Posted: 1:01 pm Tuesday, August 30th, 2016
By Jay Black
You know it’s time for football season when the “list” columns start coming out. Well since everybody else is doing it, might as well throw mine on the stack.
This is not a list of Georgia’s best players, but a list of the ones they have to have production for the Dawgs to be successful.
- Isaiah McKenzie
The little guy scored four TDs last year. The only non-back with more was Malcolm Mitchell and he had five. Oh and McKenzie, who is listed as a receiver, didn’t have any touchdowns receiving. Two on kick returns and two rushing the ball.
McKenzie is Georgia’s most dynamic weapon and the Dawgs need help in a bad way at receiver (more on this in a moment). But more importantly for Georgia is McKenzie has to clear up his issues catching the ball, which is why Reggie Davis was used more as a return man.
- Malkom Parrish/Juwuan Briscoe
Right now these are your two starting cornerbacks, but the weakest link in the secondary since safety is pretty well settled with All-SEC Dominick Sanders and leading returning tackler Quincy Mauger.
Georgia had the number one pass defense last year, but they also faced a bunch of option schools and a bunch of terrible offenses. The competition steps up with North Carolina, the SEC’s best QB in Chad Kelly at Mississippi, and better versions of the other schools they faced last year (including UT and Joshua Dobbs). The cornerbacks must prove last year’s numbers were not a mirage
There are few things worse in sports than a bad kicker. Georgia has been fortunate not to have that, for the most part, in the Mark Richt era. But you don’t forget when you can’t trust your kicker (see Blair Walsh as a senior, Marshall Morgan as a freshman). Well Georgia has a bunch of walk-ons battling it out to take over this year.
And if the two leading contenders Rodrigo Blankenship or William Ham stink, I won’t have to remind you. Blankenship has the better leg, but Ham might be more accurate.
- Tyler Catalina
He’s got a great name, but he’s one of Georgia’s biggest unknowns. The 6-foot-6, 314 pound senior is a graduate transfer from Rhode Island, a state many of you didn’t know had a football team.
UGA loses its two tackles and still has some shifting to do up front, but it seems likely that Catalina will be guarding Jacob Eason’s – I mean – the quarterback’s blind side. He was second and third team all-conference the last two years, but there is no CAA in SEC.
- No. 2 Wide Receiver
With everyone complaining about UGA’s quarterbacks last season (and everybody complained) it was a dirty little secret that they really didn’t have much to throw to. Mitchell is gone and Terry Godwin is developing into Mitchell 2.0. But I’m not sure if he’s going to be a stud or just very good.
Jayson Stanley had a great G-Day game and Michael Chigbu has gotten a lot of attention. Both are big bodies that can give UGA something they haven’t had in a while. Reggie Davis has the tools but can’t seem to put it together. Or will fresh Isaac Nauta find his way into this group, even though he’s technically a tight end.
Godwin must have help this season.
- Jeb Blazevich
Where the (*)!&#$(_!(*_ did he go last year? Was it Jeb’s fault? Was it the QBs? Was it the coordinator whose name must not be spoken?
Blazevich was all set to break out, only to see his production drop in every category (catches, yards, average and touchdowns).
See above paragraph for why this is important. It also doesn’t hurt that Jim Chaney is said to be a master of getting tight ends involved.
- Lorenzo Carter
I might have said Carter had a higher ceiling than Leonard Floyd last season. Then Carter didn’t have any sacks or any tackles for loss the entire season, which seems impossible. But it happened. So I might have gotten that wrong.
With the Dawgs losing their top four tacklers from last season, Carter can’t afford to just play on passing downs (and he didn’t do much while he was there to begin with). Carter took three steps back after an impressive freshman season. He has to prove he really is the game-changer people expected him to be last season.
- Jacob Eason
And you thought he was going to be number 1? Well UGA did win 10 games (ducks when someone throws something) last year with no production here. Eason is the best quarterback recruit in the country. He will play against North Carolina. It’s just a matter of when and how much. There’s nothing else I can write that you don’t know about this kid. Bottom line – QBs have to be better.
- Nick Chubb
Everyone saw how much Georgia struggled to move the ball once Chubb went down. UGA’s offense at least looked competent before Chubb blew up his knee, afterwards it was comical.
If he’s Old Chubb, UGA can win the division. But it’s not a given that he will be the same guy. Knees are no joke. If all goes well, this will be your last chance to see Chubb. Enjoy it.
- Trenton Thompson
And you thought I was going to pick the quarterback. I asked UGA analyst Eric Zeier if I was crazy to do this and he said “I don’t think you’re wrong. If we win in the trenches we are going to win a lot of football games.”
The problem for Georgia is they don’t have much depth here. Nose tackle John Atkins has 21 career tackles in two season and now becomes the starter and the guys that were expected to step up at defensive end have gotten in trouble and won’t play, at least in the opener.
Thompson was the best recruit in the country entering his freshman season, but can you remember any game-changing plays? He was fine as a freshman (25 tackles, 2.5 TFLs), but now he must shine and lead this UGA defense. Kirby Smart’s defense starts and ends up front. If the Dawgs get pushed around up front, it’s going to be another mediocre bowl in December.