The Georgia Bulldogs have plenty of big shoes to fill after losing multiple starters from last year’s SEC championship team. Fortunately, there is no shortage of talent returning to Athens to help fill those spots. And with the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class for 2018, Kirby Smart has even more potential talent on deck.
In fact, nine of the highly touted newcomers from the 2018 signing class are already on campus. That should make for an interesting spring camp with several key position battles set to get underway. So, with that in mind, and spring practice right around the corner, here are five of the more intriguing players to keep an eye on in the coming weeks.
Justin Fields, QB
No one on the Georgia roster will be under the microscope more this spring than blue-chip, true freshman quarterback Justin Fields. The hype surrounding the prized signal-caller has already reached a fever pitch and for good reason. Not only does he possess elite attributes as a passer, his skills as a runner are equally impressive. The pressure to perform immediately will be at a premium. But if Fields is as good as advertised and up for the challenge, it will make for a compelling competition with returning starter Jake Fromm. At a minimum, it will be interesting to see what offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has in store for the talented freshman in the G-Day game.
Matt Landers, WR
Riley Ridley and Jeremiah Holloman appear to be the front-runners to replace Javon Wims in the starting lineup at wide receiver heading into spring practice. However, Landers is someone that could easily find himself in that mix with a solid showing this spring. Landers was the lowest-rated prospect in Georgia’s 2017 signing class, but quickly built a reputation as a legitimate playmaker against the first-team defense as a member of the scout team last season. His size (6-5) and big-play potential could help separate him from the competition en route to a breakout spring.
Monty Rice, LB
The Bulldogs have some monster shoes to fill at inside linebacker with the early departure of Roquan Smith to the NFL. And while that goes beyond being a tall order, there are several solid candidates ready to give it a shot. Nate McBride, Juwan Taylor, Tae Crowder and Jaden Hunter will all be in the hunt entering spring practice. But Rice, a rising sophomore, appears to be at the head of the pack, along with senior Natrez Patrick (if available). Instincts and sure tackling are Rice’s strong points. However, he will need to show improvement with his speed and athleticism in the spring to solidify a starting spot. Summer arrivals Channing Tindall and Quay Walker will add to the competition, in what should be one of the better position battles heading into the season.
Cade Mays, OT
Redshirt freshman Isaiah Wilson looks to be the favorite to land the starting right tackle job. However, Mays should prove to be a worthy adversary for Wilson in his bid to lock down the vacant starting spot this spring. At 6-foot-6 and 320 pounds, Mays already has the necessary size required to compete on the SEC stage and he enrolled early to help him get a jump-start on getting acclimated. As the No. 3-ranked tackle prospect in the country, he also has elite potential. He will have his work cut out for him to beat out Wilson, but Mays is someone that you will want to keep a close eye on as the competition heats up this spring.
Mark Webb, CB
Webb was a highly touted wide receiver coming out of high school a year ago, but mounting injury concerns in the Bulldogs’ secondary early last season prompted his move to cornerback. It proved to be a natural fit, as Webb’s standout performances on the practice field garnered rave reviews from coaches and teammates alike in 2017. He has ideal size (6-1, 190) to go along with all the tools necessary to become a breakout performer at cornerback for the Bulldogs. Webb will enter spring practice behind Deandre Baker and Tyrique McGhee on the depth chart. But he is an intriguing prospect that could emerge as a legitimate candidate for a starting spot.
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.