however, but at least he’s starting to show he can play physical.

Kendall Milton: Milton led the team with 8 carries, but the Blazers did a good job hemming him in, and they actually stopped him in a short-yardage situation. This will be film for Milton to learn from.

Zamir White: White had 7 carries, but like Milton, he had trouble getting loose. White did not run with the same physicality he showed against Clemson.