With Georgia’s fall camp nearly upon us — isn’t “fall camp” one of college football’s great anachronisms, by the way? — Graham Coffey has three questions:
- 1. Who will play Guard?
- 2. Which WR’s are healthy?
- 3. Who will start in the secondary?
All are good ones, although I admit number two concerns me a little less than do the other two, at least for now, mainly because with that tight end room, I’m not that worried about Todd Monken cobbling together a viable passing attack.
With regard to issue number one, the problem there starts with injuries and recoveries.
Georgia’s offensive line room is filled with talent. Tate Ratledge was by far Georgia’s best Guard during fall camp last year, but his lisfranc injury on the season’s first series ended his year before it ever started.
Is Ratledge fully healthy? Kirby Smart has said they will be careful with Ratledge as he returns to full speed drills and taking contact. Will he be ready in time for Georgia’s opener against Oregon?
I have no idea about that, but Ratledge’s pulling ability made a real impression on me in the one G-Day game he appeared in. If he’s healthy, he starts. It’s that simple.
Warren Ericson, though not Ratledge’s equal, did start a number of games last season, despite playing injured. Where does he fit in?
Graham mentions a couple of other candidates.
Devin Willock’s 6’7” 355 pound frame is tantalizing. He has been the buzz of practices for a couple of years now and can really move folks in the run game. He played 87 snaps for Georgia last year and he had some nice moments as a run blocker. Is his pass blocking ability polished enough for him to take on a starting role this year? On G-Day he got a lot of work against the first team defensive line and performed admirably. Still, there were times where he had trouble with Georgia’s very athletic lineman.
The other leading candidate appears to be Xavier Truss. He was the choice to replace Warren Ericson at RG last year when he was injured against Tennessee. After a couple series he settled in, and the big man started opening some impressive holes in the second half in Knoxville. He allowed one pressure on 64 snaps and showed he could be relied upon in a pinch.
I have a hard time thinking either supplants the first two, if both are fully recovered, but that’s what the next four weeks are for.
As far as the secondary goes, you can certainly pencil in two spots with Ringo and Smith, but from there, it’s a bit murky at present. One reason for that being another injury/recovery situation:
Tykee Smith transferred into UGA before last season after being PFF’s highest rated slot defender in all of college football. He is an excellent blitzer and has fantastic coverage skills, but injuries derailed his 2021 season. In two years at West Virginia he produced 54 “stop plays” (A stop play is when an offense fails to gain half the yards needed for a first down on 1st or 2nd down and fails to gain a first down on 3rd down).
He only played 7 snaps for Georgia last year. 6 were at Star and 1 at Free Safety. If he is healthy where does he play? What about Javon Bullard? He flashed some impressive speed in the spring game and picked off Stetson Bennett on the goal line to end the first half.
But the rest of it boils down to experience and consistency. For example, Georgia’s most improved player in the postseason was William Poole, who went from being routinely toasted in the SECCG to being lockdown when last we saw him in Indy. Which Poole do we get now? If he’s really taken that step forward, and Tykee Smith is fully recovered, does Smith take Jackson’s place at safety? (Jackson is stout against the run, but a liability against speed in pass coverage.) And, all health aside, who steps up to play corner opposite Ringo?
… Kamari Lassiter is the returning CB with the most career snaps other than Ringo and started opposite of Ringo in Georgia’s spring game. In just 79 coverage snaps last season he gave up 19 yards per catch on 9 receptions while being targeted 14 times. Those snaps are almost all garbage time and his 171 yards allowed are half or more of the amount of yards that Ringo and Kendrick gave up in over 6 times the snaps played.
Nyland Green was a much heralded recruit in the Class of 2021, but he played just 4 snaps last season and we don’t know where he stands heading into fall camp. He was the 2nd team DB on G-Day but struggled at times.
Opposite of Green on G-Day was true freshman Daylen Everette. He showed some moments of five-star potential. In other moments he looked like a guy who was just a few months into being a college student.
Georgia’s 2022 recruiting class featured one of the best collections of defensive backs in school history. Everette, Thomas and Starks were part of it, but it also included other names. Marcus Washington was a heralded 2023 CB recruit who decided to reclassify into the 2022 class this spring.
Houston native Julian Humphrey was a top 100 player for most of the cycle before shutting down some of the nation’s best receivers in his class at the Army All-American Bowl and becoming a five-star.
Jaheim Singeltary is another five-star who joined the class out of Jacksonville, FL. For much of the recruiting cycle Singeltary looked like he might be the top Cornerback in his class.
Talent, sure. Experience, not so much.