Georgia is brimming with talent again this season as the Bulldogs look to repeat the national championship title in 2022.
But the Dawgs lost 15 cleats from that 2021 championship team to the NFL draft and more to the NCAA transfer portal this offseason.
With so much talent and experience, I have a few questions for Kirby Smart and UGA that I look forward to answering on September 3 against Oregon in Atlanta:
11 How will Stetson Bennett fare without the help of this historic defense?
Stetson Bennett #13 of the Georgia Bulldogs — (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
There’s no doubt Stetson is the man at quarterback this season after guiding the Dawgs to a national title last year. But there’s also nobody who isn’t a little worried about what’s going to happen without last year’s defense getting him and the offense out of a tight spot.
Can Stetson make enough games to keep Drives alive? I think so, but we’ll see.
10 Are Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton ready to shoulder the burden at running back?
Georgia running back Kenny McIntosh (6) runs the ball for a touchdown against Georgia Tech – Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
James Cook and Zamir White are gone. We know what both Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton are capable of, but can they repeat what we saw last year? What happens in the event of damage? There’s also Daijun Edwards and Branson Robinson.
The way Todd used Monken Cook was tremendous last year so it will be interesting to see if Georgia can get similar production from McIntosh, with Milton being more of a thug like White.
9 Is AD Mitchell THE wide receiver guy gone with Jermaine Burton and George Pickens?
Georgia wide receiver Adonai Mitchell (5) catches a touchdown pass against Alabama – Joshua Bickel-USA TODAY Sports
Jermaine Burton plays in Alabama and George Pickens in the NFL. Pickens didn’t play much last season, but when he ended up healthy, he made a big game against Alabama. Burton was Georgia’s second-best receiver.
Obviously, Georgia’s point of contact will be Brock Bowers, but who will the wide receiver guy be?
I think it will be AD Mitchell after a solid freshman sophomore season in which he caught 29 passes for 426 yards and four touchdowns, including winning the national title. But don’t sleep on Ladd McConkey, who had 19 more yards than Mitchell last season.
8 What happens in the line of defense? Who helps Jalen Carter without Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt and Travon Walker?
Auburn Tigers’ Bo Nix #10 passes as he is pressured by Jalen Carter #88 — Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Georgia had three defensemen in the 2022 NFL draft: Travon Walker, Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt.
Luckily for Georgia, Jalen Carter is back for his junior season and he may be the best of all these guys. But he can’t do it alone, and as we saw last year, it’s really nice when you have three other Superstars to turn to.
Zion Logue, Nazir Stackhouse, Shone Washington, Bear Alexander, Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins, Tramel Walthour and Mykel Williams all add great depth. But who is performing?
7 Will we finally see Tykee Smith do his thing?
Safety Tykee Smith (23) — Ben Queen USA TODAY Sports
When Tykee Smith moved to Georgia ahead of the 2021 season, the Dawgs landed one of the top-ranked players on the NCAA transfer portal. But a foot injury and a torn cruciate ligament prevented Smith from playing in all but one of his games last year, so Georgia fans are anxiously awaiting to see what the West Virginia transfer consists of.
If he’s healthy, you can expect Smith to be fighting for game time in either the STAR position or the traditional safety spot. Georgia lost Latavious Brini this offseason and it looks like William Poole will lose the STAR spot. That’s where Christopher Smith and Dan Jackson are safe, so Smith has competition. But if he’s healthy, he should be the best.
6 Who will play against Kelee Ringo at cornerback?
Georgia defenseman Kamari Lassiter, 13, stops a pass against Missouri – Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Derion Kendrick has left after a successful season in Athens and Kelee Ringo will fill one of the cornerback spots. Unlike Ringo, Georgia has options.
It looks like sophomore Kamari Lassiter is the projected opposite of Ringo. There’s also redshirt newcomer Nyland Green who has impressed this offseason. But don’t forget the three true freshmen who were all five-star recruits: Daylen Everette, Jaheim Singletary, and Julian Humphrey.
5 How Much Will Georgia Punter Miss Jake Camarda?
Georgia Bulldogs punter Jake Camarda (90) jabs ball against Florida Gators – Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Georgia’s offense struggled at times last season, and punter Jake Camarda came in to save the drive with a field flipping punt. Georgia’s defenses took it from there, with the opponent often pinned deep within their own territory.
Well, Camarda’s gone. He was a fourth-round draft pick… he was that good.
Insert Australian newcomer Brett Thorson. He was the nation’s No. 1 punter for the 2022 recruiting cycle and had a solid G-Day, punting four times 48-yard lengths.
4 Can Georgia’s defense be just as disruptive in opposition backfield? sales?
Alabama quarterback Bryce Young (9) is tackled by Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith (4) – Mark J. Rebilas – USA TODAY Sports
Travon Walker, Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, Quay Walker, Nakobe Dean, Channing Tindall. Everybody is gone.
Last year, Georgia ranked fourth nationally with 49 layoffs. It placed tenth with 101 tackles. It also forced 21 turnovers.
Flashback to the 2020 season two years ago. Georgia had an overtalented defense but struggled to put pressure on the quarterback and backfield, and ranked 43rd on tackles for loss. And that absolutely killed the Dawgs at times.
Georgia needs to find a way to continue getting into the backfield like last year and avoid a season like 2020 where quarterbacks had all day to throw.
Adam Anderson is also gone, leaving Nolan Smith as the guy Georgia expects to be disruptive in the backfield. Robert Beal should do a good job with him.
3 Can the Linebackers Repeat Last Year’s Speed?
Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson (10) tackles Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Jordan Mason (27) – Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
As I mentioned above, Quay Walker, Nakobe Dean, Channing Tindall and Adam Anderson have all left. These guys were fast and athletic.
Expect Georgia’s starting linebackers to look something like this:
OLB: Nolan Smith
ILB: Trezman Marshall/Jamon Dumas-Johnson
ILB: Rian Davis/Smael Mondon
OLB: Robert Beal
That’s certainly a lot of talent. But it’s not last year’s boys who were perhaps the fastest group of linebackers I’ve ever seen.
2 Is this offensive line ready?
Warren Ericson (50) walks to head coach Kirby Smart after a loss to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. — Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Georgia lost Justin Shaffer and Jamaree Salyer from last year’s offensive line, which conceded just eight sacks (No. 2 in America) in the 2021 regular season.
But the Dawgs are bringing back plenty of talent, including last year’s starter center Sedrick Van Pran, right guard Warren Ericson and right tackle Warren McClendon.
Left tackle this year will be filled by Broderick Jones, who will be one of the best at the conference. Amarius Mims will likely support both left and right tackles.
Xavier Truss, who has experience from last season, is likely to take the left sentry post.
Overall, Georgia should be okay on offense.
1 Can Georgia Avoid National Championship Hangover?
Joshua L. Jones-USA TODAY Sports
The 2021 Bulldogs accomplished something no other UGA team had accomplished in 41 years. What now?
Kirby Smart says that’s not a problem.
“To be complacent, you have to have done something. The men on this team don’t have that,” Smart said at the SEC Media Days.
But we’ll have to wait and see how true that is.