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Three questions about UGA football ahead of fall camp
Georgia defensive back Kelee Ringo (5) during the G-Day scrimmage on Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
The sounds of whistles being blown, coaches yelling and excitement from players can be heard off S. Lumpkin Street from the football practice fields starting on Friday.
Georgia is set to start fall camp on Friday, Aug. 6, and it will run right up until classes start on Aug. 20. The expectations are high for the Bulldogs, who are ranked No. 4 in ESPN’s preseason poll. There are a lot of starters returning on both sides of the ball, so you can see why the bar is set so high. However, there are some questions head coach Kirby Smart and his coaching staff needs to address before the start of the season, which is in less than 30 days.
So, DogWatch has compiled a list of the three most important questions surrounding the Bulldogs as they enter fall camp.
How will the defensive backfield pan out?
Georgia lost both starting cornerbacks from last season as well as a couple of other members of the secondary to the NCAA transfer portal. So, for a time, there were a lot of questions surrounding the Bulldogs’ defensive backfield. There even was an opening on the coaching staff when former defensive backs coaching Charlton Warren took the defensive coordinator position at Indiana. But, that’s when newcomer Jahmile Addae was brought in from West Virginia.
Just a few weeks after the hiring of Addae, former Moutainer defensive back Tykee Smith followed his former coach to Athens, which was a huge pickup for the Bulldogs. The 5-foot-8, 198-pound defender is one of the top returning secondary players in the country, per Pro Football Focus. Then, with the addition of former Clemson cornerback Derion Kendrick, the pieces of the puzzle were starting to fall into place. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case because Smart doesn’t just hand out starting positions, which leads us to our question. Georgia already has a few members of the secondary returning, so that creates some competition amongst players entering fall camp on Friday.
It’s assumed that Kendrick will hold one of those starting cornerback positions, granted that he works for it. Nonetheless, that still leaves the other side of the field wide open. The top returning guys for that spot are Ameer Speed, Kelee Ringo and Jalen Kimber. Speed, a fifth-year senior, has the most experience out of the group, however, Ringo and Kimber are just as talented. Ringo missed his freshman season in 2020 due to an injury and Kimber redshirted as he only played in three games. So, that leaves those two in the same boat. Then, there’s incoming freshmen Nyland Green and Kamari Lassiter, who are both capable of earning playing time.
The two top safety positions are set with veterans Lewis Cine and Christopher Smith. That should leave Tykee Smith at the STAR position. Nevertheless, there are a few other names that will push for playing time, including veterans Lavtavious Brini and William Poole III, but also freshman Javon Bullard and David Daniel. Also, don’t count out Dan Jackson, a 6-foot-1 and 190-pound walk-on, who had a great spring camp and productive G-Day scrimmage. Brini, who made the defensive play of the game against Cincinatti in the CFA Peach Bowl, should test Smith for STAR, but the others will be filled in wherever they fit best.
Will fall camp provide us a clear picture of what the offensive line with look like?
The Bulldogs have depth on the offensive line, but the starting positions don’t seem to be filled out yet, especially because there could be multiple players starting at more than one position as the year goes on. For example, there’s the case of senior Jamaree Salyer starting at left guard against Clemson, which is where he played for the first time against Cincinnatti. The 6-foot-4, 325-pound beheamoth started at left tackle for the first nine games last season, but moved over to left guard when then Ben Cleveland decided to skip the bowl game.
Assuming Salyer goes back to left tackle, fellow senior Justin Shaffer could play left guard. That move could put redshirt freshman Tate Ratledge at right guard and redshirt sophomore Warren McClendon at right tackle. Nonetheless, there’s Xavier Truss, Amarius Mims and Broderick Jones, who could all get reps at either of the exterior positions on the line. Warren Ericson, a 6-foot-4 and 305-pound upperclassman, should be the clear favorite to start at center. However, redshirt freshman Sedrick Van Pran will be next in line competing for playing time. The 6-foot-4, 310-pound New Orleans native played as a reserve last year in four games, but will get ample opportunity this year.
Then, there’s guys like Austin Blaske, Devin Willock, Cameron Kinnie, Chad Lindberg and Owen Condon, who have all been with the program for more than a year, but haven’t received quality reps yet. Plus, there’s a few freshman too that are talented and play in garbage time. With that being said, maybe fall camp will give offensive line coach Matt Luke an idea of what the depth chart will look heading into the season opener.
Who will be the freshman that contribute in 2021?
If you haven’t read DogWatch’s First-Year Profiles, then this is a good chance to do just that. However, we will answer the question here because there are quite a few obvious names in mind. We’ve been hearing a lot about two individuals, which is par for the course, but there a few that have surprised us. The obvious being in wide receiver Adonai Mitchell and offensive lineman Amarius Mims.
Mitchell put on a clinic during the annual G-Day scrimmage in star receiver George Pickens’ absence. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound youngster led the team in receptions and receiving yards. It’s been rumoured that he’s had a great summer as well, which isn’t surprising. There’s also been a lot of buzz around Mims, too. The former five-star and No. 1 overall player in Georgia has been with the program since December and has shown his skills during spring camp and summer workouts. But, there are a few other freshmen that we expect to impress.
Tight end Brock Bowers is also a gimme. He’s also been with the program since December and had a productive spring. The Nappa, Ca. native should blend well in Todd Monken’s offense, especially as he splits reps with Darnell Washington and John FitzPatrick. Nyland Greene, the aforementioned cornerback, has a chance to also get a lot of playing time because of his talent. The former Newton High School (Ga.) product was one of the best at his position in the country. Combine that with what’s in front of him at cornerback and he could easily receive reps earlier on in the season. He’s got the size and speed to compete, but just needs to get through fall camp with a stellar performance.