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Eight Questions Surrounding The Georgia Bulldogs As Auburn Approaches

Not including the Georgia Bulldogs in your College Football Playoff predictions is negligent and denial. Is a three-peat hard to come by? No…..yes! How could we forget the lone team to do it, the dynasty of the 1930s, the Minnesota Gophers of 1934, 1935, and 1936? The Pete Carroll/Matt Leinart/Reggie Bush era dynasty did not do it. Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide could not do it (2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2017, 2020). But Them Dawgs Is Hell.

Let’s look at some general questions concerning the Georgia Bulldogs heading into the Plains for Week Five against Hugh Freeze’s Auburn Tigers.

Non-Dawg, What Can Carson Beck’s NFL Draft Ceiling Look Like?

There is no event I geek out over more than the NFL Draft. That being said, I do not pump unwarranted smoke: this 2024 quarterback class is thicker than a bowl of oatmeal. Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, Shedeur Sanders, Michael Penix Jr., J.J. McCarthy, Quinn Ewers, Bo Nix, Joe Milton III, Jordan Travis, Riley Leonard, Spencer Rattler, Sam Hartman, Michael Pratt, Cam Ward, K.J. Jefferson, etc.

All this to say this is about the worst year depth-wise that Beck could’ve been lumped into from a Draft capital perspective. A 6’4, 220-pound athletic frame will put him near prototype territory though and Beck is sneaky athletic. While he may not be profiled as “mobile” Beck’s shown that athleticism in these first few weeks that made him a consensus four-star recruit with SEC football and basketball offers.

The ability to be featured on the best team in the country is the difference down the stretch here for Beck versus the crowd. If the Draft were tomorrow? Beck is looking at Day 3 with his limited tape but high upside. The tougher games start this week with Auburn on the road. Beck can play himself into Day 2 down the stretch. Day 1 is going to be crowded with names that already have the tape to get there (Williams, Maye, Penix Jr., Ewers, potentially Shedeur, potentially McCarthy, etc.).

Does Dillon Bell Make The Position Switch From Receiver? If Not, Should He?

With the injuries this running back room has early this season, Dillon Bell has flat out had to be handed some opportunities as the team’s de facto “emergency” running back. And hell, he’s excelled, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. Modern football is continually creating a market for running backs with a niche of catching the ball out of the backfield.

Coach Smart kept it pretty Coach Smart recently letting off the vibe that a permanent switch is not happening however, declaring “We’ll always have that element, whether it’s he or (Mekhi) Mews or the other guys who can line up in the backfield. That’s always going to be there.” Smart said. “So, I don’t know if I can answer that. But we’ll probably keep it there. It probably depends on what wideouts are healthy, what we have week-to-week, and what the game plan is.” Further, “First of all, Dillon Bell has been a selfless player. He's done what we've asked. He's a really good wideout. This has been going on for a while. So, this is not something that's been new,” Smart said. “Whatever I can do to help the team,” said Bell.

What Will It Take This Year For Brock Bowers To Be Remembered As The Greatest Collegiate Tight End Ever?

Conversationally, let’s acknowledge Brock Bowers is gone for the NFL Draft after the 2023 season. There is no senior year for Bowers. So we project how he will stand amongst the greatest college tight ends ever in terms of both physical ability and production with three years under his belt. So many names come to mind: Heath Miller, Tony Gonzalez, Keith Jackson, Kellen Winslow, Mark Andrews, Kyle Pitts, Ken MacAfee, etc. Bowers is going to best all of them.

Let’s window shop the jewelry case a little bit, and remember, this is all as an underclassman: 2021 SEC Freshman of the Year, 2022 John Mackey Award Winner, 2021 and 2022 First Team All-SEC, 2021 2nd Team All-American, and 2022 1st Team All-American. Now let’s be stat geeks for a minute: 119 receptions, 1,824 receiving yards, 20 touchdowns, 13 carries, 165 yards, and four rushing touchdowns, I am going to keep going because wait, there’s more! Add a rushing long of 75 yards and a receiving long of 89 yards and know Brock Bowers can take it to the barn every time he touches the ball.

Let’s look at the college stat lines of those seven perspective names mentioned earlier compared to two years of Bowers. Repeat, looking at two years of Bowers, not 2023. Heath Miller had fewer receiving yards in three full years (1703). Tony Gonzalez didn’t even have half the touchdowns Bowers does (8). Keith Jackson never had more than 20 catches in a season. Bowers’s 15.3 YPC dominates Kellen Winslow’s 11.5 YPC and more than doubled his touchdown totals in a year’s less time.

Again, Bowers bested these guys in two years versus three, he has more catches and yards than Mark Andrews ever did. Same with Pitts. MacAfee arguably put up the best fight. Only MacAfee and Keith Jackson have a national championship ring in the group. Bowers has two. Two thus far….

First-Round Talent Amarius Mims Is Out For Multiple Weeks At Least. What Now At Offensive Tackle?

