All of the National College Football Awards Association (NCFAA)’s watch lists for the 2020 season are now out. 11 separate Dawgs were singled out as players to keep an eye on this season for 12 different awards. Those 11 players are split across all three phases of the game, showing just how balanced this team should be this coming season. When it is all said and done, a handful of these Bulldogs named to watch lists could very well add their names to the list of Dawgs to have added these trophies to their mantle.
Georgia Bulldogs Named to Watch Lists
Offensive Skill Positions
Six of the 11 Dawgs on the watch lists are from the offensive side of the ball. Sophomore wide receiver George Pickens was named for the Biletnikoff Award for the nation’s most outstanding receiver. Following a stellar true freshman season in 2019 where he finished in the top ten of SEC receivers in yards per reception and receiving touchdowns, Pickens will look to pick up where he left off, but this time with a new quarterback tossing him the rock.
Speaking of new quarterbacks, graduate transfer Jamie Newman saw his name appear on two separate lists: the Davey O’Brien award for the nation’s best quarterback and the Maxwell Award for the country’s best all-around college football player. Newman is widely being predicted to be the starter that will emerge from a crowded quarterback room this season. The former Wake Forest quarterback is coming off of a season where he finished top five in the ACC in 12 different statistical categories, but he will have to beat out USC-transfer JT Daniels and true freshman Carson Beck before he can even worry about competing for national awards.
Another graduate transfer saw his name pop up in conversation for the Dawgs. Tre’ McKitty was listed for the John Mackey Award for the nation’s best tight end. McKitty will play a huge role for the Dawgs and will look to help whichever quarterback takes over to settle in. McKitty possesses a ton of size, standing 6’5” and weighing 245. This will be huge for any quarterback that needs a big body to throw to while looking to settle in. McKitty should be a solid number two or three target in the passing game this season.
A Loaded Backfield
Sharing the backfield this season will be a pair of incredible running backs. Likely number one choice, Zamir White, and his co-star, James Cook, both were members of the Doak Walker watch list for the country’s best running back. White, or as some Georgia fans more affectionately call him “Zeus,” was often the second or third choice back behind D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien, but he will truly get the chance to show just how good he can be during his redshirt sophomore campaign. Cook will also see a large increase in touches and likely a large increase in production. Cook could offer real lightning to White’s thunder, just as Sony Michel was to Todd Gurley and/or Nick Chubb. The power and speed combination of the two could be lethal for some defenses this fall.
The final offensive player to get some preseason recognition is from a position often overlooked. Junior center Trey Hill got the shout for the Outland Trophy awarded to the best interior lineman. If Hill has a truly great season, that will help the five men listed before him immensely. Hill will be the only returning starter on the offensive line for Georgia, but he is a good piece to return, having been named Second Team All-SEC last season. Hill will be the veteran of the line looking to hold everything together for the guys behind him.
What could arguably be Georgia’s strong suit this season, the defense saw four players getting some recognition in July. The most highly recognized member of the unit was junior cornerback Eric Stokes, who saw his name pop up on four separate lists: the Bednarik Trophy for the best defensive player, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy also for the best defensive player, the Jim Thorpe award for the best defensive back, and the Wuerffel Trophy for the best player both on and off of the field in academics, athletics, and serving their community.
Thus far, Stokes has appeared in twenty-two games for the Dawgs but is still looking for his first career collegiate interception. Despite not yet taking the ball away from his opponent at a high rate, Stokes is steadily improving every year. With Deandre Baker gone, Stokes will likely be taking over left side defensive back duties. He’ll get even more chances to rack up some interceptions.
Joining Stokes as a widely named defender on the back end, senior safety Richard Lecounte III was listed for the Bednarik Trophy, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, and the Jim Thorpe Award. Lecounte will be among the biggest of the senior presence on defense and will likely be a field general of the defense. The safety is coming off of a season with six forced turnovers and will be looking to build on it while leading and mentoring some of the younger guys around him.
In the Trenches
As we move a bit closer to the trenches, we get to another senior: inside linebacker Monty Rice. Rice was listed for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Butkus Award for the best linebacker. The linebacker is coming off of his most tackles in one season (89). It was good enough for 10th in the conference. As a senior, Rice will be joining Lecounte as a leader on the defensive side.
Finally, on defense, redshirt sophomore Azeez Ojulari was named for the Butkus Award watch list. Ojulari is coming off of a season where he played very well. After the season, he was named the Most Improved Defensive Player during the Dawgs’ post-season awards gala. Ojulari will be looking to continue that improvement and snowball it into a great 2020 season.
The one special teams’ player named to a watch list was Jake Camarda. Camarda was recognized on the list for the Ray Guy Award for the nation’s top punter. Camarda has been a great asset to Georgia when it comes to the field position battle. Last season, the now-junior punter finished fourth in the SEC and sixth in the nation in average yards per punt. Punters are not the sexiest position on the field by far. But, when you have a talent like Camarda, the punter can have a huge impact. It could ultimately be the difference in winning and losing some games.
Overall, there are some very good Dawgs on these watch lists for the 2020 season. If everything goes to plan, do not be surprised to see some of them on later shortlists. Semifinalists, finalists, or ultimately as award winners are likely.