Secondary, O-Line strong, depth concerns

ATHENS — Georgia has as much talent as any program in the country, but the Bulldogs have more weak spots than they did a season ago.

That is to be expected after losing an NFL-record 15 players to the draft and having another 13 exit via the transfer portal, including four former starters.

RELATED: Kirby shares highlights from Scrimmage Two

Kirby Smart knows, however, that no one wants to hear excuses and his program’s No. 3 preseason ranking is one indicator of how high the expectations are soaring.

Georgia has been working on separating its personnel and improving areas of concern since the fall camp started.

Scrimmage Two likely provided some answers for the coaches, who will begin to formulate game plans and shake out the depth chart.

Here are five takeaways through two Georgia football scrimmages with the season-opening game against Oregon at 3:30 pm on Sept. 3 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium fast approaching:

1. Team health tops list

Georgia had great experience and depth last season, and that meant everything when team captains JT Daniels (injury) and Adam Anderson (dismissal) were forced to the sideline.

The Bulldogs’ don’t have that experienced depth as they did a season ago, when Smart was able to plug-in fifth-year players like Stetson Bennett and Robert Beal.

Attrition is always a factor, but that will especially be the case for Georgia, which, after the opener with Oregon, has a back-loaded schedule this season.

RELATED: Georgia down to 4 scholarship tailbacks, loses Andrew Paul for the season

2. DB turnover pans out

Fran Brown is the fourth secondary coach in five years at Georgia, but he appears to be the right fit based on the progress this fall.

Smart certainly set up his new assistant with some tremendous young talent, as second-year corner Kamari Lassiter continued to emerge with an interception of a deep Stetson Bennett pass on Saturday.

Freshman safety Malaki Starks, a 5-star, also continues to make plays and positive reviews from the normally reserved Smart.

3. QB position draws interest

Regardless of if you rank Bennett No. 2 among SEC quarterbacks like ESPN analyst Matt Stinchcomb or don’t rank him among the top 24 draftable QBs like Todd McShay, you will watch this position closely. Teams will challenge Bennett to throw outside the hashes and from inside the pocket more often.

RELATED: Kirby Says No. 2 roles between Vandagriff and Beck competitive

Smart also acknowledged on Saturday the No. 2 slot is situational, with Brock Vandagriff having worked himself into a closer competitor with Carson Beck than in spring drills.

It sounds similar to last season when, after Daniels’ returned from injury in late October, Smart told ESPN: “There are teams we play that we have to be able to use the quarterback in the run game. Well, that’s Stetson. There are teams we play that you have to get the ball out quickly and be really accurate. That’s JT.”

RELATED: Kirby Smart shared QB plan with ESPN last season

4. Special teams questions

There were several missed field goals in Scrimmage Two, per sources who were there, and it took a few kicks to get zeroed in during Scrimmage One.

To boot, freshman punter Brett Thorson has not been consistent, and Smart has indicated that the drop-off many suspected might happen with All-American Jake Camarda being drafted into the NFL was indeed playing out.

Georgia’s return game is beginning to look shaky, too, with receiver Kearis Jackson held out of the second half of the scrimmage with an ankle injury, and UGA needing to find more kick return options with running back depth enough of a question that Smart might opt not to use Kenny McIntosh as a primary return man.

5. Offensive big, literally and figuratively

The Georgia offensive line might be the best unit on the team now that left tackle Broderick Jones is reaching his potential and Cedrick Van Pran has locked down center.

RELATED: Auburn star rates Georgia line against Alabama’s

UGA’s run blocking and pass protection should be good enough for the Bulldogs to physically overwhelm most teams on their schedule.

Plug-in star tight ends Brock Bowers, Darnell Washington, Arik Gilbert and Oscar Delp, and Georgia’s offensive size and athleticism up front is unparalleled.

RELATED: Superman tight end Brock Bowers takes excellence in stride

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