The preseason 1st Team All-SEC right tackle suffered what Smart describes as a “bad” high ankle sprain, adding “He’ll (Mims) be back, it’s just a matter of how long.” The TightRope surgery being performed on Mims “uses surgical thread versus conventional metal screws and is designed to accelerate recovery.” I liked Alex Scarborough of ESPN’s point for some perspective that “Tua Tagovailoa had the surgery at Alabama in 2018 and was out for a month. Cedric Tillman had the surgery at Tennessee last year and missed four games. Closer to home, Georgia tight end Lawson Luckie had the surgery in mid-August and hasn't appeared in a game this season.”

Who is to know the recovery time of an athlete the size of Mims? 6’7 340-pound men with virtually no body fat are rare examples to find for perspective. Adding to “rare examples”, NFL Draft Analyst and film guru Dane Brugler had Mims as his 5th overall prospect for the 2024 NFL Draft. What does the staff do now?

Starting left guard Xavier Truss kicked out to right tackle against South Carolina and UAB and held it down admirably. Sixth-man Austin Blaske has yet to return from a knee injury, but will soon. Blaske has shown you he’s available to be thrown in a fire when it’s hot in the kitchen, even being referred to by Smart as the toughest player he’s ever coached. That’s not Disney Kool-Aid being poured. That’s high marks from Smart. Names like Dylan Fairchild and Micah Morris hold the team over for now.

Are The Inside Linebackers The Deepest Room On The Team?

Returning your two leading tacklers from a National Championship team is a good start (Smael Mondon and Jamon Dumas-Johnson). Head to that next tier of your current backers: Jalon Walker and Xavian Sorey. Those two are starting anywhere else in the country. Singling out Jalon Walker, that kid physically looks like he’s been to Pro Bowls for years. The perspective of how close they are? Sorey through three games got 4% more snaps than Walker.

Let’s knock out that next freshman group: Raylen Wilson, Troy Bowles, and CJ Allen. How does Glenn Schumann keep recruiting like this? Wilson is my favorite recruit from the 2023 class. They’re all finding snaps already as developing depth pieces (Allen 33% of defensive snaps, Wilson 11%, and Bowles 5%). Hell, Allen was the lowest ranked of the three out of high school (still a four-star) and is performing the best of the bunch. Rounding out the group, EJ Lightsey providing depth and being ahead of the recovery schedule after he was shot last year rounds out another positive. Reload, reload, reload.....

How Does The Handling Of Peyton Woodring And Jared Zirkel With Kickoff And Placekicking Duties Look So Far?

This section can be short and sweet. Peyton Woodring is a true freshman, but 4-7 with 1-3 from within 30 yards and an additional 42-yard miss will not cut it down the stretch. Particularly with another scholarship kicker on campus (Zirkel), this leash can’t be too long if Woodring doesn’t get it rolling. Yes, Dawgs fans have been spoiled with Rodrigo Blankenship and Jack Podlesny for the last seven years, but two scholarships in the kicking room have to equate to better production than this.

Do You Give The Punt Return Job Back To Badd Ladd McConkey?

When is Ladd McConkey back? Ladd’s 30 games of experience are hopefully/likely suiting up for this first road test in Auburn, where he humiliated the Tigers with 5 catches, 135 yards, and a touchdown en route to a 34-10 victory on his last Plains visit. Mekhi Mews’s nine punt returns for 173 return yards (19.2 avg) and one touchdown however begs the question, do you give Ladd the job back at punt returner?

Healthy or unhealthy, Ladd has not matched that level of punt return production: 21 punt return attempts, 279 yards (13.3 avg), and 0 touchdowns. You are going to be told how small Mews is 100 times. You are going to be told he is a walk-on 100 times. Who cares? He’s a football player and he’s established a role and is producing. The job is his.

How Can We Project The Growth Of This Room Beyond Kamari Lassiter?

Who is getting on the field and who isn’t? In the first four games of the year, there were 280 defensive snaps for the Georgia Bulldogs. No, Star is not included here in this discussion (Tykee Smith, Joenel Aguero, Justyn Rhett.) Here’s the snap count for those four games for cornerbacks:

Daylen Everette. 147/280

AJ Harris 73/280

Nyland Green 56/280

Julian Humphrey 51/280

Daniel Harris 35/280

It is clear Daylen Everette is the No. 2 after receiving 100% of the snaps against South Carolina in the sole SEC matchup before Auburn this weekend. True Freshman AJ Harris might be the most exciting looking down the road in terms of his ceiling and taking that No. 2 spot next year once Lassiter is in the NFL. The tad more experienced Green seems to find himself in a playing tier of depth with developing second-year Julian Humphrey. True Freshman Daniel Harris comfortably rounds out this group as the sixth. A young, stellarly talented group has their maturity and depth tested this week in one of the most hostile SEC environments whether you like to admit it or not.

Georgia Bulldogs 31 - Auburn Tigers 17

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