The player that will gain the most out of spring practice at each position
(Photo from UGA Football Twitter)
Georgia football is set to begin spring practice on March 16, while the annual G-Day game falls on April 17. The Bulldogs have 16 new early enrollees on-campus, which is the most ever in program history.
On top of that, Georgia returns a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. As the start of camp nears, DogWatch takes a look at what player has the most to gain out of spring practice at each position.
This one is a no-brainer.
The Southern Cal transfer had a great four games for UGA in 2020, but he could always get better and improve on certain aspects of his craft. Daniels completed 80-of-119 passes (67.2 percent) for 1,231 yards, 10 touchdowns and 2 interceptions in four starts.
While those are impressive numbers, Daniels should benefit from a full spring practice schedule as he will be able to get more reps and can build a better rapport with his receivers.
Last season, Daniels didn’t look fully healthy, even after he was awarded the starting job.
Sometimes, he would look flat in the pocket and wouldn’t move to avoid defenders. This was especially true against Cincinnatti at times because when the pass protection failed, he was not able to get out of the pocket in time. Of course, he was coming back from an injury that affected his mobility, but with time he will be fully healed, and spring practice can give him the opportunity to tweak some of those kinks.
Springtime will also give Daniels a chance to enhance his deep-ball. There were several instances last season where he would underthrow his receivers, and he would be the first one to point that out in media interviews. So, of course, he will have time to fix that under the direction of Todd Monken and with the help of Buster Faulkner.
This one is tough, but I will surprise some and go with Cook.
In my opinion, Cook is the most talented back in Georgia’s stable. Although, Cook has had a Bulldog career that has been full of nagging injuries. 2021 could be the Miami native’s breakout year in a red and black uniform.
Last season, we saw Cook used a lot lined up at receiver. He was also used as a pass-catcher out of the backfield. Look for that to continue next season in Todd Monken’s second year as offensive coordinator. With Monken at the helm, Georgia had a lot more receivers open last season and Cook has the quickness to be one of those guys.
Spring practice could also be the starting point of Cook taking over the starting job for Zamir White.
Both will receive a ton of reps, as well the other three backs, but look for this to be a time where Cook will try and move up the depth chart. It will also be a time for him to show how much of a leader he can be in the locker room, especially with the younger guys on offense.
Honorable Mention: Kendall Milton
It’s obvious that Georgia needs to use its tight ends more, but having a full spring practice this season will help every player at the position, especially Darnell Washington.
The “Big-O” will finally have an extended period of time to show the coaching staff why he should be the No. 1 guy. Washington started seven games last season but only hauled in seven catches for 166 yards. At 6-foot-7 and 265-pounds, that needs to change immediately. The former five-star is a mismatch for almost any defensive back he will face.
He had a season-high three catches against in the Peach Bowl with a career-long of 38 yards. Was that something we will see more of in 2021? For Georgia’s sake, one should think so.
Washington should be able to get some valuable reps this spring and could easily separate himself from the next man below him on the depth chart. This is the best time to do it. Because who knows, Arik Gilbert *could* be on his way to Athens this summer.
Pickens is the best receiver on the field for Georgia and there’s no doubt about that, but there’s always room for improvement.
Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint should be the No. 2 player on the depth chart at the X-spot, although he will be coming back from a serious injury. This means that Pickens and the rest of the guys behind him should be able to get more reps.
This is also a chance for Pickens to show that he can be a leader in the locker room.
The Hoover, Ala. native has had some known behavioral issues in the past, but next season he will be a junior. The coaching staff will look for him to become a leader because he’s one of the oldest at his position. We’ve seen that he can be emotional, but it’s all about how he channels it.
The 2021 season could be Pickens’ last year donning a UGA uniform, so it’s important he has a great year if he wants to be a top-round draft pick. He had a slow start in 2020 but had a very productive end of the season. Look for him to bring all that together next season as he will strive for success, but that journey starts on March 16.
This is another tough one, but I will go with sophomore Arian Smith. Both he and fellow sophomore Jermaine Burton will get a lot of reps, but Smith has a lot more to gain this spring because he missed most of last season.
