Do we have to?
Hey, y’all. It might surprise some people, but no one was really chomping at the bit to write this preview, so it fell to me. Don’t you feel lucky?
Let’s not waste time here: the Bulldogs are coming off a 14-1 season in which they put up ridiculous video game stats on defense, rarely looked mortal, and decisively avenged their only loss. They then had an eye-popping fifteen players get selected in the NFL draft. You would think such a loss of talent would see a sharp regression to the mean this year, but then you remember which team you’re talking about and start to question your faith in a higher power, if you still have any.
I’m not even going to list all the names in this sub-category, because of Georgia’s eleven defensive starters from the championship game, two return in 2022. The rest all got drafted, except for LB/DB Latavious Brini, who transferred to Arkansas. With them go nearly half (49.8%, if we’re being exact) of the team’s total tackles from last year, also nearly half (48%) of their sacks, and just over half (51.2%) of their pass break-ups. Also departed is DC Glenn Manning, now head coach at Oregon. In his stead will be co-coordinators Glenn Schumann and…. [checks notes] Will Muschamp?? So that defense will probably take a step back from a season where it allowed 9.5 points per game and held opponents to single digits eight times. But not as big a step as you would want.
LBs Nolan Smith and Robert Beal, LB/DB William Poole
With all the faces rotating out of Georgia’s Defense, the linebacker corps is remaining pretty stable. Smith and Beal, who elected not to go pro, combined for 78 total tackles and ten sacks, and Poole, who plays a LB/DB hybrid position, took a lot of playing time from the aforementioned Brini as the season went on. He’ll get to put up a lot more numbers this season, as will many of the five-star backups from last year who will now be starters.
RBs Zamir White and James Cook
Georgia’s RB duo of 2022 is gone to the pros, and with them go 55% of the team’s rushing yards from last year. But the Bulldogs have had a pair of stars at RB for pretty much every year I can remember going back to 2009, so this year’s pair — senior Kenny McIntosh and junior Kendall Milton — will probably be just fine, even if they both were merely four-star recruits. And if not, there’s definitely one or two five-star recruits right behind them.
WRs George Pickens and Jermaine Burton
Pickens didn’t play much in 2021 due to injury, but he was always a problem for opposing defenses and is now off making NFL money. Burton was the top WR on the team in terms of receiving yards and receiving touchdowns and transferred to Alabama, but Georgia liked to spread the ball to its WRs and the #1 overall target played a different position — see more below. They’ll be fine. Ladd McConkey is returning, anyway.
QB Stetson Bennett
Everyone’s favorite football player named after a hat is back for one last ride with basically nothing left to prove after the one time walk-on did what the three previous five-star QB recruits who immediately preceded him could not. Did Bennett lead college football in completions, completion percentage, or passing yards last year? No, to all of those. Was he top 10, or even top 25? Also no, again, to all of those. But he was #4 in passer rating, because he does exactly what he needs to do when he needs to do it and can manage a game like no other. Doubt him at your own peril.
TE Brock Bowers
The way I understand it, Brock Bowers is Jesus Christ himself reincarnated and playing tight end. Bowers led the team in receptions, receiving yards, and touchdowns last year. Not at tight end, the entire team, period. Second place wasn’t even close, in any category. He did this as a true freshman, breaking school records and being named SEC freshman of the year. Defenders better get used to seeing his name, because they’re going to see a lot of it as he finds the endzone again and again.
P Jake Camarda
Not much to report here, other than the loss of a punter who almost won the 2020 Ray Guy Award. But if you were to list the teams by how much they’d be affected by the loss of a quality punter, Georgia would probably be near the bottom.
I think it’s safe to say Georgia will probably not be as good as they were last year. But their blue-chip ratio remains astronomically high and their roster is still stacked with talent. Few teams (if any) can embody the “next man up” mentality like the Bulldogs. Right now you can pencil them in for ten wins and the SEC East crown, at worst. As for that game at the end of the season? Well, currently, Georgia and Tech appear to be playing completely different sports. Maybe consider finding something better to do that day. Personally, I think Geoff Collins will be finding his own way home from Athens.
Are you looking forward to this game at all?