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3 questions that need answers before Week 1
We’re in the single-digits, folks. Only nine days remain until college football returns to Athens, which means Kirby Smart and his team are running out of time to find answers to the myriad of questions still facing these Bulldogs. Here are the most pressing questions that need answers before kickoff on Sept. 2 against Appalachian State.
What’s the pecking order on the offensive line?
The makeup of the offensive line has been the story of the preseason, and will probably be the story of the early season. Smart said on Wednesday the coaches were close to knowing their first five, at least for Week 1, with Isaiah Wynn at left tackle, Pat Allen and Solomon Kindley at guard and Lamont Gaillard at center. The only spot that still seems open is right tackle, where redshirt freshman Ben Cleveland and freshmen Andrew Thomas are “neck-and-neck.”
“Ben’s competing hard. I think Andrew’s competing hard,” Smart said, according to Seth Emerson of DawgNation. “They both go there and compete and have done a good job. So time will tell. A couple more practices will hone things in.”
Considering how many different lineups the coaches have tried in practice, chances are good there will be some mixing and matching after the coaches get to break down how each player looks in game action. But with Appalachian State just nine days away, the time for experimenting with different looks has almost passed, and the time to prepare the starters for a tough crew of Mountaineers is fast approaching.
How will the secondary look if Malkom Parrish isn’t good to go against Appalachian State?
At this point, it’s wishful thinking to believe Malkom Parrish will have fully recovered from foot surgery by Sept. 2. The coaches can hope he’s back — and there’s a definite possibility that he will be — but they have to prepare as if they’ll play without one of their presumptive starting corners. And I’m sure they are.
Like the offensive line, there’s been a lot musical chairs played in the secondary in an effort to find the best collection of players. The loss of Parrish complicates that further, as his position as a starter wasn’t in question before the injury. The most likely solution is starting Aaron Davis at corner opposite Deandre Baker in Parrish’s stead, backed up by Deangelo Gibbs and Tyrique McGhee, with both also working at Star. At safety, J.R. Reed would line up with Dominick Sanders, whose spot isn’t in question, with freshman Richard LeCounte also earning snaps.
That still leaves a few depth issues in the secondary that could mean emergency reinforcements are needed (more on that below) but it should be good enough to beat Appalachian State. With the depth like it is, though, Parrish needs to get back ASAP, preferably before Notre Dame, because right now the Bulldogs are a few injuries away from a full-blown crisis.
Who will be the go-to field goal kicker in Week 1?
If everything goes as expected and everyone plays up to their abilities, the game against Appalachian State shouldn’t be close. But this is Georgia we’re talking about. And far too often last season things did no go as expected and players did not play up to their abilities. That led to close games that had no business being close (Nicholls State) and losses that Georgia had no business losing (Vanderbilt). So some fear of/respect for the Mountaineers isn’t unwarranted if the Bulldogs don’t want to be surprised.
That means that Georgia must prepare like they’re in for a close game. And that means the coaches have to know which kicker they’re going to trot out of they need a game-winning field goal.
By all accounts, sophomore Rodrigo Blankenship and graduate transfer David Marvin are in a dead heat for the starting kicker job. Like last season, there’s a good chance Georgia will try multiple guys in-season to see how they handle game action. But, at the very least, the coaches have to have a guy they know they’ll go to if the we live in the darkest timeline and the Appalachian State game comes down to a field goal.
Lorenzo Carter is Georgia’s ‘insurance policy’ in the secondary
As for the emergency options in the secondary, according to Smart, that could include playing pass-rusher extraordinaire Lorenzo Carter at Star corner. Carter practiced a bit at Star recently. He could get some snaps there if the situation in the secondary becomes dire enough. From Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald:
“I think it’s just an issue of depth for us,” Smart said. “We have more outside backers who can play than stars right now. It’s more of an insurance policy and not something we’re focused on. If we lose some more DBs, we gotta get our best 11 guys on the field. That might be different people in different packages.”
Kirby Smart is cautious with J.J. Holloman in practice
WR J.J. Holloman was among the freshmen with the highest expectations heading into fall camp. As an early enrollee playing at a position with few reliable options, it seemed early playing time could be in the cards for the wide receiver. But a hamstring injury suffered early in fall camp has limited him this preseason. Smart is apparently being cautious with Holloman’s injury and has put limit on the amount of yardage the freshman runs in practice. From Emerson:
“In the last couple of days, he’s been able to sustain and get up to his yardage quota. It’s been up to 5,000,” Smart said. “He’s really had no issues since he came back, we’ve just been very cautious with his numbers to make sure he doesn’t’ get above a certain number of yards.”
Colorful praise for Andrew Thomas
Thomas, a possible starter at right tackle, has been singled out by players and Smart for praise, with most citing his technique and maturity as factors that separate him from other freshmen.. But the award for the best description of what makes Thomas special goes to defensive lineman Julian Rochester, who provided the gem.
“He’s amazing,” Julian Rochester said, according to Emerson. “He has arms – I think he can scratch his knees when he stands up. His arms are so long and he is so patient.”
Dawgs on Twitter
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