Kirby Smart-Georgia football offense-2022
Georgia tight end Brock Bowers (19) during the Bulldogs’ practice session in Athens, Ga., on Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. (Photo by Mackenzie Miles)
Mackenzie Miles

Kirby Smart expresses confidence in even better 2022 Georgia offense: ‘We’re in a good position’

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Kirby Smart expresses real confidence in 2022 Georgia offense

Kirby Smart will always be a defense-first coach. There’s nothing wrong with that, as Smart can now point to the 2021 championship team as proof that you can still win with defense.

He also understands the uniqueness of that team, with five first-round picks on the defensive side of the ball. And that doesn’t even include the best player on that defense in Nakobe Dean.

Smart still wants Georgia to be elite defensively. Even with some of the personnel losses, the Bulldogs should be able to accomplish that in 2022. Georgia does bring back Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith and a host of promising young players eager to fill the shoes of Dean, Lewis Cein and Travon Walker.

But he knows his team will have to be carried by the offense in 2022. That is still how most of the college football world operates.

“We’ll be a different team this year. We won’t have five first-round defensive players coming back,” Smart said on an appearance on the Paul Finebaum show. “That’s not going to be the case. I still think it’s an era of throwing the ball and scoring points. We’re going to have to do a better job of that and continue to do it.”

Related: Kirby Smart on 2022 Georgia football defense: ‘We just want to be No. 1 in the country’

It’s not that Georgia was a bad offensive team a season ago. The Bulldogs still ranked ninth in the country in scoring offense per game with 38.6 points per game. Georgia also finished in the top-10 in the country in 20-plus yard plays and 30-plus yard plays.

It just didn’t look like Alabama or Ohio State’s offense. The Buckeyes led the country in points per game, averaging 45.5 points per contest. Alabama was led by quarterback Bryce Young, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2021.

Young and Ohio State quarterback CJ Stroud both return this season. Those two offenses figure to be as potent as they were in 2021, if not even better.

In part, that’s why Smart knows his team has to reach another level offensively. It needs to be an unquestionably elite unit in 2022, the way the defense was last season.

“We want to score points,” Smart said. “To do that you have to have skill players who can make plays. We think we’re in a good position to do that.”

Like Alabama and Ohio State, Georgia brings back its starting quarterback from the 2022 season. Stetson Bennett will be in his third season with offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Bennett may not have the profile of Young or Stroud, but he made noticeable strides in Monken’s offense last season.

He may not have been the biggest reason Georgia won it all last season, he was not exactly a slouch either. He was the Orange Bowl MVP, throwing for 313 yards and three touchdowns against Michigan.

As Smart points out, Bennett also should have a strong group of skill players on the offensive side of the ball. That might be the biggest reason for optimism for an improved offense in 2022.

Running backs Kendall Milton and Kenny McIntosh have both shown they can be productive players in the past. In 2022 they will have even greater opportunities. They also might be more interchangeable than Zamir White and James Cook were last season, allowing Georgia’s offense to be less predictable.

Wide receiver is perhaps the biggest question mark. If the group can stay healthy, there’s a good amount of talent in the room with AD Mitchell, Kearis Jackson, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, Ladd McConkey, Arian Smtih and Dominick Blaylock.

But the group was rocked by injury last season and has to prove it can get through a full season. They will also be working with a new position coach in Bryan McClendon.

“We don’t have like, okay, this guy has got a hamstring, who’s going in,” Smart said on G-Day. “We don’t have that. We’ve got to grow that. We’re not there yet.”

Bennett though won’t have to be overly reliant on Georgia’s wide receivers thanks to the Georgia tight end room. Which might be the best position group in the country.

All-American Brock Bowers returns after perhaps the best freshman season in the country, regardless of position. Georgia also brings back mammoth junior Darnell Washington who will be a key part of the offense.

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