The 6 big winners from Georgia football offseason
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The 6 big winners from Georgia’s offseason
The college football offseason has finally come to an end, as the sport makes its full-blown return this weekend. Georgia starts its season against Vanderbilt.
A lot has happened since Georgia last took the field. Justin Fields officially transferred out of the program. The Bulldogs brought in the No. 2 overall signing class. They lost their top five receiving leaders from a season ago. Georgia hired two new coordinators as well as two new position coaches.
So to kick off Vanderbilt week, we’re going to look back one last time and take note of which players have made the biggest jump or gains during the long offseason.
Zamir White, running back
For White, this offseason was solely about getting healthy. Basically, from the time he stepped on campus, White had been limited with knee injuries. He’s still yet to play an official down for the Bulldogs. But this fall, there have been no signs or concerns that he is hindered by his past injuries.
White has been a participant in every fall practice and has done so while not wearing a knee brace. Teammates have raved about him basically from the first snap this fall and he impressed in both of Georgia’s scrimmages.
Kirby Smart and the offensive coaching staff will likely continue to be cautious with White, but the staff and team as a whole are thrilled with how White has gotten to this point. There is no player Georgia fans, players and coaches are more excited to see on Saturday than White.
Tyler Simmons, wide receiver
The senior wide receiver created some clear separation from his fellow pass-catchers. That’s a big reason why Smart said he will be one of the starting wide receivers against Vanderbilt. And he’s the only one of the group so far to have earned that distinction.
On Jan. 2 — the day after Georgia’s loss to Texas — you would not have guessed that Simmons would have the role he figures to have on this 2019 team. But Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman both declared for the draft and Jeremiah Holloman was kicked off the team in June.
George Pickens, Demetris Robertson and Dominick Blaylock will all play a key role in the offense this season. But it says a lot about Simmons that he’s managed to stand out above his fellow wide receivers to this point.
Cade Mays, offensive lineman
It is still not yet known if Mays will be the starter at right guard. Smart and offensive line coach Sam Pittman can’t go wrong with either the sophomore or junior Ben Cleveland. If the past week of practice is any indication, Mays was working with the first team during the media viewing portion of practice.
The reason we’re calling Mays a winner though is because even in the event that he doesn’t end up starting, he’s going to be a huge piece of this offensive line. Should any offensive lineman go down to injury — last season, only right tackle Isaiah Wilson started and finished every game — Mays will be the first guy off the bench, regardless of the position.
That versatility says a lot about the role Mays will play for this team.
“I would say the best thing somebody could say about me is that I play hard, I love the game, and I just want to finish blocks on people,” Mays said. “I want to be looked at as dependable, and I take pride in that.”
Azeez Ojulari, outside linebacker
When Ojulari signed with Georgia as a member of the 2018 recruiting class, he was the third highest-rated outside linebacker in the class. When Georgia takes the field on Saturday, he’s very likely going to be the starter for the Bulldogs.
Ojulari’s freshman season was mostly a wash as he recovered from a knee injury. But he showed some serious promise in the Sugar Bowl loss to Texas.
Ojulari continued to impress during spring and fall practice. Georgia defenders have spoken at length about creating more havoc plays this fall. And given his position and possible playing time, the redshirt freshman looks like someone who can create more havoc plays than anyone else on the Georgia defense.
Nakobe Dean, inside linebacker
When you bring in the No. 2 signing class, you’re bound to have a few guys shine early on in their college careers. Nolan Smith, Pickens, Travon Walker and Lewis Cine have all done that. But no freshman has made as much of impression as Dean.
The 5-star linebacker from Mississippi appears to have leapfrogged Channing Tindall and Quay Walker on the depth chart. He might not start against Vanderbilt, but based on how just about everyone raves about Dean, he’ll be on the field a good bit.
The obvious comparison everyone wants to make with Dean is to Roquan Smith. It will be incredibly hard to top what Smith accomplished as a junior. But given Dean’s early progress, there’s a real chance he surpasses what Smith was able to do as a freshman.
Richard LeCounte, safety
LeCounte needed to get better this offseason. Smart said as much. The junior safety did as well. There were some concerns about his tackling, and the bigger Otis Reese seemed like a candidate who could possibly take LeCounte’s spot in the starting lineup.
But after the fall camp LeCounte had, that’s not going to be the case. This year’s secondary might be the best Smart has had since he was a defensive coordinator at Alabama. And LeCounte’s progression this offseason is a big reason why that could end up being true.
Georgia football commits dominate highlights
While Georgia football still has to wait another week before taking the field, a number of Georgia football commits got their seasons started over the weekend. And as expected, a plenty made some huge plays.
We start with the most viral play of the weekend, which came via 4-star wide receiver commit Marcus Rosemy. Playing for Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas, Rosemy made a one-handed grab that was all over Sportscenter all weekend.
— Who's Next (@WhosNextHS) August 24, 2019
The play also caught the attention of NFL great Antonio Brown. The All-Pro wide receiver — who also attended St. Thomas Aquinas — gave a shoutout to Rosemy on the ESPN broadcast.
— Who's Next (@WhosNextHS) August 24, 2019
Quarterback commit Carson Beck led his team to 28-12 victory. He completed 11 of his 21 pass attempts for 231 yards. He was intercepted twice in the game, but the 4-star quarterback flashed his cannon of an arm with a 43-yard touchdown pass. It was one of two touchdown passes Beck threw in the win.
Carson Beck pic.twitter.com/OEBNrxtNwK
— csaw (@csaw73) August 24, 2019
Beck is rated as the nation’s No. 3 pro-style quarterback and No. 119 overall player in the 2020 recruiting cycle. Last season he led his team to a state championship in Florida’s highest classification.
Georgia running back commit Kendall Milton couldn’t carry his team to victory, as Buchanan lost to Narbonne High School 32-7. Milton finished with 133 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown. Those totals come against a defense that has players committed to Arizona State, Stanford and Oregon.
Kendall Milton is the real deal, and he's doin it on the big stage 😤
— Who's Next (@WhosNextHS) August 25, 2019
Perhaps the best highlight from the weekend though came from 4-star offensive tackle Tate Ratledge. The offensive tackle boomed a 55-yard punt for The Darlington School. It’s quite a sight to see from a 6-foot-6 offensive tackle.
322-pound 5⭐️offensive tackle Tate Ratledge out here doing 55-yard punts!😳
The 6-foot-6 @GeorgiaFootball commit is DIFFERENT.
— MaxPreps (@MaxPreps) August 24, 2019
Georgia also got some good news from 5-star outside linebacker Mekhail Sherman, who announced that he was medically cleared to return to football following an ACL injury that ended his junior season.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
- What we learned about Georgia football before start of college football season
- WATCH: Comparing Georgia football to Florida after Gators’ Week Zero win
- Vince Dooley reflects on his 40 years at UGA, upcoming ‘Dooley Field’ ceremony
- Georgia football freshman arrested on DUI-related charges early Sunday morning
- Former UGA great doesn’t see ‘realistic threat’ to Bulldogs in SEC East
- College Football Playoff Committee quandary: Legendary BCS founder Roy Kramer weighs in
- LOOK: Steve Spurrier has priceless reaction to Feleipe Franks interception
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