2023 UGA Football Update: What We Know So Far
2023 UGA FOOTBALL UPDATE: WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR – Part of what has made Kirby Smart successful at the University of Georgia is his consistent messaging he uses each year.
Leading up to the ‘21 National Championship, Smart emphasized connection between teammates, using “skull-sessions” for players to get to know one another on a deeper level. This connection developed a step-up in leadership from key players and culminated in UGA winning its first title in 41 years.
Last year, Smart set the tone at UGA’s SEC Media day for his message: we will not be hunted. Despite being the reigning champions, Smart wanted his players to know who would be doing the hunting all season. He made sure to repeat that phrase before the season opening game, a 49-3 win against Oregon, and again before the 63-7 victory over TCU.
This year, Smart’s tactics have not changed, only his statement. This year’s slogan is “Better never rests.” Coach Smart tied this phrase to his program, noting that complacency will not be a part of the ‘23 squad.
A rugby team with 100 years of success behind them, the New Zealand All Blacks, provides the inspiration for this mantra.
“What drives us this season is intrinsic motivation. We are not going to be controlled by outside narratives, what people say, and who is going to be the quarterback. The intrinsic motivation comes from within and what we decide to do.”
As fall camp begins this week for the Dawgs, the fight against complacency starts. However, the Dawgs will not be at full strength at the start of practice, and some are in need of rest and recovery.
Two notable contributors will be limited in practice and likely will miss one or more games to start the season. Starting linebacker Smael Mondon is still recovering from an injury in the spring and will be held out.
Look for Xavian Sorey, Jr. and Jalon Walker to fill the role alongside Jamon Dumas-Johnson at the linebacker role. UGA will rotate in several guys, but I’m most excited about Jalon Walker, who came on strong as a 3rd down pass rusher at the end of last season to take more snaps.
RB Branson Robinson will also be limited with an injury to start the fall.
While Robinson is 3rd on the depth chart, he will likely be a major contributor this fall.
Robinson scored two touchdowns in the national championship, and if he can take the next step this year he will be a force to be reckoned with. Robinson’s running style is reminiscent of Nick Chubb, although he is not quite as physically impressive as the UGA legend.
Robinson’s injury is more concerning because starting running back Kendal Milton has yet to have an injury-free year. Milton has picked up a number of hamstring injuries, and if he cannot stay healthy in fall camp the Dawgs will be down to two healthy running backs on scholarship at the beginning of the year.
Sophomore running back Andrew Paul is still recovering from his ACL injury suffered last year.
Georgia fans will also anxiously monitor Arian Smith’s health this fall. The speedster provided key catches against Ohio State and Tennessee last season, but his production has been limited in his two seasons so far by injuries.
Kirby Smart will do everything he can to make people think that there is a quarterback competition this fall. There is not one.
Carson Beck is the guy and Brock Vandagriff will play only if Beck can’t make good decisions. Beck was head and shoulders better than Vandagriff in the spring game. he’ll continue to light it up this season.
The question around him is can he lead this team in hostile environments or when the game is tight. There isn’t a question on his talent, just if he has ice in his veins. Time will tell.
UGA has rounded up a large recruiting class so far this fall. However, the Dawgs will not rest in their attempt to regain the #1 ranked class for ‘24.
Be on the lookout for announcements from top safety, KJ Bolden, on August 5th, running back, Nate Frazier, on August 6th, and DL, Williams Nwaneri, on August 14th.
The Dawgs should land Frazier and are in the mix for both Bolden and Nwaneri. Bolden is a Georgia boy that Kirby has personally recruited for years. FSU, Auburn, and Ohio State have all made significant pushes to land him. I’m betting that Kirby’s relationship and Bolden’s new teammate, Dylan Raiola, will be enough to make the Dawgs get a winning outcome on August 5th.