Kirby Smart will get his first true look at the team he’s inheriting when Georgia’s spring practice begins Tuesday.
It has been a whirlwind for Smart, who accepted the Georgia head coaching job in early December, but he decided to finish his defensive coordinator duties at Alabama. That kept him from focusing solely on the Georgia job until January, although he still was able to close with the No. 9 recruiting class in the country.
Since National Signing Day has come and gone, Smart has had a chance to evaluate the film from Georgia’s 2015 season to give him a feel for what he has coming back. This spring will be the first time he gets to see it in person.
Like any team, there are a few questions to be ironed out this spring, and Smart is likely anxious to figure out the answers. Here are three to consider:
WILL JACOB EASON PROVE HE’S STARTER-WORTHY EARLY?
This is the biggest question Georgia fans would like to know. If Eason proves that he’s the best quarterback over veterans Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey, the Bulldogs will be able to work with and develop him during the next three years. Eason showing he’s ready to go would be the best case scenario because everyone knows about the upside he possesses out of high school.
But if Eason isn’t ready, Georgia does have an experienced quarterback in Lambert, who can at least get the offense into the correct situations. Despite the consistency issues he put forward in 2015, Lambert did lead Georgia to a 10-2 record (Georgia’s third loss came with Faton Bauta starting against Florida) and threw 12 touchdowns with only two interceptions.
Ramsey is the wild card in the equation, considering he arrived at Georgia as a prized quarterback himself. While Ramsey hasn’t earned the starting role yet, he should have every opportunity this spring to prove why he’s worthy of it.
WHO EMERGES AS A POTENTIAL NO. 2 RECEIVER?
Georgia’s situation at receiver actually could mean more to the coaching staff than the fans because, outside of Terry Godwin, there isn’t exactly a true, proven threat returning.
Godwin will be Georgia’s No. 1 receiver in 2016, ranking second on the team with 35 receptions for 379 yards and two touchdowns last season.
But the receiving group is filled with talent and potential. Rising sophomores Michael Chigbu, Jayson Stanley and Shaquery Wilson — all who received playing time in 2015 — could be in the mix for the No. 2 receiver position. Shakenneth Williams, a rising junior from Macon, is also an option. Freshman Riley Ridley, an early enrollee, will have a chance this spring to show what he can do at the spot.
Isaiah McKenzie is more suited as a slot receiver but could earn a chance to have a heavier role in Georgia’s passing game this spring, considering he has been mostly used in gadget situations. This position battle figures to carry on into the fall, too, as Tyler Simmons and Javon Wims are set to join the competition then.
WHO EMERGES AS EARLY FAVORITE AT KICKER AND PUNTER?
Georgia’s situation at place-kicker is quite interesting, considering the Bulldogs have long been used to having a scholarship player at the position.
That’s not the case this year, with walk-ons Rodrigo Blankenship and William Ham, who starred at Stratford, competing this spring for the early lead at place-kicker. Ham walked on at Georgia two years ago but left the team after his first season. Before former head coach Mark Richt was fired, he called and asked Ham to return to the team. Smart kept the spot open and will get to see whether Ham can compete with Blankenship, who arrived at Georgia with a good kicking reputation on the camp circuit.
Mitchell Wasson, a preferred walk-on, will join Georgia in the fall and further continue the kicking competition.
It would seem Ramsey, who ended the 2015 season as Georgia’s punter in addition to backup quarterback, is the early favorite to handle punting duties. But Georgia is expected to hold a walk-on tryout this week, so perhaps it finds a punter to take the early lead, which would allow Ramsey to focus on quarterback. The fall will be more important as far as the punter job is concerned, with incoming freshman Marshall Long arriving to campus then.