The 2021 spring practice has been eventful, to say the least. Experienced returners in key positions, position changes for incoming freshmen, unfortunate injuries, and plenty of young talent emerging as playmakers. Georgia heads out of spring, where expectations are high and the question marks are relatively limited. In fact, with the exception of cornerback, every position for the University of Georgia football program is blessed with depth. Of course, even in the Georgia secondary, there is a lot of raw talent, it’s just lacking experience. Everyone at Bulldawg Illustrated has been keeping their collective ears to the ground, and based on reports and press conferences, here are our Top 8 Spring Ballers.
- JT Daniels there is no more important piece to the puzzle for the Dawgs this season than Georgia’s returning starting quarterback. Daniels stepped into the starting role over the last four games of the 2020 season and averaged 308 yards passing per contest, along with averaging throwing more than two touchdowns per contest, all while completing over 67% of his pass attempts. Daniels is the No. 1 spring baller because he is Georgia’s most important player this year and he is actually getting the benefit of the spring to work through Todd Monken’s schemes in more detail. Also, Daniels has cemented himself as a locker room leader and is really doing a lot both on and off the field to help this Georgia offense reach its full potential, despite injuries at running back and receiver.
- Nolan Smith comes in at number two. There is no player on the roster that brings a more unique combination of intelligence, likability, and being coachable, while also having the ability to flip a switch and play the game with near reckless abandonment than Nolan Smith. The edge rusher and former top overall recruit in the country is stepping in a leadership role this year with Azeez Ojulari moving onto the NFL. Also, while Nakobe Dean is out this spring with injury, many are looking to Smith to set an example. All reports indicate that Smith has done so and has brought great intensity and attention to details for the Dawgs defense this spring.
- Kearis Jackson is the rock of the Georgia wide receiver group. With George Pickens and Jermaine Burton out for varying amounts of time now, Jackson’s leadership is vital. Not only is Jackson a hard-working player, but he is extremely versatile and knowledgeable of the system that Todd Monken has in place. Jackson can help and has helped Cortez Hankton coach-up the young receivers that are being looked to for production this year. Guys like Justin Robinson, AD Mitchell, Arian Smith, Jackson Meeks, and Jaylen Johnson all benefit from the presence of a player like Jackson. Oh, and word on the street is that Jackson himself has never looked crisper or more explosive than this spring.
- Quay Walker because Georgia’s main signal caller in the middle of their defense, Nakobe Dean out with an injury this spring. In the meantime, Walker has been getting a ton of reps iand this has been and will be crucial to the Dawgs going forward. Injuries are part of the game; and while we would all love to see the full compliment of Georgia’s starters make it through the fall unscathed, it’s just not a reality. Walker having the opportunity to be the focal point in the middle of the defense is good for his confidence and also for the team. The senior from Crisp County has taken that next step and should be able to build off a strong 2020 season.
- Brock Bowers has turned heads since arriving on campus as an early enrollee. Reports from the first scrimmage said Bowers was excellent. At 6-4, 235-pound, Bowers can really run well and is just a natural route runner and even more natural when the ball is in his hands. Having played quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end, and linebacker in high school, the Napa, California native brings a unique skill set to the Georgia roster. Also, it is worth noting that during a press conference after the injury to George Pickens, Brock Bowers was the first name uttered from Kirby Smart’s lips, when a reporter asked a question pertaining to players that could be counted upon to filled the void of losing a receiver as special as George Pickens.
- Christopher Smith has changed his body during the offseason. The senior safety from Atlanta has reportedly packed on 10 pounds of muscle. After playing the last five games of the 2020 season in place of Richard LeCounte, Smith is poised to be a stalwart of the 2021 secondary for coaches Jahmile Addae, Dan Lanning, and Kirby Smart. Coach Smart has praised Smith as an extremely hard worker and a player than has been selfless through his career and quite productive on special teams. Now it is Smith’s time to shine at safety for the Dawgs in 2021.
- Adonai “AD” Mitchell is another young pass-catching target, like Brock Bowers, that has made waves this spring. Mitchell has demonstrated a strong work ethic ever since enrolling early in January. In a recent press conference, JT Daniels explained that Mitchell was eager to learn, to develop, and to compete and that the 2021 signee always showed for voluntary throwing sessions. Mitchell is a very fluid route runner and his speed is deceptive because he’s such a smooth gliding type runner. Georgia legend Terrence Edwards recently took to social media to sing the praises of AD. When one of the greatest Dawg receivers of all-time is expecting big things out of Mitchell, well it’s worth listening to. At 6-4, 190-pound, with loads of natural ability and now plenty of opportunity, look for AD Mitchell to make some plays on G-Day and this fall for the Red and Black.
- Lovasea Carroll was recruited to Georgia in the class of 2021 as a running back out of IMG Academy. However, with Georgia losing three cornerbacks and six defensive backs overall this offseason, an opportunity for Carroll to experiment on the defensive side of the ball presented itself. Many players would not take kindly to that kind of move so early on in their college career. However, Carroll reportedly has handled the spring experimental move with great class and is working hard to learn the cornerback position. Carroll is an elite athlete. At 6-1, 195-pound, he has ideal size to be a lockdown corner, if he can take well to the position. It’s so refreshing and an excellent sign that Carroll is willing to do what is best for the team, which is to build depth in a secondary that is in need of it.