ATHENS — Georgia football has built momentum through the first three games of the season, evolving at each point.
No one embodied that more than outside linebacker Nolan Smith, who very much resembled the sort of high-profile player he was projected to be in the 2019 signing class.
Coach Kirby Smart isn’t ready to anoint anyone on his No. 2-ranked Bulldogs (3-0), readily pointing out that improvement must be a constant.
WATCH: South Carolina HC Shane Beamer went off on the Georgia defense
That’s why Georgia’s 40-13 win over South Carolina last Saturday produced mixed feelings among some Bulldogs’ fans.
As much as it was a decisive win on the scoreboard, Georgia was exposed in different areas, most notably the secondary.
Smart knows that better than anyone and as much was expected, with the Bulldogs seeing four defensive backs selected in the 2021 NFL Draft and two others transferring to LSU and Miami.
Still, the positives far outweighed the negatives, and those who invest emotional stock in the team have to feel Georgia is growing into the national title contender many had expected.
JT Daniels: Daniels was nearly perfect on third downs, 7-of-7 passing with six of those throws converting for first downs. Daniels’ poise and accuracy were impressive.
Nolan Smith: Smith, once the No. 1-rated prospect in the entire 2019 class, had his breakout game. A team-high 8 tackles was accompanied by a strip sack and tackle in end zone for a safety.
Brock Bowers: The freshman H-Back/tight end has been no less than sensational in proving himself the most reliable target, and among the most explosive after the catch.
Jake Camarda: Specialists can get a bad rap, but not Camarda, who is among the most respected and appreciated stars on the team. Camarda averaged more than 50 yards per punt and buried one at the 1-yard line, leading to a safety.
James Cook: The Georgia offense has clearly been designed with Cook in mind, and the senior from Miami is taking full advantage. Cook had a rushing and receiving touchdown as it was his turn to look like the best back in a contest this season.
Jalen Carter: The sophomore defensive tackle is phenomenal, popping up more and more often in the backfield as a disruptor. One wonders when Smart will line up No. 88 in the offensive backfield.
Lewis Cine: The junior safety is taking over as a true leader, holding his teammates accountable and keeping both feet on the ground rather than buying into the hype. Cine leads on the field with his hard-hitting run support and sticky pass coverage, too.
Channing Tindall: Like a heat-seeking missile, Tindall zeroes in on his target and speeds toward it with bad intentions. A truly emerging star, Tindall’s pursuit angles are razor sharp.
Cornerbacks: If there’s a red flag on defense, it’s at this position, South Carolina completed four passes of more than 35 yards, all of them against cornerbacks.
John FitzPatrick: FitzPatrick couldn’t reel in the dart Daniels threw him in the end zone. Daniels hung up another pass for FitzPatrick to make a play on, but the defender was more aggressive and made the interception.
Justin Shaffer: The senior offensive guard came back for another season to play himself into the NFL, but he’ll need to become more dominant at the point of attack and more discipline on the snap count.