Georgia football: 11 big preseason questions I have about UGA

·7 min read

Georgia is loaded with talent once again this season as the Bulldogs look to repeat as national champions in 2022.

But the Dawgs lost 15 studs from that 2021 championship team to the NFL draft and more to the NCAA transfer portal this offseason.

With that much talent and experience gone, I have some questions for Kirby Smart and UGA that I look forward to having answered on September 3 against Oregon in Atlanta:

How will Stetson Bennett fare without help from that historic defense?

Stetson Bennett #13 of the Georgia Bulldogs — (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

There’s no doubt that Stetson is the man at quarterback this season after leading the Dawgs to a national title last year. But there’s also nobody who is not slightly concerned about what will happen without last year’s defense bailing him and the offense out.

Can Stetson make enough plays to keep drives alive? I think so, but we’ll see.

Are Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton ready to carry the load 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 replicate what we saw last year? What happens in the case of injury?  There’s Daijun Edwards and Branson Robinson as well.

The way Todd Monken utilized Cook was huge last year, so it will be interesting to see if Georgia can get similar production from McIntosh, with Milton being more of a bruiser like White.

Is AD Mitchell THE guy at wide receiver with Jermaine Burton and George Pickens gone?

Georgia wide receiver Adonai Mitchell (5) catches a touchdown pass vs. Alabama — Joshua Bickel-USA TODAY Sports

Jermaine Burton is at Alabama and George Pickens is in the NFL. Pickens did not play much last season, but when healthy at the end he made a huge play against Alabama. Burton was Georgia’s second leading receiver.

Obviously Georgia’s go-to guy will be tight end Brock Bowers, but who will step up as the guy at wide receiver?

I imagine it will sophomore AD Mitchell after a solid freshman season in which he caught 29 passes for 426 yards and four touchdowns including the clutch national title grab. But don’t sleep on Ladd McConkey who had 19 more yards than Mitchell did last season.

What happens on the defensive line? Who helps out Jalen Carter with no more Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt and Travon Walker?

Bo Nix #10 of the Auburn Tigers passes as he is pressured by Jalen Carter #88 — Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Georgia had three defensive linemen taken 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 of those guys. But he can’t do it alone, and as we saw last year, it’s really nice when you have three other superstars on the that line.

Zion Logue, Nazir Stackhouse, Shone Washington, Bear Alexander, Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins, Tramel Walthour, and Mykel Williams all provide great depth. But who steps up?

Will we finally get to see Tykee Smith do his thing?

Safety Tykee Smith (23) — Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

When Tykee Smith transferred to Georgia ahead of the 2021 season, the Dawgs landed one of the top ranked players in the NCAA transfer portal. But a foot injury and a torn ACL prevented Smith from playing in all but one game last year, so Georgia fans are eagerly awaiting to see what the West Virginia transfer is made of.

If healthy, expect Smith to contend for playing time at either the STAR position or the traditional safety spot. Georgia lost Latavious Brini this offseason and it looks like the STAR spot is William Poole’s to lose. There’s Christopher Smith and Dan Jackson at safety, so Smith has competition. But when healthy, he’s supposed to be the best.

Who will play opposite of Kelee Ringo at cornerback?

Georgia defensive back Kamari Lassiter (13) breaks up a pass against Missouri — Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Derion Kendrick is gone after one successful season in Athens and Kelee Ringo will hold down one of the cornerback spots. Opposite of Ringo, Georgia has options.

It looks like sophomore Kamari Lassiter is the projected guy opposite of Ringo. There’s also redshirt freshman Nyland Green who has impressed this offseason. But don’t forget about the three true freshmen who were all five-star recruits: Daylen Everette, Jaheim Singletary and Julian Humphrey.

How much will Georgia miss punter Jake Camarda?

Georgia Bulldogs punter Jake Camarda (90) punts the ball against the Florida Gators — Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia’s offense struggled at times last season and punter Jake Camarda came in to salvage the drive with a field-flipping punt. Georgia’s defense took it from there with the opponent often pinned deep in their own territory.

Well, Camarda is gone. He was a fourth round draft pick…that’s how good he was.

Insert true freshman Australian punter Brett Thorson. He was the No. 1 ranked punter in the nation for the 2022 recruiting cycle and had a solid G-Day, punting four times with a long of 48 yards.

Can Georgia's defense be as disruptive in the opponent's backfield? Turnovers?

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. All are gone.

Last year, Georgia ranked fourth in the nation with 49 sacks. It ranked tenth with 101 tackles for loss. It also forced 21 turnovers.

Rewind two years ago to the 2020 season, Georgia had an uber-talented defense, but struggled to apply pressure on the quarterback and in the backfield, ranking 43rd in tackles for loss. And that absolutely killed the Dawgs at times.

Georgia needs to find a way to continue getting into the backfield like it did last year and avoid a 2020-like season in which the quarterbacks had all day to throw.

Adam Anderson is also gone which leaves Nolan Smith as the guy Georgia will expect to be disruptive in the backfield. Robert Beal should do a fine job opposite of him.

Can the linebackers replicate 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

Like I mentioned above, Quay Walker, Nakobe Dean, Channing Tindall and Adam Anderson are gone. Those guys were fast and athletic.

Expect Georgia’s starting linebackers to look something like:

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 guys, which were maybe the fastest group of linebackers I’ve ever seen.

Is this offensive line ready?

Warren Ericson (50) walks to head coach Kirby Smart after a loss against 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 that only allowed eight sacks during the 2021 regular season (No. 2 in America).

But the Dawgs return plenty of talent, including last year’s starters center Sedrick Van Pran, right guard Warren Ericson and right tackle Warren McClendon.

Left tackle this year will be occupied by Broderick Jones, who will be one of the conference’s best. Amarius Mims will likely backup both left and right tackle.

Xavier Truss, who has experience from last season, will likely hold the left guard spot.

Overall, Georgia should be fine on the offensive line.

Can Georgia avoid the national championship hangover?

Joshua L. Jones-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 Bulldogs did something no other UGA team had been able to do in 41 years. Now what?

Kirby Smart says that won’t be a problem.

“To be complacent you have to have done something. The men on this team, have not,” Smart said at SEC Media Days.

But we’ll have to wait and see just how true that is.

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Story originally appeared on UGA Wire