Georgia Football players are set to return to Athens today after being allowed to go home for Christmas. During the pandemic, mental and emotional health of people has been every bit as much a concern for people, if not more in some cases, than physical health has been. Kirby Smart and company felt it was important to allow players to get that time over Christmas to go back home and see their families, and rightfully so. Now as the Dawgs return, we hold our collective breath on testing and contact tracing and hope for minimal impact to a roster that will already be short handed with a growing list of opt outs and injuries.
Georgia likely got to lay the foundations of a gameplan out for Cincinnati with the players before they left on the 22nd. Over the next 4 to 5 days, some young UGA players will gain valuable reps and experience as players who once provided depth will be turned to to lead the way versus the undefeated Bearcats on New Year’s Day. Obviously, most of Georgia’s opt outs have occurred on the defensive side of the ball, the secondary in particular. Mark Webb, Eric Stokes, DJ Daniel, and Richard LeCounte are all preparing for their pro futures. However, if we are assessing things bluntly, Webb and Stokes are the only ones who had been playing as of late for Georgia anyway with DJ Daniel playing sparing and Richard LeCounte still feeling the effects of his unfortunate motorcycle accident.
Other than Ben Cleveland and Trey Hill, Georgia’s offense should be intact for the most part. Again, anything and everything is subject to change with COVID testing, but for now, an offense that has found rhythm and explosiveness in the last 3 games will be set to take on the 5th ranked overall defensive in the country statistically. JT Daniels, whether he’s putting more film out there for NFL teams or actually planning on returning to Athens, will need to continue his work of carving up opposing defenses and exposing lapses in coverage against Georgia’s talented backs and wide receivers.
George Pickens and Jermaine Burton have benefitted the most from Daniels becoming the starter when it comes to the wide receiver group. However, the presence of Daniels and his ability to deliver the ball accurately and connect on chunk plays down the field has also helped Georgia’s run game. With Hill and Cleveland out on the offensive line, I would not be surprised to see the Bearcats challenge Georgia early with some 2 deep man coverage and a 7 man box, maybe 8 with a safety rolling down late. It’ll be incumbent on Daniels and Todd Monken to make the AAC Champions pay for this early and essentially use the pass to open up the running game.
Bulldawg Illustrated will keep you up to date on the latest we are hearing out of Athens as Georgia looks to bring 2021 in with a bang and set the tone for New Year ahead.