Georgia exits spring practice knowing it’s on the short list of legitimate national championship contenders with enough depth and experience at most position groups to make it the envy of the rest of the sport. But no team has a perfect roster, and UGA is no different. For as much praise as the Bulldogs will earn during the remainder of the offseason, several unanswered questions remain at two spots.
Specifically, the Bulldogs will be forced to break in a new crop of cornerbacks after the departure of a number of NFL hopefuls, and UGA has a couple spots open along the offensive line as well.
Former UGA All-American tackle Jon Stinchcomb offered a matter-of-fact assessment of that offensive line when he appeared last week on DawgNation Daily.
“It’s a work in progress,” Stinchcomb said. “I think specifically at that tackle position there are still question marks. I don’t think any name is written in stone right now. It’s more in pencil or ink at best best because there’s a lot of football left, a lot of development [opportunities] before we play Clemson.”
The first-team offense, which was the red team for G-Day, had Xavier Truss at left tackle to begin the game, the same spot he occupied during UGA’s Peach Bowl win vs. Cincinnati, and Warren McClendon at his customary spot at right tackle. The No. 2 offense had two former five-star recruits at the tackle spots, with incoming freshman Amarius Mims on the left side and second-year player Broderick Jones on the right.
That’s an impressive array of possible options to emerge as starters this season, but the group only managed to earn tepid praise after G-Day.
“We saw some good things,” Stinchcomb said. “But there was also some ugly that needs to get cleaned up.”
That’s a fair assessment from Stinchcomb, but the bet here is that UGA eventually gets its offensive line figured out. It may turn out that it isn’t one of UGA’s top strengths, but it seems unlikely to become a weakness given all the unit has going for it.
What specifically does it have going for it? Another former SEC offensive lineman, Cole Cubelic, explained it well when he appeared on the DawgNation video channels last week.
“I think when you have some continuity and chemistry issues, you just lean toward experience,” Cubelic said. “That will get you out of trouble more times than maybe talent will.”
With the versatile Jamaree Salyer starting at either guard or tackle, Justin Shaffer returning to one of the guard spots and McClendon set for his second season as starter, the Bulldogs have a wealth of experience to call upon while trying to figure out what younger players such as Mims and Jones bring to the table.
That’s a luxury that, unfortunately, UGA’s cornerbacks don’t have right now.
There’s, of course, plenty of talent, but those talented youngsters apparently aren’t nearly as game ready as UGA coach Kirby Smart wishes they were.
“At defensive back, it doesn’t change. It’s day to day,” Smart said after G-Day. “We’ve got two safeties that we feel have played pretty good and are experienced. But at corner, we’ve got to find guys who are comfortable to make plays down the field and make plays with their backs to the ball.”
To make matters worse, statistical experts such as ESPN’s Bill Connelly, have theorized that experience at positions such as defensive secondary matters more than it does at other spots — including offensive line.
This is likely the reason UGA has already dipped into the transfer portal for one experienced defensive back this offseason, and is rumored to be possibly considering more. Yet at no point this year have we heard any rumblings that the program — which is believed to have a couple open scholarships — was considering bringing in another offensive lineman.
The thinking seems to be that, while it may not may not yet be known, who’ll emerge as the Bulldogs’ best five offensive linemen, there are robust options available. Fairly or not, there’s seemingly less confidence at cornerback.
That doesn’t mean the lack of depth among the defensive backs will prevent UGA from achieving its end-of-season goals, including winning a national championship. But it does mean it clearly ranks well above the unsettled offensive line as the team’s biggest concern.
However, the good news is that UGA still has several months to try to get it all figured out.
Also on DawgNation Daily last week:
The buzz around JT Daniels after G-Day