Veteran wave of former 5-star prospects to determine 2022 Georgia football success
Welcome to Good Day, UGA, your one-stop shop for Georgia football news and takes. Check us out every weekday morning for everything you need to know about Georgia football, recruiting, basketball and more.
Georgia football turning next wave of 5-star prospects during spring practice
Broderick Jones still has a hard time believing it happened the way that it did. Coming off the bench in the National Championship game as a redshirt freshman and helping engineer Georgia’s offensive turnaround. He came in at left tackle, allowing Jamaree Salyer to move right guard.
Related: Broderick Jones poised for stardom, former 5-star realizing potential at Georgia
For Jones, he had gotten some experience over the course of the season at left tackle. But it doesn’t compare to the experience he got in the win over Alabama.
He needed it too, as he’s now replacing Salyer on an every-down basis for the Bulldogs.
“That is a huge dream that any kid who plays on the college level dreams for,” Jones said. “I know I didn’t play as much and I didn’t start, but I felt like I have gotten better over the last seasons that I have been here. I’ve been preparing myself to step up when my name is called.”
Like Salyer, Jones himself was a 5-star prospect. He signed as a member of the 2020 signing class, one of four to do so from that cycle.
Salyer is not the lone former 5-star prospect Georgia must replace, with Zamir White, George Pickens, Nakobe Dean and Travon Walker are all also off to the NFL. Fortunately for Georgia, the Bulldogs have continued to land 5-star prospects, including five in the 2022 recruiting cycle.
Expecting any of those players to step right in at Georgia would be a tough ask. Daylen Everette, Malaki Starks, Mykel Williams, Jaheim Singletary and Marvin Jones Jr. might one day be great players for Georgia, yet they only have to look at Jones’ wait for playing time to understand that nothing is given.
But some of those older, more seasoned 5-star prospects are poised to blossom. Nolan Smith is likely to be the face — and voice — of the program this season. He’s seen his role with the team steadily increase each season he’s been in Athens.
Kelee Ringo became a household name with his game-clinching interception against Alabama. He’s expected to take a big step forward at the cornerback position, in addition to becoming a better leader for the defense.
Nolan has been tremendous at being vocal when things aren’t going right, Kelee has done a good job with that,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Really a lot of guys you can just see them trying to assert themselves and encourage more than discouraging.”
Then there is Jalen Carter, Georgia’s massive defensive tackle. Like Ringo and Jones, he’s already found a way to make an impact at Georgia during his first two seasons. But with Georgia reloading on the defensive line, Carter will now become the focal point for opposing offenses. He’ll be the one commanding double teams this year, instead of Jordan Davis.
Related: Kirby Smart wants Jalen Carter to follow example set by Devonte Wyatt
At Georgia’s inside linebacker position, the Bulldogs will be eager to learn what they have in Smael Mondon and Xavian Sorey. The former is out this spring with a shoulder injury, while the latter is still learning the finer points of the inside linebacker position. It’s actually another 2021 signee, Jamon Dumas-Johnson, who seems to be making waves at the position for Georgia.
Offensively, Arik Gilbert has begun to show why he was so highly touted coming in. Georgia does not have a wide receiver that shared a similar rating to that of Pickens, but Gilbert is after all the highest-rated tight end prospect in the history of college football recruiting.
“He’s a tight end, and that’s probably how he is going to develop,” Smart said. “The certain requirement that it takes to play receiver is it requires stamina, running every play, going to cut off blocks. Our tight ends are receivers. They do play receiver.”
Gilbert is one of two 5-star tight ends on the Georgia roster, though Darnell Washington is sidelined this spring with a lower body injury.
The highest-rated wide receiver signee in Georgia’s room just narrowly missed 5-star status, as Dominick Blaylock was the No. 36 overall player per the 247Sports Composite in 2019. He has been one of the great surprises for Georgia this spring. Talent was never the issue with Blaylock, and this spring has severed as a strong reminder of that with his playmaking ability.
More so than his talent though, Blaylock’s leadership is what has impressed Smart the most this spring.
“I’m excited to see where he goes, but more than anything I’m excited to see him get out there and play,” Smart said. “Our team takes on a lot of his resiliency DNA, and it’s something we sell our players on.”