December 31, 2021 Miami Gardens, Florida - Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Nolan Smith (4) pursues Michigan Wolverines quarterback J.J. McCarthy (9) during the second quarter in the 2021 College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium, Friday, in Miami Gardens, Fl. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Pre-camp stock report: Team captains ready to thrive, offensive backfield in motion

ATHENS — Georgia football fall camp opens on Thursday, bringing an official end to “Talking Season” headlines.

Coaches will go from talking about how great the potential and leadership are in their programs to pointing out every shortcoming as the days dwindle down toward their openers.

Is any team really completely ready to play in the opening kickoff?

Teams have scrimmages, but as Georgia learned in its last scrimmage of the 2021 fall camp, they don’t always go as planned.

Jalen Carter threw a blocker into JT Daniels that led to a series of upper-body injuries and a flak-jacket for the former Bulldogs’ quarterback in last season’s opening win over Clemson.

Stetson Bennett assumed the role and won a national title, and the 24-year-old former walk-on and two-time transfer is ready to make another run at the SEC title.

Bennett was one of three Bulldogs who appeared at the SEC Media Days in Atlanta last month, and he did himself proud.

It would have been easy for Bennett to be passive aggressive toward the media members, some of whom have openly second-guessed his talents and ability to lead the team.

But Bennett appeared in good spirts, honest and straight-to-the point about his abilities, his shortcomings, and his outlook on this season.

Stock Soaring

Stetson Bennett: Bennett is the unquestioned starter and Kirby Smart stands behind him at each turn, putting championship hopes in the form of the the future of the offense on the shoulders of the 24-year-old former walk-on.

Sedrick Van Pran: The fact Smart chose Van Pran to speak on behalf of the offensive line says a mouthful about the leadership capabilities of this redshirt sophomore center.

Nolan Smith: The returning team captain and preseason All-SEC pick figures to be the voice of the team after putting an offseason arrest for driving on a suspended license while speeding through a construction zone in his rearview mirror.

Christopher Smith: A hero with key interceptions against Clemson and Alabama, Christopher Smith leads the back seven on defense with poise and experience and has built himself into a strong NFL prospect.

Stock Up

Kenny McIntosh: McIntosh is emerging as another leader on offense, having put an offseason car crash behind him. McIntosh will assume many of the responsibilities James Cook held as a runner and pass-catcher out of the backfield.

Kearis Jackson: Jackson is one of Smart’s favorite players, a team-first returning captain who has embraced a role on special teams and performing blue-collar duties at receiver as well as catching passes.

Broderick Jones: There might not be a player who has improved his stock more within the team in the past year. Jones is an elite pass blocker who is expected to be more physical in the run game this season.

Kendall Milton: Milton, like McIntosh, looks to provide a lift in what could be a more dynamic backfield than a year ago. Milton has improved his pass-catching abilities, giving him the opportunity for an expanded role.

Carson Beck: Beck enters this third fall at Georgia as the next man up at quarterback, ready to play if called upon at the position. Beck was second team entering last fall, too, and only a bad Monday practice the week of the UAB game cost him a start. That likely won’t happen again.

Stock Even

Tykee Smith: The former All-American from West Virginia is working to get back to 100 percent, which would give him an opportunity to win the starting position at the star position.

Amarius Mims: The ultra-talented Mims is back with the team after giving Florida State a hard look in the midst of spring drills. Mims’ upside is unlimited, and it seems only a matter of hard work and experience for him to achieve it.

Robert Beal: The team’s sack leader from a year ago, Beal is another Bulldog who was once in the transfer portal before deciding to stick around and make the most of his opportunity in a championship program. Beal looks to elevate his play,even more this season.

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