The last two bowl games have served as a springboard for a handful of Georgia players. And some of the younger members of the 2020 team will likely look to do the same against Cincinnati in the upcoming Peach Bowl.

With D’Andre Walker missing the 2019 Sugar Bowl against Texas with an injury, Azeez Ojulari went on to earn his significant playing time. Since then, he’s developed into Georgia’s best pass rusher and a potential first-round pick.

In last season’s Sugar Bowl, Georgia was without Brian Herrien at running back and D’Andre Swift was very limited in what he could do. Zamir White took advantage, as he ran for 92 yards and a touchdown as Georgia’s lead running back.

White took up that role in a full-time capacity this season, as he led Georgia with 740 yards and 10 touchdowns in nine regular-season games.

“A lot of guys get an opportunity in bowl games because sometimes you have postseason injuries, sometimes you have first-round picks that choose not to play,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I mean for whatever reason you have attrition, right? And other guys get an opportunity to play.”

The bowl games in the past have functioned as an extra spring game, as the Bulldogs roughly get around 10 extra practices, with the Bulldogs playing a big-time opponent at the end of it.

Georgia won’t get quite that many practices this time around, due to shortened time between the final week of the regular season and the bowl game.

“They are really beneficial when you get the full, I guess, allotment, I would say,” Smart said. “Like the full gamut of, hey, you’re going to get five practices and then you’re going to practice for the bowl game. Those are really good.”

Smart revealed that the Bulldogs got two good-on-good practices in prior to the Christmas break. The players return to the practice field on Sunday, following a round of COVID-19 testing.

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With Tre’ McKitty opting out of the game, that obviously means more reps for freshman Darnell Washington. The same could probably be said for center Sedrick Van Pran, with Trey Hill out due to injury and Warren Ericson possibly kicking over to guard. Tate Ratledge could also get more reps at the right guard spot as well.

On the defensive side of the ball, Nolan Smith and Mekhail Sherman stand to benefit from Jermaine Johnson’s decision to transfer. The latter announced on Saturday that he would be playing for Florida State next season.

At cornerback, Smart mentioned freshmen Jalen Kimber and Daran Branch to replace Eric Stokes, who declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.

But with late-season injuries, as well as a possible positive COVID tests, there will likely be more opportunities elsewhere, as was the case with White and Ojulari.

Smart did push back somewhat of the idea a single bowl game being a big positive step for the program overall. But the Georgia head coach has also used bowl games as a way to show who might be a key player for the Bulldogs in the seasons to come.

“We want to play our best game, so we’re not going out to audition for next year,” Smart said. “Although some will get their first significant playing time, it’s really about these seniors and the guys who have invested so much and finishing things off the right way.”

Georgia coach Kirby Smart previews game against Cincinnati

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