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Georgia football in a good spot with returning production
The beginning of January was very good for the Georgia program. In the span of a few days, the Bulldogs learned they would bring back quarterback JT Daniels, running backs Zamir White and James Cook, offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer and outside linebacker Adam Anderson, among others. Those players are why such optimism exists for the Bulldogs entering the 2021 season.
Their returns help bring Georgia’s returning production up 65 percent, good for 110th in the country. On the surface, that would seem to indicate Georgia is one of the more inexperienced teams in college football this season. Based on the numbers tabulated by ESPN’s Bill Connelly, that would be correct.
To better put Connelly’s numbers in context, don’t look so much at every team but rather the ones Georgia will see on its schedule.
Among SEC East teams, the Bulldogs rank third in returning production. Only Vanderbilt (80 percent) and Missouri (71 percent) rank higher amongst SEC East foes. Georgia does draw Auburn (75 percent) and Arkansas (76 percent) from the SEC West. But it doesn’t face the SEC team with the most returning production in Ole Miss (86 percent) nor a talented LSU team (74 percent).
Florida sits at 57 percent, which does help explain why so many seem to be higher on Georgia this season even after last season’s 44-28 defeat.
With Georgia though, winning the SEC East does not a successful season make. The Bulldogs’ goals are much greater. To accomplish those, they will have to beat some of the other elite teams in the nation, such as Clemson, Oklahoma and Alabama.
Georgia also measures up well when compared to those teams as well. Clemson, who Georgia opens the season against, comes in at 68 percent. That’s actually the highest ranking of a team that made last season’s College Football Playoff. Alabama is ranked No. 123 at 56 percent, Notre Dame is No. 124 with 55 percent and Ohio State comes in at No. 125 with 51 percent of its production returning.
Of those trying to break through to the elite tier in college football, Oklahoma does seem to be well-positioned to make some noise this season. The Sooners bring back 76 percent of their production, with quarterback Spencer Rattler being a major reason for optimism.
Like Georgia, Oklahoma has also used the transfer portal to address some of the needs it did have. The Sooners pulled in three players from Tennessee, including running back Eric Gray.
The Bulldogs brought in defensive backs Tykee Smith and Derion Kendrick to help re-tool Georgia’s secondary. Their production at West Virginia and Clemson respectively does not factor into where Georgia ranks.
Georgia also used the transfer portal to address the wide receiver position following George Pickens’ injury. His 2020 production still counts for the Bulldogs, but it is a wild guess as to when he will see the field following an ACL injury he suffered in March.
The Bulldogs did pull in Arik Gilbert from LSU. As a freshman tight end, the former 5-star prospect caught 35 passes for 368 yards and three touchdowns. He’s expected to line up at wide receiver this year for Georgia and fill the void left by Pickens.
Georgia ranking 110th in the country in a category is not what you would want to see. But when compared to its contemporaries, the Bulldogs are in pretty good shape. Add in the transfers and the No. 4 ranked recruiting class and Georgia has done about as well as you can addressing holes.
Perhaps the biggest reason though for why Georgia will end the season ranked much higher than where it sits in returning production is because of players like Daniels and Anderson.
Related: Georgia football podcast: An easy way for JT Daniels to quiet his doubters
Those two played last season, but we didn’t get to see them fully unleash their talents. For Daniels, it was due to a knee injury he suffered at USC. With Anderson, he was splitting playing time with Jermaine Johnson and Azeez Ojulari.