Can the defending national champions do it again? That's the big question in the college football world as we head into the new season. The Georgia Bulldogs sent a record-setting 15 players to the 2022 NFL draft, which is a lot of lost production to make up for Kirby Smart's 2022 squad.
But the Bulldogs are saying "Challenge accepted."
Five of Georgia's elite defenders from last season went in the first round, and they are still projected to have a top 3 defense this season. If Georgia can avoid the pitfalls of Oregon and Alabama, then we'll once again see them in the four-team College Football Playoff. But this is the SEC we're talking about, and nothing is guaranteed in the South. But still, these five Dawgs are ready to rise to the challenge to repeating as national champions this season.
Jalen Carter, DT
Georgia has some big shoes to fill on that defensive line and Jalen Carter is just the man to do it. The Second Team All-SEC defensive tackle is poised to lead these Bulldogs to another national title. With 51 tackles in two seasons with Georgia, Carter could find himself on many NFL scout's draft boards, if he can repeat that same success.
Kelee Ringo, CB
Kelee Ringo is a name you should know in 2022, as you might remember him from last season for sealing the 2022 National Championship with his 78-yard pick-six. But Ringo is more than just that career-defining moment, the Georgia cornerback also logged 34 tackles, two INTs and a sack as a freshman last season. He was the No. 1 defensive back in the 2020 recruiting class, Georgia's best cover corner last season, and this year he may well end up being the star of the defense down in Athens.
Brock Bowers, TE
As a freshman, Brock Bowers was an All-American and First-Team All-SEC star, recording 56 catches for 882 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. Entering this season as Pro Football Focus's No. 1 tight end, Brock is an elite athlete with next-level speed and should continue to develop into the massive star he's projected to become. If Georgia returns to the CFB playoffs, it will be in large part due to the play of Bowers. Full stop.
Nolan Smith, LB
Nolan Smith enters his fourth year on the Georgia defense, for whom he has racked up 96 tackles, 8.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, an interception and three forced fumbles. The former No. 1 overall recruit in 2019 returns to Georgia as the veteran presence on this defense and appears ready to lead the Dawgs into battle. If he sets the edge, Smith is a dangerous pass rusher. He is already going to be a nightmare to block, much to the delight of Georgia fans everywhere, and if Smith can create chaos for opposing offenses, the Dawgs may just walk to the SEC championship and beyond.
Kenny McIntosh, RB
Georgia's rushing attack was good last season. It was balanced and they were able to pick up the yards when they needed them, but it wasn't at the level it was when Nick Chubb or Sony Michel carried the ball for the Bulldogs. But this year, Kenny McIntosh is starting to look like a breakout candidate in waiting, especially if Georgia is set to run the ball more this season. McIntosh also doubles as a receiving threat out of the backfield, and his athleticism allows him to find a hole and explode with a quick burst into the secondary. If he shows he can handle the workload of a feature back, we may see his name shoot up the draft boards as well. Keep an eye on McIntosh.