On the Beat: Georgia football way-too-early top preseason All-SEC candidates
ATHENS — There are plenty of questions about this Georgia football team that Kirby Smart is working furiously to answer, but the Bulldogs have some key contributors and rising stars returning that should pop up on some preseason All-SEC lists.
On most occasions what a player did the season before factors heavily into how widely known they are across the league and how voters are likely to perceive them.
In Georgia’s case, several established stars are moving on, so the pickings for proven players are a bit slimmer than typical years when the Bulldogs aren’t trying to replace 14 players who were invited to the NFL combine.
On the offensive line, center Sedrick Van Pran is a second-year starter who ranks among the league’s best and should be a preseason All-SEC pick, and likewise for third-year right tackle starter and former Freshman All-American Warren McClendon.
Left tackle Broderick Jones will be a savvy preseason second-team pick for those paying close attention and could rise to the first team by the end of the 2022 campaign.
Other than tight end Brock Bowers -- a preseason All-American -- it will be tough for other skill position players to make the preseason teams.
Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton will likely split preseason second-team votes. Either could end up on the first team by the end of the season.
Receivers Kearis Jackson, Ladd McConkey and A.D. Mitchell simply don’t have the production numbers.
Stetson Bennett proved efficiency last season but will probably be overshadowed by voters in favor of quarterbacks that play in offenses that are more pass-heavy, such as Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young and returning Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker.
It’s a league that does not lack in potential QB stars. Arkansas’ KJ Jefferson, Mississippi State’s Will Rogers and former Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler will also receive preseason attention.
Defensive tackle Jalen Carter should be the most decorated preseason all-star on the Georgia football team, worthy of All-American as well as first-team All-SEC honors. Defensive end Nolan Smith isn’t far behind in that regard and should be a first-team All-SEC pick.
All-SEC voters should note Robert Beal led the Bulldogs in sacks last season (6.5) and is returning, making him worthy of a second-team slot.
It’s possible cornerback Kelee Ringo will get some preseason All-SEC hype after his game-clinching Pick-6, but safety Chris Smith is probably more deserving of preseason accolades.
Kicker Jack Podlesny is another UGA player I’d put on my preseason All-SEC team, as well.