Georgia running back James Cook (4) during the Bulldogs' game with Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., on Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020. (Photo by Matt Stamey)
2020 Results: 8-2, 7-2 (SEC)
2021 Projection: 11-1, 8-0 (SEC)
2020 was a disappointment in Athens, losing only to Alabama and Florida, but still a disappointment. Hope did arrive however in quarterback JT Daniels who didn’t lose after taking over the starting role against Mississippi State. Daniels looks the part and he has a bevy of talent in the backfield with him, but injuries, trouble with the law and transfers have put a dent in experience at wide receiver. If Arik Gilbert can qualify he will be an immediate impact player at tight end, but that is a wait and see situation. Defensively the Dawgs are absolutely stacked, but they were last year as well, so the offense has to sustain drives and keep them rested to achieve their ultimate goal.
JT Daniels looked good against lesser competition, but everyone will know if he is ready for primetime quickly as game one is a neutral site clash with the fighting Dabo’s of Clemson. Having a nasty offensive line along with Zamir White and James Cook to hand the ball to should help his cause while he finds his footing with his receivers. Kearis Jackson is a playmaker, but with George Pickens sidelined with a torn ACL, someone else will have to step up and make plays down the field.
Arik Gilbert could be a go to target, but even if he doesn’t see the field, the 6’7” 270 lbs Darnell Washington should soften up with coverage and cause problems for opposing defenses. With three of five starters returning on the offensive line and plenty of blue chip recruits salivating to prove themselves at the skill positions, Georgia’s offense could take a huge leap forward in 2021, but it will only go as far as the right arm and leadership of JT Daniels can take them.
If you want to talk big nasties, Georgia has them. Three seniors return to form the most formidable defensive front in the SEC. Devonte Wyatt, Julian Rochester and most importantly Jordan Davis all chose to dawn the red and black one more season and teams trying to establish the run will have their work cut out for them.
On the edge Adam Anderson put on some weight in the off-season that should allow him to be more sound in the run game, but won’t slow him down when it comes to his specialty of getting after the quarterback. Expect a breakout season from the former Rome Wolf.
Behind the line Nakobe Dean and Quay Walker shouldn’t be a step back from the departed Azeez Ojulari and Monty Rice. They have experience and the ability to hold down the middle while Anderson and Nolan Smith wreak havoc off the edge.
In the secondary Lewis Cine is a head hunting safety that would make Ronny Lott proud, while they will depend on youth at the cornerback position. Cue the broken record, but Smart has recruited well enough to not miss a beat. Kelee Ringo was the #1 corner in the 2020 recruiting class and there is no shortage of blue chip talent around him that can step up.
There shouldn’t be much time in the pocket for quarterbacks or running lanes available with the front being such a strength, so that should help any potential growing pains in the secondary.
The Dawgs are solid as always on special teams with senior punter Jake Camarda and junior placekicker Jack Podlensy both back to assume the kicking duties. Kearis Jackson is scary with the ball in his hands as well so the return game should be strong.
Georgia is going to be nasty on both lines of scrimmage and has talent all over the field. The receiving corps is the position to watch as they need to establish playmakers outside of Jackson. If Daniels is the chosen one and this offense can reach its explosive potential, the SEC is there for the taking.