Burton is projected to be Georgia’s top receiver at the Z-spot, but Smith should give him a run for his money. Smith may be the quickest player on the field for Georgia at any time, so look for him to separate himself from the rest. The speedster will also be trying to hold off redshirt senior Demetris Robertson, who elected to return because of the NCAA’s free year of eligibility rule in 2020.
Smith can use this time to build a bond with Daniels. We’ve already seen how fast and electric Smith is, so spring practice can help show the coaching staff why he should be utilized more in 2021.
His first career catch was a 31-yard touchdown against South Carolina. When watching, I had to first rewind the tape to see who No. 11 was. At first, I had totally forgotten who Smith was, but once I rewatched the play, I immediately remembered.
His speed is what catches the eye, but he will have to improve his route-running and ability to separate from the defender if he wants more reps.
Blaylock is one of Georgia’s top returning receivers, even if he missed last year due to an injury he suffered against LSU in the 2019 SEC Championship. Kearis Jackson, who led UGA in receiving last year, will be the No. 1 guy at split end. Although, Blaylock should be ready to go and will use these upcoming spring practices to get adjusted.
In 2019, Blaylock had 18 receptions for 310 yards and five touchdowns. He will be looking to have even better numbers in 2021, especially with a competent quarterback at the helm. But it all starts with returning to a sense of normalcy during spring practices. There will be plenty of reps to go around and he should receive lots of them.
Amarius Mims/Broderick Jones
Jamaree Salyer started nine games at left tackle last season but moved to left guard for the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl. He easily could return to left guard at the start of the 2021 season, so freshman Amarius Mims and Broderick Jones will have to step up in his place. I chose the two of them because I think the pair will be battling for the backup or starting spot, anyways.
If one of them shows significant progress in spring practice, then the coaching staff could easily move Salyer over to left guard full-time. Both Mims and Jones were highly recruited out of high school and both are expected to have strong Bulldog careers. So, spring is a time for either of them to show their worth to offensive line coach Matt Luke and head coach Kirby Smart.
Even though Salyer may rotate here, Shaffer has a lot of experience.
The 6-foot-4, 330-pound senior already has near a dozen starts at the position. So, it just makes sense for him to keep grinding it out at left guard during the spring. Last season, he started the first nine games at left guard before being moved to play right guard against Cincinnati in the Peach Bowl. Shaffer will be a fifth-year senior in 2021 and will look to improve his stock as he prepares for the NFL Draft.
He will also have to fend off redshirt sophomore Clay Webb, who will be looking for reps next season. Webb saw his first snaps at left guard at South Carolina last season and played also played well against Missouri and Cincinnati. So, Shaffer should be hungry to fend off Webb during spring drills.
Sedrick Van Pran-Granger
With Trey Hill on to the next level, the starting job for center is wide open.
There are a couple of suitors but Van-Pran Granger has the most to lose this spring. Junior Warren Ericson has some experience at the position, but he may be used elsewhere.
Van-Pran Granger played in four games last year, but look for him to try and take advantage of this opportunity in the springtime. He has the size and build to be a successful SEC offensive lineman, but his journey to the top needs to start in March.
He will try and hold off fellow redshirt freshmen Austin Blaske and Cameron Kinnie as well as Ericson for the starting job.
Replacing a stud like Ben Cleveland will be hard.
Lindberg is chosen because of the unique versatility of Ericson. Ericson may get the start at center, so Lindberg could be battling Tate Ratledge and Webb for playing time.
Lindberg is a tall but slender lineman that has great speed coming off the line of scrimmage. His biggest downfall is that he doesn’t really have any valuable playing experience yet.
It’s predicted that Warren McClendon, who played 82 percent of Georgia's offensive snaps during the 2020 season, will be the starter. So, that gives Owen Condon a reason to work hard this spring and take some playing time away from McClendon.
Condon actually started at right tackle in the 2020 season opener against Arkansas and he faired pretty well. Smart talked about how well Condon did in fall practice before the start of last season.
“Right tackle is probably the most competitive deal,” Smart said via Zoom on Saturday. “Owen [Condon] has stepped up. Owen hasn’t been healthy since he’s been here and he’s been a pleasant surprise from the standpoint of competitiveness, intelligence and toughness. We’d like him to play with a little more power to be able to move people..”
Unfortunately, the Oklahoma City native has battled injuries through his entire career at UGA, but he should be fully healthy now and ready to compete.