Athens, Ga- Georgia hits the practice field Tuesday for the first time since being crowned 2021 National Champions for the first time in 41 years. This Spring will look a little different than the past years. Leaders on defense like Nakobe Dean, Jordan Davis, and Devontae Wyatt are off to the NFL draft. Running backs James Cook and Zamir White will no longer carrying the football. It will be a new team and one that has high expectations.
The question under the Kirby Smart era was always "Can you win it all? or Can you finally beat Alabama?" He's answered those questions... New Questions arise today like "Can you stay at the mountain top?" Or "Who are the next players on the team to lead the Dawgs?"
Below are some intriguing storylines we feel will be a hot topic for the Bulldogs as the look to defend their title!
Carson Beck vs. Brock Vandagriff
Stetson Bennett is going to be QB1 this spring. But remember change at the top is only one play away. Just ask JT Daniels who was named the starter this time a year ago and had Heisman trophy consideration breaking 2021's fall camp
The battle for the backup quarterback job between Carson Beck and Brock Vandagriff will be interesting to watch The Beck seemed to win the job last season, only for Bennett to pass him in the pecking order in the fall. Vandagriff enters his second season in the program with high expectations. The Dual Threat QB will look to push Beck who seemingly struggled in Mop up duty last fall.
Keeping both quarterbacks happy and engaged will be a balancing act for OC Todd Monken and HC Kirby Smart. A disappointing spring either QB could mean an entry into the notorious transfer portal.
We expect the backup battle will continue through the fall. But the winner of this competition will position himself as the quarterback of the future for Georgia. Expect this to be a hot topic on G-Day as well.
NEW FACES ON THE DEFENSIVE STAFF
Georgia didn’t just lose Players to the NFL and the Transfer Portal. The Bulldogs will also have a new defensive Coordinator with Dan Lanning taking the head coaching job at Oregon.
Prior to the College Football Playoff, Smart named Schumann and Muschamp as co-defensive coordinators. Lanning remained the Defensive Coordinator for the playoffs but the future of the position was clear. Although Smart offered very little definition on what role changes would be for Schumann and Muschamp going forward.
Schumann has coached the inside linebackers the past six seasons, while also holding the title of co-defensive coordinator title since 2019. Muschamp was originally with the team as a defensive analyst but became and on-field coach once Scott Cochran had to step away from the team for personal reasons.
Smart himself figures to still have a very prominent involvement when it comes to this defense. The staff will also have two new coaches in Fran Brown (defensive backs) and Chidrea Uzo-Diribe (outside linebackers). Lets see how the new staff gels together this Spring (and Fall) to get the defense back to the level of dominance the 2021 team showed.
The Enigma - Arik Gilbert
WR/TE Arik Gilbert has always been a fascination with Georgia fans, dating back to his time as a 5-star recruit in the 2020 recruiting class. He transferred to Florida last Spring from LSU and then decommitted weeks later to only enroll at Georgia in the summer and went through a few fall practices before stepping away from the team in August.
One is to assume Gilbert will be back with the team this Spring as he was spotted at the UGA title celebration as well as called out as "Academic Player of the Week" multiple times on social media by Coach Smart.
With Brock Bowers out this Spring healing from shoulder surgery, Spring is the perfect time to implement Gilbert into the offense. Its still unknow to outsiders where Gilbert will line up, but his talent is undeniable. If Gilbert is able to lock in during the spring, The Bulldogs offense with Bowers, Gilbert, and AD Mitchell could cause a lot of fireworks!
Just weeks before the opening of Spring camp, Offensive line coach Matt Luke stepped away from the program to focus on family. He was quickly replaced by North Carolina Offensive Line Coach Stacey Searles. Searles comes in to a favorable situation in regards to talent to say the least, but he does have some questions to answer regarding the line.
Georgia has to replace its starting left tackle and left guard from last season, but it still has plenty of proven players on the roster. Five linemen who started at least one game last fall are back: Broderick Jones, Sedrick Van Pran, Tate Ratledge, Warren Ericson, and Warren McClendon.
Brodreick Jones entered the picture towards the end of the year as Jamararee Salyer was recovering from an injury. During the CFP Championship gam, Jones entered at left tackle with Salyer moving to right guard. To say they are comfortable with Jones protected the back side of Bennett would be an understatement. Jones is RAW but has the ability and talent to anchor the line. Van Pran seems to have a firm grasp on the center position, while Ratledge is the likely favorite at right guard after suffering a season-ending injury on the first offensive series against Clemson, and McClendon will be penciled in at right tackle locked.
Obviously a lot can change during the spring, but those players coming back means the biggest question is at left guard. Ericson's play late in the season was a cause for concern. Should be interesting who all gets a look there under new O-line coach Stacey Searles.
The Bulldogs have a number of returning players expected to be in the mix, including Ericson, former five-star recruit Amarius Mims, and 6-foot-7, 330-pound Xavier Truss.