Kirby Smart has a lot to do with this grade. No drama, no games. Smart just came out and named JT Daniels the starter and entrenched his spot as a leader and the straw that stirs the drink for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2021. This is a much-welcomed development by Dawg Nation as a whole.
JT Daniels gave one of the most impressive press conferences (on Tuesday, April 6) by a collegiate quarterback in a long, long time. Daniels did not rattle off a lot of cliches in order to protect himself from questions. Daniels did not spit out canned lines that almost come across as coach speak, as many quarterbacks do. No, JT Daniels delivered authentic answers to everything asked of him and did so with a demeanor, a tone, and tenor of a man on a mission. Daniels expressed gratitude for the position he has been put in and was humble in terms of realizing his lot in life. However, there was no doubt that Daniels believes he and this 2021 team are capable of winning a National Championship and that anything less is falling short of the goal. Daniels has a confidence and authenticity about him that should have everyone in the Georgia faithful elated and those rooting for opposing squads concerned.
Also, Carson Beck has reportedly made great strides from year one to the beginning of year two in Athens. Stetson Bennett IV is steady and reliable, a truly tough player that will not be easy for Beck and, or Vandagriff to supplant as the backup for the Dawgs. Finally, 5-Star early enrollee true freshman Brock Vandagriff is competing and learning this spring. Vandagriff has been a human sponge according to JT Daniels. Vandagriff is wanting to learn from Georgia’s veteran starter and on top of that, reports are that Vandagriff’s arm strength and ability to make “wow” throws that been prevalent during spring practice. There is still a big learning curve when it comes to making the leap from GHSA Single-A Private to SEC football. Vandagriff continues to learn and grow and G-Day will be exciting to watch as the battle for the number two position at signal caller is on.
RUNNING BACK: B
The only thing keeping the running back group from having an A grade is the fact that Kenny McIntosh went down with an elbow injury. Other than that setback to one of Georgia’s most explosive weapons, the running backs have been clicking. Reports are that James Cook has looked unbelievable this spring and could be poised to achieve the potential that everyone saw in him coming into his career at Georgia. Zamir White has honed his physique even more and is poised to carry the load for Georgia between the tackles this year along with Kendall Milton. White is just now approaching peak physical condition after his knee injuries in his senior year of high school and his freshman year at Georgia. White and Cook are both betting on themselves by returning and each snap they take will be viewed by themselves as an investment. No doubt they’re team oriented and want to win, but that motivation of what could be waiting with breakout campaigns this year for Cook and White doesn’t hurt in the least.
And Kendall Milton is someone that is just not easy to bring down. Switching from the number 22 to 2 this offseason, Milton’s new small number provides a sharp contrast to his 6-1, 220-pound frame and tree trunk legs. Milton was a Chubb-like wrecking ball at times in the 2020 season. An injury late in the year halted momentum for the Fresno, California native, but expect big things out of Milton in 2021 folks. Milton and Daijun Edwards both provide ridiculous depth and versatility to the running back depth chart. Videos that Georgia’s football program release on social media always seem to have a shot of a hard-working Daijun Edwards in them. The Colquitt County legend showed what he can do when he gets his shoulders square, running downhill toward a defense. Edwards did not even get to show off his abilities as a pass catcher really last season, but overall, Georgia’s five running backs are as talented as any group in the country. Edwards is not to be let out of that summation either.
TIGHT ENDS: A
JT Daniels himself said the tight ends have been phenomenal this spring. From the day Brock Bowers arrived on campus, reports have been flying out of Athens that Bowers is bigger, faster, and a better blocker than was expected. Bowers, Washington, and FitzPatrick have all shined in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 situations. Washington and FitzPatrick built a solid rapport with Georgia’s QB1 over the last four games of the 2020 season. With so much depth at tight end, even beyond the threw players mentioned, Georgia can get creative with their use of these monstrous athletes. It would not be shocking to see a lot of two and three tight end personnel packages this spring, and not necessary to run the ball out of. The injury to George Pickens creates a void for a big body on the outside that can catch fades and high point deep balls. Possibly look for Bowers and Washington lining up at outside receiver on multiple occasions this fall.
WIDE RECEIVER: C –
Injuries. Bad, scary injuries. George Pickens has likely played his last as a Georgia Bulldog. Of course, with the advancement in ACL surgeries today, Pickens could theoretically be in a medially cleared state before the season is over, but will be willing to return with the NFL on the horizon? Also, Jermaine Burton and Arian Smith have suffered minor injuries. Each injury to Burton and Smith is significant enough to end their spring, but neither of their seasons are thought to be in jeopardy. With these three playmakers out, plus Dominic Blaylock and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint still recovering from injury, there simply are not many scholarship receivers left to gain continuity with JT Daniels and the other quarterbacks. There is a lot of growth that needs to occur with some of the young receivers in the mix right now and one also has to worry about wear and tear on guys like Kearis Jackson and Demetris Robertson with limited receivers available.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B-
The B- grade is a mixed bag of factors really. One, there is a lot of depth for the Georgia offensive line. That is a good thing. The bad part is that, according to what has been reported, nobody has been able to separate themselves from the pack at left tackle, right tackle, or center. It would be terrific at this point if some continuity was starting to get built with a group of five starters. However, that is not realistic in all honesty at this point in the year. The summer will be crucial for ironing all the position battles out, but there is no doubt that the Dawgs have an abundance of former 4 and 5-Star talents that are going to be battling things out. G-Day will be a day to watch the trenches for sure.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A
Not a lot to report here. Georgia is absolutely loaded up front. Both on the interior and the edges, the Georgia defensive line position group is going to a strength of the 2021 team. Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, and Julian Rochester returning to Athens cannot be overstated. No matter how much the game transitions to high-flying spread attacks offensively, to win in college football, defenses have to be able to stop the run and make offenses 1 dimensional. Georgia can and will stop the run. Also, the Dawgs led the SEC last year in sacks. UGA has to replace Azeez Ojulari and Malik Herring, but players like Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith, and Travon Walker will all be looked to, to make up for the loss of some of Georgia’s sack masters from seasons past.
Again, the only thing holding this group back from an A is a key injury. Nakobe Dean is out this spring and he, like JT Daniels on offense for Georgia, is the straw that stirs the drink for the Georgia defense. On the outside Adam Anderson has reportedly really come into his own. There is a lot to be excited about when it comes to the freakishly athletic Anderson. Also, Quay Walker and Channing Tindall are trying to take advantage of the extra reps that come from the absence of Dean. They are also serving as on-field mentors to young players like Xavian Sorey Jr. and Smael Mondon. G-Day will be big to see who takes the next step for the Dawgs and is ready to be the running mate, if you will, of the incumbent leader Nakobe Dean.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: C-
Kirby Smart has made it clear that the defense is nowhere close to the offense at this point in time. A lot of that has to do with the inexperience in the secondary. Kelee Ringo comes into this season with high expectations after shoulder surgery last year. Apparently, he is still getting his football legs underneath him. Lewis Cine and Chris Smith are looked upon as the leaders for the guys in the secondary. Cine and Smith have the most on-field experience, and both bring a physical presence to the UGA defensive back group. Reports are the offense has exposed the secondary at time this spring. The pick up of Tykee Smith from West Virginia out of the transfer portal is going to help depth and execution during the summer and the fall. All of Georgia’s corners are inexperienced in terms of live rounds and G-Day will be a big day to evaluate who could possibly be the replacements for Stokes and Campbell.