As we enter 2020, and by special request of several, join me as we take a look at how Georgia’s football roster currently stands. The short answer is it’s lacking OL, and has a handful of spots left for incoming recruits and grad transfers. The lack of beef shouldn’t be a surprise considering we’ve lost essentially a full starting unit this winter to the NFL draft (Kindley, Thomas, Wilson), grades (Cleveland), or something (Mays). And Kirby Smart and his new OL coach Matt Luke are targeting big boys to round out the signing class on the old first Wednesday in February signing date, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a grad transfer OL comes in too to help keep the class separation aspect going. We are also rather loaded defensively, so much so that it also wouldn’t be a surprise if a DL or two flipped sides to get their big body and quick feet blocking instead of tackling.
I’ll include Otis Reese since he’s in the transfer portal, but like Robert Beal, he may back out. I’m not including Cade Mays, since he’s announced where he wants to go in the portal, but am including Ben Cleveland since his grades may improve, and Clay Webb since his legal issues are pending and no official word on his status has been announced. Of note is also a somewhat small senior class, so expect leadership to have to come from underneath, and also Smart to have a somewhat small but focused signing class in 2021. But without further ado, here’s what we’ve got by position (and class) - and commentary below each bunch.
QB- Jamie Newman (Sr), Stetson Bennett (Jr), D’wan Mathis (rsFR), Carson Beck (Fr)
Not a bad crew, with Newman looking legit, and the two kids developing underneath him. But we will certainly be in the market for an elite QB in the 2021 class, if not two QBs then.
WR- Demetris Robertson (Sr), Trey Blount (Sr), Matt Landers (Jr), Tommy Bush (So), Dominick Blaylock (So), Kearis Jackson (So), George Pickens (So), Makiya Tongue (rsFR), Jermaine Burton (Fr), Justin Robinson (Fr), Marcus Rosemy (Fr), Arian Smith (Fr)
Lots of bodies here, but a lot of them are young. There is a ton of talent in the kids though, so it’ll be intriguing to watch how they develop with Newman, and then whoever ultimately starts in 2021 and 2022.
TE- John FitzPatrick (So), Ryland Goede (rsFR), Brett Seither (rsFR), Darnell Washington (Fr)
Even younger than the WR batch, as there’s a lot of big athletes here. Not the deepest crew, so a grad transfer to be replaced with a new recruit in 2021 makes some sense. The potential for a breakout star is here if we start using the middle of the field again, as the entire quartet has big frames and the ability to make plays down field.
RB- James Cook (Jr), Zeus White (So), Kenny McIntosh (So), Kendall Milton (Fr)
So Cook is the old man of the bunch? Wow. Like TE, it’s not a deep crew, or a veteran crew, but it’s a talented one. And one that may well be added to before we take the field in September with the space remaining in the 2020 signing class, be it from a late emerging high school kid or an immediately eligible veteran transfer.
OL- Justin Shaffer (Sr), Ben Cleveland ? (Sr), Trey Hill (Jr), Jamaree Sayler (Jr), Warren Ericson (So), Owen Condon (So), Warren McClendon (rsFR), Xavier Truss (rsFR), Clay Webb (rsFR), Austin Blaske (Fr), Chad Lindberg (Fr), Devin Willock (Fr), Tate Ratledge (Fr)
I’d all but guarantee we add to this list too. As of now, Hill is back at C. We may have Cleveland back on the right side, or Webb back for interior OL depth. But the competition will be heavy for both the G spots (Shaffer and Ericson are the leading candidates with Willock and the OTs trying to work in), and to replace our elite OTs (maybe Cleveland at RT, or Sayler at either one, with Truss, McClendon, Lindberg, or Ratledge your other tackle). This group needs help both now and in next year’s signing class.
DL- Julian Rochester (Sr), Devante Wyatt (Sr), Malik Herring (Sr), Netori Johnson (Jr), Tramel Walthour (Jr), Jordan Davis (Jr), Travon Walker (So), Bill Norton (rsFR), Tymon Mitchell (rsFR), Zion Logue (rsFR), Warren Brinson (Fr) Jalen Carter (Fr), Nazir Stackhouse (Fr)
As said above, there’s a lot of bodies here, so much so that one or three may end up making blocks instead of shedding them considering the relative depth of the unites. But big Jordan Davis is back to dominate inside, and there’s some pretty good talent to rotate around him in the trenches too. Look for this unit, and the entire defense, to be a strength next season.
DE/LB- Jermaine Johnson (Sr), Robert Beal (Jr), Adam Anderson (Jr), Nolan Smith (So), Azeez Ojulari (So)
Not as deep as we’d like, but there’s clearly some pass rush ability off the edge here. I’d assume this group is the defensive priority for the 2021 class with so much young talent at other spots (though every position is a priority in recruiting so that there’s never a glaring hole opened up).
LB- Monty Rice (Sr), Nate McBride (Sr), Walter Grant (Sr), Channing Tindall (Jr), Quay Walker (Jr), Nakobe Dean (So), Trezman Marshall (So), Rian Davis (rsFR), MJ Sherman (Fr)
Led by Rice and the returning Dean, this group has plenty of talent, and depth, and also should have some impact contributions to special teams units (McBride, Grant, Walker especially). We’re going to want to keep this group strong in 2021’s class, but like the DL group, it’s as much reloading as it is restocking with the talent Kirby keeps stacking up on this side of the ball.
DB- Richard LeCounte (Sr), DJ Daniel (Sr), Mark Webb (Sr), William Poole (Sr), Ameer Speed (Jr), Tyson Campbell (Jr), Eric Stokes (Jr), Chris Smith (Jr), Latavious Brini (Jr), Otis Reese (Jr), Divaad Wilson (So), Tyrique Stevenson (So), Lewis Cine (So), Major Burns (Fr), Jalen Kimber (Fr), Kelee Ringo (Fr)
We know LeCounte is a S, as is Cine and Burns. But the rest of these guys could be at CB, or at Star, or at safety considering the size and skill that’s been stockpiled back here. This should arguably be the best group in the country, which is a good thing considering the amount of spread, pass happy offenses we’ll be seeing.
Specialists- Jake Camarda (P- Jr), Payne Walker (Sn- So), Jared Zirkel (PK- Fr)
Walker didn’t do punt snaps, just extra points and field goals, so that’s a concern or a need to be filled. And we don’t know how Zirkel will replace the Specs, but Georgia has had pretty strong kickers almost every year for now 40+ seasons, so that shouldn’t be a concern between the kid and whatever former soccer playing walk-ons we’ve got laying around. This list doesn’t mention potential return men though, who’d come from the batches up above in Blaylock, Cook, and any other WR, RB, or DB who can make moves with the ball in their hands and needs the work at an oft-rotated position group.
All in all, it’s a strong squad that should have one of, if not the best defenses in the nation. And defenses win championships, or so they say. But will this offense be good enough to win multiple championships, or can the defense only carry us to an SEC East crown (which it looks more than capable of doing on paper considering the struggles of our competition on this side of the SEC standings). My count has us at 82, so there’d be room for at least 3 more to be added between now and when practice starts in August. If not an additional 3+ considering clearly questionable returners in Cleveland, Reese, and Webb, among others.