The 2022 Georgia Bulldogs football team completed one of the best football seasons we have ever seen. The Bulldogs compiled a 15-0 record becoming the third team in the College Football Playoff Era to do so. The 2018 Clemson Tigers and the 2019 LSU Tigers are also a part of that elite group. The Bulldogs also successfully defended their title from the previous year. The question for Bulldog fans and the rest of college football is do they have the recipe to complete the first threepeat since the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the mid-1930s?
The main concern for Georgia heading to camp is replacing a key piece to that high-flying offense that averaged 41 points a game. Quarterback Stetson Bennett has held the keys to the Georgia offense for the last two seasons. In Bennett's last season as a Bulldog, he threw for 4100 yards, 27 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. He also completed 68 percent of his passes in his final season in Athens. With his departure to the Los Angeles Rams, the Bulldogs have a tough task finding a replacement for the two-time national champion. The two likely options for the Bulldogs this season are Junior Carson Beck and Redshirt Sophomore Blake Vandergriff. Carson Beck looks to be the front-runner after a strong spring campaign and the advantage of more game experience. Though Beck looks to be ahead in the battle it is still anyone's game once training camp gets started.
The Bulldogs are not completely tapped out on the offensive side of the ball. Georgia’s leading receiver, tight end Brock Bowers will be back after a year where he caught 63 passes for 942 yards averaging 15 yards per reception. The first-team all-American won the Jack Mackey Award in 2022 as the nation's best tight end. Bowers is considered to be the top tight-end prospect for the 2024 NFL Draft. The teams second leading receiver Ladd McConkey will also be returning to Athens. The team's leading rusher Kenny McIntosh will be with Seattle Seahawks in 2023 after being taken in the 7th round. That does not leave the Bulldogs empty-handed in the backfield with Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton both coming back. The two accounted for 1,361 yards on the ground. However, the Bulldogs will need to find that guy who can catch passes out of the backfield. Edwards and Milton are excellent on the ground, but they were nowhere near the pass-catching threats out of the backfield like McIntosh, so that will be something to pay attention to this upcoming season. On the defensive side of the ball, the Bulldogs lost key contributors like Jalen Carter, Kelee Ringo, and Nolan Smith who were all taken in the NFL draft. Smith and Carter were first-round picks while all three were taken by the Philadelphia Eagles. The Bulldogs will have their leading tackler Smael Mondon Jr back along with their two leaders in sacks Mykel Williams and Jamon Dumas-Johnson.
Georgia's schedule is also favorable for them this year. Their non-conference slate contains Tennessee Martin, Ball State, UAB, and in-state rival Georgia Tech. None of those teams should be a concern for the Bulldogs this season. In conference, there does not seem to be many people standing in their way. They do have games at Auburn and Tennessee this year but escape Alabama and LSU the two top teams in the SEC West last season. The path looks clear for the Bulldogs to head back to the SEC championship game and most likely another College Football Playoff berth.
Winning a national championship is hard, winning two in a row is even harder, and winning three is unprecedented. It has not been done in nearly 90 years. The 2023 Georgia Bulldogs have a chance to make history. With the talent coming back and a favorable schedule do not be surprised to see Kirby Smart and his team put a third ring on their finger.
Click here to listen to Mike Griffith (AJC-DawgNation) on "The Bill King Show."
Alek Kisiel / WNSR Columnist