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L.G. Patterson AP Photos
L.G. Patterson

10 early thoughts on Georgia football-Clemson opener

We are now less than 100 days from the start of the Georgia football season. And the first game of 2021 figures to be the most anticipated contest of the regular season.

The Bulldogs will take on the Clemson Tigers on Sept. 4 in Charlotte. The game will have a College Football Playoff-level intensity, as the two teams will likely be ranked in the top-10 to start the year.

It’s the first time these two have met since they opened the 2014 season against each other. Since then, the Tigers have won two national championships under Dabo Swinney, while Georgia hired Kirby Smart and played for the national championship in 2018.

Below are some way-too-early thoughts about Georgia, Clemson and the game itself.

1. Derion Kendrick’s name will come up

Clemson dismissed the cornerback in March, with Swinney simply stating that a change was likely best for both sides.

“I want to say that I love DK,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said following Kendrick’s dismissal. “He is a young man that I have always loved as a football player. He has a good heart. He has a really good heart.”

Now Kendrick might still be suiting up in that game. It just might be for the Bulldogs instead.

The cornerback is in the transfer portal and it is looking increasingly likely he will end up at Georgia.

Related: Clemson transfer Derion Kendrick prioritizes academics in return to college football

Georgia has zero players with starting experience at the cornerback position on the roster. While it has some promising options, none have the 23 career starts that Kendrick does.

Clemson will already have to replace Kendrick in the starting lineup, though Clemson has a handful of veteran options to turn to. Should the Bulldogs bring in the talented cornerback, there’s a strong chance he ends up starting for Georgia.

2. Does Justyn Ross play?

Clemson’s most talented receiver did not play a snap last season, as Ross spent 2020 recovering from spinal surgery.

It is still not yet known if Ross will be cleared to play against Georgia, but we should get some clarification on that matter in June. Ross is reportedly set to meet with his doctors and potentially get the all-clear he needs to return to the field.

In 2019, Ross caught 66 catches for 845 yards and eight touchdowns. Should he play against Georgia, he will likely be a major problem.

3. Georgia needs a wide receiver to step up and replace George Pickens

While the Tigers seem poised to get back their top wide receiver, Georgia will certainly be without its best pass catcher. The Bulldogs seemingly lost George Pickens when went down with a torn ACL in March.

Georgia hassome talented options to replace Pickens, but they have not yet shown they can replicate what Pickens brought to the offense.

Jermaine Burton, Kearis Jackson and others will aim to help quarterback JT Daniels lead the Georgia passing offense.

Related: WATCH: Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint shows progress with insane one-handed catch

4. How does Georgia’s running back situation shape up?

When it comes to the ground game, the Bulldogs should have the edge. Georgia returns all five of its scholarship running backs from its 2020 team.

Zamir White will bring a physical presence, while James Cook will be a weapon in the passing game. Then there is sophomore Kendall Milton, who might be the most talented running back on the roster.

Clemson meanwhile has to replace Travis Etienne, who was the all-time leading rusher in Clemson history. The Tigers did sign 5-star running back Will Shipley in the 2021 recruiting cycle, but it’s not known if he will make an impact in the first game of his college career.

5. Can Clemson replace its two legends?

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