Or, as Marc Weiszer calls it, retooling.
As the final wave of UGA football players announcing their plans for 2021 wound down, Georgia inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann provided a visual reminder of the ever changing nature of college football.
He posted photos on his Twitter account with incoming linebackers Xavier Sorey and Smael Mondon welcoming two of the four five-star signees in the Bulldogs latest recruiting class to campus.
Georgia’s talent base is at the level that neither will have be counted on to be instant impact players for the Bulldogs.
One reason why is because of whom Georgia brings back as starters. Here’s the list:
- JT Daniels, QB
- Stetson Bennett, QB
- Zamir White, RB
- George Pickens, WR
- Jermaine Burton, WR
- Darnell Washington, TE
- John FitzPatrick, TE
- Jamaree Salyer, OL
- Justin Shaffer, OG
- Warren McClendon, OT
- Jordan Davis, NG
- Devonte Wyatt, DT
- Nakobe Dean, ILB
- Chris Smith, SS
- Lewis Cine, S
Retooling isn’t confined to the returning starters, either. As Seth Emerson points out ($$), the Dawgs are poised to return an obscene amount of offensive productivity.
• 94 percent of its receiving yards from last season, a hugely important number if the lesson of the 2019 season means anything.
• 98 percent of its rushing yards, led by White but also James Cook, whose skills were finally unlocked by first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken.
The defense isn’t quite as loaded, but there’s a notable stockpile of talent on that side of the ball as well.
Davis, defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt and inside linebacker and leading tackler Nakobe Dean should make the Bulldogs hard to run on again after the Bulldogs led the nation in stopping the run and Quay Walker (fourth in tackles) can step in as a starter at inside linebacker
The Bulldogs’ secondary had struggles in 2020 and was hit hard with the departures of underclassmen Stokes and Campbell declaring for the NFL draft as expected. Add to that sophomore Tyrique Stevenson is in the transfer portal and it will be an overhaul for a unit that already was losing safety Richard LeCounte, nickel back Mark Webb and cornerback DJ Daniel.
… Georgia’s defense can lean on former five-stars to fill holes including defensive lineman Jalen Carter and Travon Walker, outside linebackers Adam Anderson (6 ½ sacks) and Nolan Smith and cornerback Keelee Ringo who didn’t play this season.
Ringo was practicing with the team at season’s end and dressed out for the bowl game. Four-star cornerback signee Nyland Green also could be in position to get early playing time.
(By the way, both kickers return, too.)
If there’s one area where a red flag could be raised, it’s the secondary. There is little experience at the corner positions, in particular, something that will need to be addressed in one form or fashion. As Weiszer writes, “Smart should be mining the transfer portal for a plug-and-play cornerback like the Bulldogs did to add to other positions of need last year.” (Fortunately, there do appear to be a few candidates in the portal already.)
Which brings us to the touchy subject of roster management. Smart faces some real challenges, something he’s noted before, partially driven by the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA in the face of the coronavirus’ impact on the 2020 schedule, partially driven by the depth at certain positions due to no one taking an early departure to the NFL draft (as one commenter put it last night, “But happy as I am about Zeus and Cook returning, not sure McIntosh, Milton and Edwards will want to share time with them instead of transferring to a program with a less crowded RB room.”).
Not that enjoying an overload of talent at a particular position is such a bad thing to have. Still, it will likely force some uncomfortable decisions in the next few months, some by the coaching staff, some by the players themselves. The tricky part for Kirby will come in managing the timing so that he doesn’t get caught short by a sudden move that leaves the team vulnerable at a key position (*** cough *** cough *** Newman ***). At this point, it doesn’t appear that preparing an early departure for the NFL draft is a major concern, but the transfer portal taketh as well as giveth, and there’s still plenty of time between now and the summer for musical chairs to be played.