Turning the page. That was the message on Georgia’s social media feeds on Monday afternoon. The video had no hype music. Instead, an equipment manager packed up helmets and jerseys after the National Championship game. The video ends with him sweeping up the leftover confetti off the floor. The 2022 season is over. Georgia opened Spring practice on Tuesday as the returning back-to-back national champions. The Bulldogs have 15 practices between now and G-Day on April 15. Here are the three biggest questions heading into Spring accompanied by quotes from Kirby Smart’s opening press conference on March 14th.
January wasn’t a great month for Georgia following the CFP National Championship. The championship parade and celebrations ended almost as soon as they began. An offensive tackle and staffer were killed in an automobile accident the night of the parade. Two potential draft picks and two current members of the team were arrested.
Not the way a team wants to start a run at a third-straight national championship. Smart addressed how he and his staff have dealt with the turbulent off-season. “Certainly, we haven’t met some of those requirements, and we want our student-athletes to meet those and take those things very seriously,” he said. “Our players are starting to be able to acknowledge and understand that when you make mistakes, the decisions that are costly can cost you your life. That’s not to be taken lightly.”
Smart faced scrutiny during the off-season over his team’s apparent issues with street racing. The Athens-Clarke police reported that both cars involved in the accident were driving at speeds of more than 100 m.p.h. Smart added in the press conference that he will continue to address the issue with the team. The team is taking steps to add educational programs on racing, in addition to current ones addressing drugs, alcohol, and domestic violence.
Smart went on to say he will let the legal process proceed before handling the arrests of the two current players. Rara Thomas, a Mississippi State transfer wide receiver, had his two charges dropped earlier this month. Jamon Dumas-Johnson is still waiting for his day in court.
New (Old) Offensive Coordinator
Georgia will have a “new” offensive coordinator in 2023. The Bulldogs joined South Carolina, Tennessee, Missouri, and Kentucky as teams from the SEC East adding new offensive coordinators in 2023. Mike Bobo comes in to replace Todd Monken who left to become the offensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens. This will be Bobo’s second stint as Georgia’s play caller. Smart spoke about how not much would change for the offense with Bobo coming in. “There won’t be much change in verbiage. If anything, there will be some additions, maybe some slight wrinkles,”
Bobo spent the 2022 season as an analyst on the Bulldog’s staff. He worked closely with Monken and the rest of the staff in game planning. Bobo was an obvious choice when thought about who would replace Monken. “The decision was the continuity we have on offense. We want to keep that going.”
Georgia had one of the most explosive offenses in the country in 2022. Bobo was a safe choice. Time will tell if he is the right choice. Georgia has plenty of talent returning at tight end, running back, and receiver in 2023. In addition, there will be a new quarterback heading into 2023, Bobo’s specialty.
All eyes will be on the quarterback room and competition for Georgia throughout Spring practice. Carson Beck, Brock Vandagriff, and Gunner Stockton will challenge to take over for former signal caller Stetson Bennett. Unlike the former walk-on, each of the quarterbacks came out of high school with four- or five-stars by their name. Each has bypassed the transfer portal to bide their time for this moment.
Smart hinted that the job is shaping up to be seemingly a two-horse race, for now. “I do look forward to seeing Carson (Beck) and Brock (Vandagriff) getting a lot of that action. They’ll both rep with the ones. Gunner (Stockton) has come a long way. I’m excited to see what those guys can do.” The Georgia quarterbacks will have three Saturday scrimmages throughout Spring practice and G-Day on the 15th to show to earn the job.
Beck and Vandgriff both have big arms. Beck came in late in the national championship game and showed off his arm, completing two of three passes for 31 yards. He is a more classic pocket passer. Vandagriff has had limited playing time in his Georgia career but has shown a bit more mobility from the pocket. Mobility and the ability to avoid the rush served Bennett well at key times during the previous two years. Stockton has a bit of a long shot. He originally committed to Bobo while he was South Carolina’s offensive coordinator.
Smart stated he would prefer to have a quarterback with one to two years of experience heading into the season. If either Beck or Vandagriff enters the portal in May, do not be shocked to see Smart pick up a veteran quarterback for insurance.
There is an instance where you could see both Beck and Vandagriff starting in 2023, perhaps in Jacksonville. Florida will be keeping a close eye on the competition, the Gators are in desperate need of a quarterback.
The page may have turned on in 2022, but a brand new page is starting for Georgia in 2023.
Photo Courtesy: Joshua L. Jones / USA TODAY NETWORK