When Georgia concludes spring football practices on April 16 with its annual G-Day game, the Bulldogs will unveil a lineup that has lost more starters from last year’s historic national title team (14) than it returns (13). Gone are defensive linemen Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt, who anchored the best defense in the country, and linebacker Nakobe Dean. Gone is defensive coordinator Dan Lanning, who is now the head coach at Oregon — which happens to be Georgia’s first opponent of 2022.
The Bulldogs, though, return quarterback Stetson Bennett, who went 11-1 last year as the starter. Linebacker Nolan Smith returns, along with defensive back Kelee Ringo, who had the game-clinching 79-yard interception return for a touchdown in the College Football Playoff National Championship game against Alabama.
For those wondering if Georgia can defend its first national title in 42 years, coach Kirby Smart isn’t taking the bait.
“You don’t defend a title,” he told reporters in March. “… We start completely new. That’s so hard for the media to grasp. It’s not hard for us because we go into a different part of the program, offseason conditioning program. What’s different about the offseason conditioning program than it has been in the past? Not a whole lot. We’re doing the same things we do to build up to the point we went to last year.
“We have holes to fill just like we do every year. Probably just more this year than in years past based on guys leaving and the departure. We also have more mid-years here to fill some of those roles. We’re certainly not deep enough at several positions, but I’m not here to cry about it. I’m here to solve it and figure it out and get the best guys.”
And, of course, try to win another national title.
Whether or not there’s another team in the SEC besides Alabama that can challenge Georgia is one of the four biggest playoff questions entering this season. And no, it’s not too early — after all, spring practices are the first step toward answering them.