Georgia’s preparations for the 2016 football season begin Monday. Of course, there are plenty of questions that exist focusing on what this team will look like by the time Sept. 3 rolls around and the Bulldogs are set to take on North Carolina.
In the meantime, here are five questions, and potential answers, for Georgia heading into the preseason.
How long will it take for a quarterback to separate himself?
Georgia’s quarterback situation is the position battle everyone will be watching closely. A lot of people expect freshman Jacob Eason eventually will win the job, whether it occurs during the preseason or takes a few games in the regular season.
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But what’s missing is the fact that a new coaching staff, featuring one of the best tandems in college football in offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and offensive line coach Sam Pittman, could help elevate both Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey’s level of play.
Chaney did wonders with former Tennessee quarterback Jonathan Crompton, who was on track to be a college bust before throwing for 2,800 yards and 27 touchdowns after Chaney began coaching him in 2009. Who’s to say a similar leap doesn’t happen with Lambert or Ramsey, who both have college game experience.
Eason’s arm talent is unmatched on the roster. But a lot more goes into the position than simply being the most talented player. Sure, Eason needs game reps because he’s the future of the program, but don’t write off Lambert or Ramsey just yet.
When will Chubb and Michel first take contact?
Running back Nick Chubb is expected to be full-go in all non-contact work beginning Monday. But when the Bulldogs begin tackling to the ground, how much Chubb is able to do remains to be seen.
Chubb sustained a gruesome knee injury in October on the first play from scrimmage against Tennessee. He sustained a torn PCL, LCL and MCL, as well as cartilage damage. He has done a great job of rehabbing and has come back from the injury sooner than expected.
The same can be applied to Sony Michel, who sustained an open fracture to his left forearm. How he responds to contact will determine his availability early in the season, as well.
Still, being able to withstand contact — to opposing players and the ground — will be key for Chubb and Michel. The first couple of scrimmages also will be telling as to whether Chubb’s knee and Michel’s arm are good to go for the season. If Chubb comes out of the first two scrimmages with little concern, there’s a good chance he’ll be good to go for the season opener against North Carolina. For Michel, it’s still too early to tell given the severity of his July 3 injury.
How much mixing and matching will the defensive line undergo?
Throughout spring practice, the defensive line underwent a lot of different personnel groups. Considering the youth of the line, Georgia still has a ways to go to figure out which players will be best for a starting role.
Making matters more difficult is that Jonathan Ledbetter, suspended for the first two games and possibly more due to a DUI arrest, was in line for a starting job. Instead, he hasn’t been at summer workouts and his standing for preseason practice is up in the air.
Trent Thompson is guaranteed a starting spot. He’s too good to not consistently be in the game. Behind Thompson, junior John Atkins is the one veteran on the roster who’s expected to contribute. Sophomores Michael Barnett and DaQuan Hawkins are expected to play a big role this season, and redshirt freshman Justin Young has a chance to see his first game action.
True freshman Julian Rochester also worked with the first team some during the spring, although his status for the season opener against North Carolina is unknown following an arrest for possessing a weapon on campus (BB gun) and criminal damage to property. Fellow freshmen Michail Carter and Tyler Clark could also factor into the rotation, too.
The Bulldogs are likely to rely on a rotation up front this season. How that works is long from being decided.
Which new receivers have the best chance of playing early?
Sophomore Terry Godwin is in line to be Georgia’s top target in the passing game. Junior Reggie Davis once again will be a deep threat, with Michael Chigbu and Jayson Stanley expected to get more playing time as bigger targets. Isaiah McKenzie certainly will have his name called in the short passing game out of the slot and as a gadget weapon.
Georgia brought in three receivers in the recruiting class of 2016, will each one bringing something different to the table.
Tyler Simmons is a speed player and could work in the slot with McKenzie. Junior college transfer Javon Wims is a possession target who offers mismatches due to his size at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds.
But Riley Ridley, who enrolled early and got to practice during the spring, has an incredible shot at moving up the depth chart early as a freshman. By the end of the spring, Ridley was working with the top five receivers in practice and came down with a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch at G-Day.
All three new receivers will have a shot at considerable playing time this fall. How they fare in August will help determine how much they get.
What will Hardman’s role as a freshman be?
Mecole Hardman is the only player on Georgia’s roster listed as an athlete. In the long term, Hardman projects to a cornerback, and he’ll start at that position during preseason practice. But Hardman’s athleticism and speed are too much to pass over on offense.
The August practices will be a great time to figure out what Hardman’s role will be early. Georgia’s deep in the secondary with Malkom Parrish, Juwuan Briscoe, Aaron Davis and Rico McGraw all back at cornerback. Whether Hardman can unseat any for a starting spot is too early to tell.
But Hardman, even as a first-year player, has plenty of skill to step in and contribute on offense. But what exactly Georgia has planned has yet to be revealed.