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Georgia’s 2020 season was a disappointment. The majority of the starters on defense had returned, and with the additions of Jamie Newman and Todd Monken, there was newfound hope for the program’s direction.
Then, Newman decided to opt out, and the recovery from a season-ending knee injury at USC was too late for transfer quarterback JT Daniels. The end result was an 8-2 record and a 24-21 Peach Bowl victory over Cincinnati.
Good season, but not what Georgia fans were hoping for — or expecting. But now the attention turns towards the fall of 2021, and the expectations for Kirby Smart and company remain at an all-time high.
OutKick continues with our offseason look at all 14 SEC teams. First, we took a look at reigning national champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Now, we’ll turn towards the SEC East favorite, the Bulldogs.
For other offseason outlooks from around the SEC, click here.
Key Losses: OL Ben Cleveland; EDGE Azeez Ojulari; S Richard LeCounte III; CB Eric Stokes; CB Tyson Campbell; LB Monty Rice; DL Malik Herring; EDGE Jermaine Johnson; DB Mark Webb
Key Returning: QB JT Daniels; RB Zamir White; RB James Cook; WR George Pickens; WR Kearis Jackson; WR Jermaine Burton; TE Darnell Washington; OL Jamaree Salyer; DT Jordan Davis; LB Nakobe Dean; EDGE Adam Anderson; S Lewis Cine; P Jake Camarda; OC Todd Monken
Key Additions: OL Amarius Mims (5-star); QB Brock Vandagriff (5); OLB Xavian Sorey (5); OLB Smael Mondon (5); OL Micah Morris (4); CB Nyland Green (4); OL Dylan Fairchild (4); ATH David Daniel (4)
Key Games: vs. Clemson (Sept. 4); at Auburn (Oct. 9); vs. Florida
Outlook: We’re going to find out a lot about Georgia early on. The Bulldogs will go on the road to Charlotte to take on Clemson in Week 1, which will act as a good barometer for where both teams stand. The Tigers have taken significant hits on offense, but the defense returns plenty.
Georgia, on the other hand, will go into next season with a different feel than it had when it entered 2020. Instead of the defense returning almost everyone, the offense will have many familiar faces. Daniels is expected to be one of the top quarterbacks in college football, and he’ll be surrounded by quality talent.
The stable of running backs runs deep in Athens with Zamir White, James Cook, Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton. In addition, the passing game returns its top four wide receivers/tight ends from last season, including George Pickens, Kearis Jackson, Jermaine Burton and Darnell Washington.
Three of five starters will also be back on the offensive line, with the only losses being Ben Cleveland and Trey Hill. The program has done an excellent job keeping the talent and depth replenished up front, so finding replacements won’t be much of an issue.
Defensively, there is a lot of likable talent as well, but the experience will be somewhat lacking in comparison to the offense.
Still, there should be enough there for this unit to remain effective, especially if those holes in the secondary can be adequately filled. The defensive line will be extremely deep, and the athleticism across the board is impressive.
This is a team that’s going to benefit from a more normal offseason, and that especially holds true for Todd Monken and his offense. The big issue that has held the Bulldogs back in recent years has been at quarterback, but with Daniels, that liability has turned into a strength.
Georgia is a legitimate top-5 team heading into next season, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them walk away from Week 1 with a win over Clemson.
Follow Clint Lamb on Twitter @ClintRLamb.