Projecting Who's Staying and Who's Leaving Georgia After Bowl Game

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 1, 2023

Projecting Who's Staying and Who's Leaving Georgia After Bowl Game

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    Stetson Bennett
    Stetson BennettJonathan Bachman/Getty Images

    For the second straight year, the Georgia Bulldogs are headed to the College Football Playoff National Championship. They defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 42-41 in the Peach Bowl on Saturday.

    Soon enough, though, UGA will begin retooling the roster.

    As usual, the program will have an enormously talented group. Georgia has stacked elite recruiting classes for several cycles, and top transfers will heavily consider—or have already picked—the SEC powerhouse.

    Georgia will inevitably lose talented players to the NFL draft and transfer portal but will enter 2023 in excellent shape to compete for an SEC title and another trip to the CFP.

Who's Leaving?

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    Christopher Smith
    Christopher SmithBrandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

    The Seniors

    The typical disclaimer applies to seniors who technically have another year of eligibility after the NCAA didn't count the 2020 season. However, quarterback Stetson Bennett, defensive end Robert Beal Jr. and safety Christopher Smith have exhausted their time in college.

    NFL Departures

    Early declarations for the draft are nothing new to Georgia, which has a handful of potential first-round selections. The biggest names to know are defensive tackle Jalen Carter, cornerback Kelee Ringo, offensive tackle Broderick Jones and linebacker Nolan Smith. Running back Kenny McIntosh, tight end Darnell Washington and defensive lineman Nazir Stackhouse could also pursue the NFL.

    Arik Gilbert and Future Transfers

    Understandably, players haven't yet announced if they're planning to leave Athens. For example, most of last year's 13 transfers exited after Georgia's championship pursuit ended. The marquee departure, though, is tight end Arik Gilbert. The former top recruit transferred to UGA in 2021 but made a minimal impact in his two seasons.

Who's Probably Staying?

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    Brock Bowers
    Brock BowersJames Gilbert/Getty Images

    Brock Bowers, TE

    No matter who starts at quarterback—more on that shortly—Georgia's new starter can target an All-American tight end. Brock Bowers has a pair of 50-catch campaigns in two seasons with the Dawgs and is likely to appear on early 2024 NFL mock drafts.

    Top Defensive Players

    Six players who aren't even draft-eligible are main contributors for UGA's vaunted defense. This group includes defensive end Mykel Williams, linebackers Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Smael Mondon Jr. and defensive backs Javon Bullard, Kamari Lassiter and Malaki Starks.

    QBs, QBs, QBs

    If a big-name transfer enters the portal, the Dawgs may express interest. Georgia is well-prepared for Bennett's departure, though. Current quarterbacks include 2020 4-star Carson Beck, 2021 5-star Brock Vandagriff and 2022 4-star Gunner Stockton. Perhaps of note, Beck earned the backup job this season.

Who's on the Way?

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    Dominic Lovett
    Dominic LovettJay Biggerstaff/Getty Images

    Key WR Transfers

    Georgia has already swiped a couple of established wide receivers from other SEC programs. Dominic Lovett paced Missouri with 56 catches and 846 yards in 2022, while Mississippi State's RaRa Thomas grabbed 44 passes for 626 yards and seven touchdowns.

    So Many Top Defensive Prospects

    It's kind of ridiculous at this point, you know? Georgia's second-ranked recruiting class includes nine defenders who are rated top-100 overall talents. The headliners are 5-star edge-rusher Damon Wilson and 5-star cornerback AJ Harris, though edge-rusher Samuel M'Pemba is also worth a mention as the nation's highest-ranked 4-star.

    Peyton Woodring, K

    Specialists only command the spotlight in clutch moments. Since veteran Jack Podlesny is likely moving on, the Dawgs need a new face on center stage next season. Georgia recently signed Peyton Woodring, the nation's top-ranked kicker. He drilled a 60-yard attempt during his senior year.

    Recruit rankings via 247Sports.