ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart didn’t spend much time basking in the glory of the 26-14 Sugar Bowl victory over Baylor in New Orleans earlier this month.
In fact, Smart had already turned the page to the 2020 season before he finished his postgame press conference.
The 2019 Bulldogs finished 12-2 and ranked No. 4, but Smart had one eye on the future throughout bowl preparation.
“The future’s only bright if those guys continue to work …. ,” Smart said on Jan. 1. “They’ll only be as good as they can be if they stay as hungry as they are.”
Rising senior Justin Shaffer, one of Georgia’s projected offensive line starters, announced on Twitter on Thursday night that he’s ready to eat, as the players say about their workouts.
Got cleared ready to get back to the grind 🙏🏾
— Justin Shaffer™ (@ShafferJustin54) January 16, 2020
Shaffer started two games last season at left guard, taking over for Solomon Kindley after the former Georgia player suffered a sprained ankle in the 23-16 win over Notre Dame last September.
Shaffer, however, missed the last eight games of the season after suffering a sprained neck.
Junior center Trey Hill and right guard Ben Cleveland are the two most experienced starters returning.
The Bulldogs bring back 5 of 11 offensive starters from the Sugar Bowl game, and 9 of 11 from that game’s starting defense.
The quarterback situation will get the lion’s share of the offseason attention by the nature of the position.
But with Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman on board, along with redshirt freshman D’Wan Mathis, true freshman Carson Beck and redshirt junior Stetson Bennett, UGA has capable options.
The offensive line, meanwhile, appears to be more of a work in progress for new assistant coach Matt Luke.
The line likely starts with Hill a center, Newman at left guard and Cleveland at right guard.
Sophomore Jamaree Salyer had an excellent Sugar Bowl performance and is expected to have the inside track on the right tackle position entering spring drills.
The left tackle position is one to watch after Cade Mays’ surprising decision to leave Georgia and return to his hometown of Knoxville and play for Tennessee.
Redshirt freshman Xavier Truss is a contender to start, but recruit Broderick Jones would also be competing to start immediately provided he signs with Georgia in February.
The Bulldogs will likely start spring drills after spring break (March 9-13). The annual G-Day Game is typically around the third week in April, but no official announcements have been made at the time of this writing.