The Georgia football team kicks off its season against Vanderbilt on Saturday in Nashville. After losing to Alabama in the SEC championship game last season, Georgia was left out of the College Football Playoff. Here are the top story lines to keep an eye out for as the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs try to make it to the playoff this year.
The wide receivers are Georgia’s biggest question mark heading into the 2019 season. With the departure of the Bulldogs’ top five pass catchers from last year, the situation looks dire on the surface. But they have plenty of talent to choose from. Despite recording only 14 total receptions during his career, senior Tyler Simmons will be looked to as a consistent target for quarterback Jake Fromm. Freshman George Pickens and graduate transfer Lawrence Cager have garnered plenty of hype over the past few months. Their status in the receiving room will become more clear as the season progresses. Dominick Blaylock, Demetris Robertson, Matt Landers and Trey Blount might also play significant roles.
Who will start at right guard?
Most spots on Georgia’s offensive line are set, but right guard is a position that is still subject to change. Redshirt junior Ben Cleveland and sophomore Cade Mays are fighting for reps for the spot on the line between center Trey Hill and right tackle Isaiah Wilson. Mays is an athletic lineman who could play just about anywhere on the line. Cleveland is more experienced and more specialized. Don’t be surprised if there’s some shake-ups throughout the season, especially as injuries and fatigue begin to set in.
New coordinators, new responsibilities
Last season, Dan Lanning and James Coley were in charge of the outside linebackers and quarterbacks, respectively. Lanning is now the head of the defense and Coley is the head of the offense, each tasked with more responsibilities heading into a new season. Georgia players have praised Lanning’s energy. As for Coley, it will be worth paying attention to the changes he brings to the offensive playbook, if any. Coley coached a pass-heavy offense at Miami from 2013 to 2015, so if some wide receivers emerge, a more unpredictable offense could emerge too.
Pass rush breakthrough?
Georgia had 34 sacks in 2017, then suffered a downtick last season with 24 sacks, putting them in the bottom three in the SEC. The Bulldogs are looking for a premier pass rusher to step up amid injury concerns and the departure of last year’s sack leader D’Andre Walker and defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter. The Bulldogs will likely rely on two young outside linebackers, Azeez Ojulari and Nolan Smith. Ojulari redshirted last year but showed promise against Texas in the Sugar Bowl. The Bulldogs could also see sack production from inside linebacker Tae Crowder and defensive lineman Jordan Davis.