Please allow me to answer your question before you even ask it. No, it’s not too soon to look at 2022, and no, I don’t think that brown spot on your back is cancer but get it checked by a doctor. The Georgia Bulldogs are still celebrating the 2022 National Championship, but I don’t think they are taking time off for a second. Kirby Smart was seen this week, along with a few assistants, watching Arch Manning throw for a group of scouts and coaches.
The 2023 Recruiting Class comes full circle in two weeks, with National Signing Day to conclude the 2022 Class. This article will break down Georgia’s returning players and add in the 2022 Class to give you a rough draft drawing of what to expect next year in Title Defense.
Stetson Bennett will return, but he knows he must earn the starting job. Brock Vandagriff knows that if he doesn’t solidify his place next year, he might have to fight Arch Manning for the starting spot in 2023. Gunner Stockton joins the group next year, and after seeing his highlight film, I feel comfortable saying that if he gets the playbook down and learns how to manipulate a defense, he could be the one pushing everyone for playing time. I expect Carson Beck to seek a transfer, but if he stays, he will once again be a backup.
Don’t expect a drop-off in production from the backs, and I expect more. Kendall Milton and Kenny Macintosh should give this offense more flexibility than Zamir White. Incoming Freshman Branson Robinson has much thought about the return of Nick Chubb. Robinson is built, runs hard, and with a purpose. I would be surprised if we don’t see Branson play the same role Zeus has in recent years.
Receivers and Tight Ends
With Brock Bowers returning for his Sophomore year and Oscar Delp coming in as a freshman, the Dawgs will stay loaded at Tight End. The Receiver position is one to watch, though. There is plenty of talent, but inconsistency has plagued this entire group. Ladd McConkey was a great surprise in the absence of George Pickens. Expect Kearis Jackson and AD Mitchell to be the leaders of this group going forward, and I don’t expect any drop-off.
There are still decisions to be made here, with guys like Justin Shaffer yet to announce their plans for next year. Either way, there is no reason to worry. The Dawgs still have Broderick Jones and Amarius Mims, both former 5-star Tackles, to incorporate into this front. Sedrick Van Pran got better as the year went on, and the right side of this line was more consistent after the Tennessee game. Clay Webb should finally be ready to shine. The former blue-chip has seen very little playing time, but expects him to fight for more this spring.
The panic button could be used here, but let me set your mind at ease. Jalen Carter was at times the most impressive defender in the front seven for Georgia, and that’s saying a lot. He will replace Devonte Wyatt as the D-End; the question, though, will be who steps in at the Nose position vacated by Jordan Davis. Enter Bear Alexander is still a little raw but possesses all the skills and frame needed to contribute right away. The other names to know are Nazir Stackhouse and Tymon Mitchell as well. The outside linebackers will get some leadership help as Nolan Smith, Jr. announced he would return for another season. He will join Robert Beal as the upperclassmen on edge. There is plenty of blue-chip talent both on campus and on the way.
This is where the most significant change will be. Georgia used three ILB’s this year, and the most notable was Butkus Award Winner Nakobe Dean. Channing Tindall and Quay Walker made enormous contributions all season, and all three have declared for the NFL Draft. The guys that will attempt to fill those holes are all young. Chazz Chambliss and Xavien Sorey, Jr. will try to lock up those spots, but guys like Trezmen Marshall and Rian Davis will make it a close battle. MJ Sherman and Small Mondon should be household names next year as well.
How can you possibly expect to replace Lewis Cine and Derion Kendrick? Well, start it off by signing a trio of 5-star secondary studs. Kelee Ringo will be back, and Tykee Smith announced that he would return after missing last season due to injury. Put Smith with William Poole, and you might see some double Nickel formations. Yeah, I said that right. Of the 2022 Signees, the prospect that should get immediate playing time is Daylen Everett. He is built almost exactly as Ringo and is a shutdown corner. Christopher Smith will return and man the secondary, likely with the help of True Freshman Malaki Starks, who can also play receiver and linebacker. I am more worried about Special Teams than our Secondary for next year.
Jake Camarda didn’t work out as a kicker, but he turned into one of the best Punters in the nation last year, and replacing him can be scary. We have guys that can punt, but flipping the field in a close game or pinning your opponent inside the ten to close out a game isn’t an easy task. We did bring in the nation’s top punter in Brett Thorson, and hopefully, he is the answer. Jake Podlesney will return as a kicker for one more year, and finding consistency has been an issue for him, but I like his clutch play.
You see, there isn’t anything to lose sleep over. I would be more worried about the time it takes for the Football Gods to bring us another season. There is still time for transfers in and out, and this list could change drastically before Spring Practice; if I could identify a weakness to this roster, it’s the lack of leadership in the linebacker group next year. Look for the Georgia Staff to look for a Grad Transfer to lead that group in the future.