Hard to believe it’s already time for spring practice. Today I listened to Josh Pate’s podcast talking about the championship victory two months ago. It still feels great. I still can’t believe it sometimes. However, spring has sprung and UGA is looking to reload and defend the national championship. Most of the defense will be in the NFL soon as well as key offensive contributors. The following players are the ones I’m most interested in and some newcomers from the 2022 recruiting class.
Brock Vandagriff, QB, RS Freshman: I know Stetson Bennett is coming back. The same Stetson who led the national championship team. He still remains the least physically gifted of the four scholarship QBs on campus. Brock might be the most talented of all of them. Ideal height, big arm, and mobile enough to extend plays and pick up first downs like Joe Burrow. He’s had a year to get acclimated to the offense. Kirby (usually) has a policy of if the talent is equal, play the younger guy. The question will be can Brock make them equal this spring?
Arian Smith, WR, Junior: Arian has teased greatness over the last two years. He has teased an inability to be stopped. We have yet to see it. I would love to see it. The WR who can run a 4.2 in 40 yards is the same WR who can unlock the whole offense. It opens up the running game. It brings an extra defender and forces an opposing defensive coordinator to pick their poison. One on one for Bowers? McConkey? Leave only six in the box? These are all the questions Arian can help pose soon.
Jamon Dumas-Johnson, OLB, Sophomore: With how strong the 2021 team was, the second team defense got a lot of live game reps. Some flashed more than others. JDJ showed he might be the next guy at OLB for UGA. Nolan Smith and Old Man Beal return, but JDJ showed enough in ’21, and with the way UGA substitutes, to receive a fair share of snaps in 2022. Now we will see if he can make a leap similar to what Will Anderson did for Alabama in 2021.
Arik Gilbert, TE, Redshirt Sophomore: His return to Athens has been fraught with mystery. He did not play a snap in 2021, nor was he on the sidelines. No reason beyond “personal matters” was given. He is back with the team and showing up for workouts. His skillset is similar to Brock Bowers. Two Brock Bowers on the field at the same time has my interest significantly piqued. Spring practice should help him get in game shape with the hopes of him being able to get some run in the G-Day game.
Shone Washington, DT: Jordan Davis is gone and he leaves big shoes to fill (understatement). Will Zion Logue take those reps? Or will it be a newcomer? With Bear Alexander out for the spring, Shone steps in. The man is huge and he is strong. He will have every opportunity to move up the depth chart. The success of the 2022 team hinges on someone being at least a 80% success at what Jordan Davis can do. No one can be Jordan Davis. But can they be John Atkins? If so, the defense will be just fine.
Chandler Smith, WR: If Arian Smith can’t get it done, his “brother” might. Equal (or close enough) in speed with more experience as a football player. He offers something no one else besides Arian does. His only opponent is health. Stealing him from the Florida recruiting class is the cherry on top.
Oscar Delp, TE: It’s amazing how quickly the TE narrative script flipped for UGA. Seemingly never throwing to one 2017–2020 to one being the leading receiver in 2021. Brock Bowers was whatever is better than a pleasant surprise. However, the sophomore slump is on the table. More attention, more scheming. Can Delp shoulder some of the burden? Can he find the holes to make other teams pay? Can he take advantage of the few reps he receives? Spring will show whether or not he can.
Brett Thorson, P: I’ve always loved the Aussie style punters. Until now we’ve never had one. I can’t wait to see what he does while he is out there this spring.
It’s gonna be football season before we know it.