The 5 big questions Georgia still must answer before Vanderbilt opener
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The 5 big questions Georgia football must answer before Vanderbilt game
School has started at the University of Georgia and the Bulldogs have already conducted 10 practices. We’ve got some answers on how things have shaken out thus far, and several players have really emerged this month.
But Georgia still faces some questions about its team heading into the Vanderbilt game. A number of position battles have yet to be decided, and as we saw with D’Andre Swift this week, injury management will be something to monitor in the run-up to the season-opener.
The Bulldogs still have another two-plus weeks before kicking off against Vanderbilt on Aug. 31. The game is set for a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.
How healthy is the running back room?
Coming into fall camp, most of the questions regarding the health in this room revolved around redshirt freshman Zamir White. He had missed all of last season with an ACL tear, so the inquiries were justified.
But White isn’t the only Georgia running back with health worries. James Cook missed time at the end of last season and wasn’t fully healthy this spring. And that’s before unpacking what is going on with Swift. The junior running back was not seen during the media viewing portion of practice on Tuesday, but the indications are that he was there afterward.
Swift wasn’t healthy at the beginning of last season, as he was recovering from offseason groin surgery. At the moment, there doesn’t seem to be any serious injuries to anyone in the running back room. And it seems that White is having no issues with either of his surgically repaired knees.
Which wide receivers make up the top six rotation?
Georgia coach Kirby Smart has said that beyond the top-three wide receivers, there is a deeper rotation of six guys who will likely play.
Right now, the safe bets to fill up three of those spots are Tyler Simmons, Lawrence Cager and Demetris Robertson. Those three players have been running predominantly with the first group at practice. All three are veterans and have played significant college football snaps, even if Cager and Robertson haven’t done it at Georgia.
But the more interesting race might be for who fills out those next three slots. George Pickens is the player everyone is talking about after his unreal catch in the past scrimmage. But he’s not a lock to break into that rotation, as the likes of Trey Blount and Matt Landers are also in the mix at those outside wide receiver positions.
As for the slot, it’s a battle between Kearis Jackson and Dominick Blaylock. There’s also the chance that both make the top six, meaning only one of Blount, Landers or Pickens crack the rotation.
This top six will likely be pretty fluid throughout the season, especially as Pickens and Blaylock get more comfortable in the Georgia system. But with Georgia only being able to bring 70 players to the Vanderbilt game, it will be interesting to see how many wide receivers end up on the trip.
Who wins the right guard spot?
In talking to Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson, they made it clear that it doesn’t matter who will win the right guard spot. Georgia’s offensive line is going to be ridiculous either way and whoever doesn’t get the starting nod will likely be the best sixth offensive lineman in all of college football.
Ben Cleveland and Cade Mays both spent last year starting at right guard. Cleveland got the start with the first-team offense during the spring game, but Mays has seen his fair share of reps on the first team. Mays has also been seen cross-training at center.
Smart has also mentioned that Mays will also get some work at tackle as well. But just because he’s working at all those spots should not be seen as him not being a real contender to win the right guard job.
“He’s an athlete but we can’t let that be a detriment to him, because if he can be in the starting five, he needs to be in the starting five,” Smart said. “But his value also is that can snap and he’s an athletic center. If you can play center, left tackle, and guard, you’re pretty talented and you’re bright.”
Either way, there isn’t a wrong answer as for whoever starts at right guard. And whichever player ends up getting the starting nod will have earned it.
What does the defensive line rotation look like?
Much like the wide receiver room, there is a numbers game at play here given Georgia will only travel with 70 players to Vanderbilt.
It seems there is a top three of Tyler Clark, Jordan Davis and Malik Herring. Beyond that, Devontaee Wyatt and Michael Barnett seem like very good options as far as who will make the trip to Nashville.
You could maybe pencil in either David Marshall or Julian Rochester, but health questions still linger about both players. Marshall missed time last season due to a foot injury, while Rochester missed all of spring practice with an ACL injury.
Another interesting name to watch is that of freshman Travon Walker. The 5-star prospect has gotten rave reviews this fall for his athletic ability. But like Pickens and Blaylock, he was a summer enrollee and thus has more ground to make up than he would had he enrolled in January.
The defensive line was one of Georgia’s weakest positions last year and Smart has challenged this group to step up. The Vanderbilt game will be a very interesting look into how the defensive line might look for the 2019 season.
Who starts at cornerback opposite Eric Stokes?
J.R. Reed, Richard LeCounte and Eric Stokes all seem penciled into their starting roles in the secondary. Mark Webb will likely be the guy at the star position as well.
But there is still not a definitive answer as to who will step-in at the other cornerback position.
Tyson Campbell is the presumed favorite at the spot. Despite getting dinged up during the first scrimmage, he’s continued to practice this week. He also started 11 games for Georgia last season.
But some of the newcomers at the position, Tyrique Stevenson and D.J. Daniel have played well this month as well. Smart even called Daniel a “pleasant surprise” following the scrimmage.
“Stokes has been going with the ones, Tyson’s been going with the ones, D.J.’s been going with the ones, Tyrique has gone in there som,” Smart said. “So they’re all getting good work. The thing that you guys want to measure is who’s with the ones, and we’re trying to get match-ups.”
We have stated for a while that Smart is optimistic about his secondary this year. And the fact that Georgia has so many options to pick from in the secondary should be a very encouraging sign for this group in 2019.
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