For the 2020 preseason edition of Bulldawg Illustrated, eight players that Georgia would rely on for leadership were chosen as college football headed into the unknown of a season shrouded in Covid unknowns. Before the season started, Jamie Newman had departed, and later in the year, another of the eight chosen (Jermaine Johnson) transferred. Pandemic football was full of weirdness. Here’s to a relatively back-to-normal 2021 season for this year’s leaders to work their magic.
- JT DANIELS – QUARTERBACK There is no question that JT Daniels’ remaining healthy is the number one prerequisite for the Bulldogs to reach their goals this season. The Southern Cal transfer showed flashes of his all-world potential when he returned from knee surgery to add a turbo-boost to Todd Monken’s offense in 2020. There is little question that Daniels’ presence as the starter potentially propels Georgia into the national championship discussion. When the 2021 season opens in Charlotte, fans will see if Daniels can move from potential to accomplishment against one of the football’s top programs on a national stage.
2. ZAMIR WHITE – RUNNING BACK Zeus may not be a trendy pick, but make no mistake, he is a respected leader of this team. Few have battled more adversity than Zeus, and as he demonstrated in 2020, he is still capable of out-running or running-over defenders. White returns to prove his injuries are behind him. The Dawgs will feel his experience and leadership in the huddle and on the sideline.
- DARNELL WASHINGTON – TIGHT END To say that Washington is a load for defenses is a gross understatement, and Washington flashed his big-play ability in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, snagging a 38-yard reception. The Dawgs will have other big-play receivers this season, but Washington is a prototypical tight end, who presents a huge target at 6-7 for Daniels and is a punishing runner after the catch. After his freshman campaign, now look for Washington to come into his own as a leader in 2021.
- XZAVIER TRUSS – OFFENSIVE LINEMAN Truss gets the nod here because if he can contribute significant playing time at left tackle, the offensive line will add another dimension. Depth is critical for Coach Matt Luke and having Truss nail down the left tackle spot would give Luke additional options as he prepares his weekly schemes. Maturity and experience are essential prerequisites for leadership. If Truss can develop both early, he could be a vital cog down the stretch.
- JORDAN DAVIS – NOSE GUARD This young man has it all. Size, speed, infectious personality, and attitude all mesh to make Davis a cinch to go early in the 2022 draft. Davis was named a second-team All-American last year. Only one thing stands between Jordan and a season for the ages in 2021 – conditioning. Kirby Smart noted during spring drills that if Davis gets his weight and conditioning under control, his potential is limitless. He is a natural leader.
- NAKOBE DEAN – LINEBACKER Dean is the quarterback of the defense. There is no question of his leadership. His calls will set the front, and his play will set the tone for a defensive unit that will be one of the best in the country. Dean was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award (for the nation’s best linebacker) last year. His play (he led the team in tackles last season), and just as importantly, his leadership skills will serve the Junkyard Dogs well as they vie for another shot at post-season glory
- LEWIS CINE – SAFETY The defensive backfield needs a quarterback also, and Lewis Cine fills that bill for UGA. Cine started every game last year and was second on the team with 49 tackles; he also broke up three passes. Cine will be the man who gets the defensive backfield ready for the varied offensive attacks the Bulldogs will face as they move through the SEC schedule.
- ADAM ANDERSON – LINEBACKER Anderson doesn’t look the part of an intimidating pass-rusher. His 220 pounds are in the range for his position, but standing 6-5, he appears thin. Don’t let the optics fool you; Anderson is precisely the kind of pressure-creating rusher that Dan Lanning needs to keep opposing quarterbacks uncomfortable. Last year his speed and technique combined to give him 24 pressures and 6.5 sacks. The current conventional wisdom seems to be that defense doesn’t matter, but big defensive plays, like Anderson’s, put offenses behind the chains and flip the odds in favor of the defenders.