Unfinished business. Those are the two words that Zamir White, James Cook, JT Daniels, Jordan Davis, and even Dan Lanning used in their announcements that they would be returning to the University of Georgia football program for the 2021 season. Undoubtedly, when all the Dawgs that ended up electing to return were in the decision-making process, on their list of pros was something along the lines of ‘talent to win the whole dang thing.’ I’m just speculating and paraphrasing there, but one would have to think that every Dawg, especially with JT Daniels’ return, believes that they are primed for a run at championship gold. However, every person involved with the program, from Kirby Smart all the way down, knows that a tremendous amount of mental and physical work will be required to bring a long-awaited Georgia national championship to fruition. Smart has already outlined in a press conference a couple of weeks ago just how the team has been getting their minds right, sharpening themselves with film study and self-reflection, and building upon an already great team chemistry during the offseason. Now, the physical work ramps up.
This Georgia team comes in the season with the least unanswered questions as any in recent memory. Quarterback, Running Back, Receiver, Tight End, and three out of five offensive linemen are pretty well entrenched. That experienced offensive unit will be looking to take great strides in year two under Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken and an offensive coaching staff held entirely intact, including analyst Buster Faulkner and quality control assistant Montgomery VanGorder. Likewise, the defensive front 7 has so many returning playmakers and leaders, such as Nakobe Dean, Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, Nolan Smith, Adam Anderson, Travon Walker, Channing Tindall, and many more. If anything, the Georgia secondary is the question mark. Upon closer examination of that group, though, it’s certainly a question mark that many programs would like to have.
Chris Smith, Latavious Brini, William Poole, and Lewis Cine are all experienced, multi-year program guys that will be relied upon heavily at the safety/star/money positions for Georgia. Lewis Cine has the potential to a safety in Bulldog lure in line with Greg Blue, Thomas Davis, and Bacarri Rambo as one of the most physical and playmaking safeties that UGA has had. Brini and Smith both got starter experience last season, with the latter accumulating a much more significant number of snaps. It’s the depth behind them that is going to need to step up. Major Burns and Daran Branch were able to sit under the learning tree for most of their true freshman season. Burns did get pressed into action in the Florida game, but that was purely out of desperation and lack of bodies. Both Burns and Branch are capable of helping the Dawgs in 2021, and, most notably, a year of strength and nutrition at UGA should show dividends this spring. They will be trying to hold off David Daniel and Javon Bullard, both early enrollees and members of the 2021 class, for playing time as well.
At cornerback, talent is certainly not the issue. Keele Ringo and Nyland Green might be the most athletic and naturally gifted cornerback duo in the SEC. However, with Ringo coming off of an injury that prevented him from seeing any action in 2020 and Green being a true freshman, the experience is just not there. Kirby Smart and company will need to hope that Ringo and Green are as quick of studies as they are sprinters. Both have clocked north of 21 mph on the gps in offseason workouts, with Ringo topping out at 23 mph, and Green possesses vertical leaping ability and dexterity that rival anyone in the country. While their skills certainly are going to lend them every opportunity to be the top guys on the outside, veteran Ameer Speed and sophomore Jalen Kimber will both be competing as well. Also, 2021 signee Kamari Lassiter out of Tuscaloosa is going to turn some heads this spring with his athleticism. Javon Bullard played corner in high school and could swing between multiple positions in the secondary at UGA and even incoming freshman running back Lovasea Carroll is reportedly be looked at on the defensive side of the ball.
Despite being a little thin and inexperienced on the back end of the defense, Smart and everyone involved with the Georgia program have to be extremely excited to see what the 2021 Georgia squad can produce on the field. If all goes according to plan, the offensive firepower and the hellacious run stoppers and pass rushers and the Dawg defense possesses in the front 7 should make up for a multitude of growing pains for the UGA defensive backs. September 4th against Clemson will be a huge test and one that could set the tone and expectations in 2021 in a similar fashion to how the victory over Notre Dame in 2017 did. Today’s first practice of the spring is another step toward the destination of what the Dawgs hope to be a victory that sets them on a path toward a drought-ending title and a launching point to another stratosphere as a program.