These are the 10 Georgia football players you need to know for 2016. Who are the Bulldogs’ key stars to watch out for?
1. RB Nick Chubb, Jr.
Is he going to be able to go? Chubb isn’t being rushed back from a knee injury suffered in the middle of last year, but the hope is that he’s close to being back to the Nick Chubb who looked so good that the offense didn’t miss Todd Gurley. At 5-10 and 220 pounds with elite quickness and great deep speed, he’s been an NFL running back from the start averaging over seven yards per carry rushing for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman, and doing a decent job for the passing game catching 18 passes for 213 yards and two scores.
He started out 2015 even better, running for 747 yards and seven scores with a touchdown catch – averaging over eight yards per carry – with five straight 100-yard games to kick off the season. But it took just one carry before he was knocked out of the Tennessee game with a bad knee injury that knocked out his season. There’s hope he’ll be ready to roll right away, but he’ll more likely be fresh just when the SEC season kicks in full-force. If he’s 100%, he’s a top 15-caliber NFL draft prospect – he’s supposedly ahead of the schedule, but he can’t rush it.
2. QB Jacob Eason, Fr.
Is the super-recruit ready to roll right away? Even if it’s Greyson Lambert or Brice Ramsey at quarterback, Eason is still the star the franchise is going to work around – both college and pro – with next-level skills right out of high school. The Washington native kept his commitment to the program even after Mark Richt was out, and he showed off this spring that he’s ready.
He’s got the arm to make throws few college quarterbacks can crank up, and he’s got the 6-5, 211-pound size with the maturity to be able to handle the pressure right away. While he might need a little while to get acclimated to college life and the speed of the game, he doesn’t have to be rushed in. The fan base, though, will want to see the star on the field as soon as possible.
3. S Dominick Sanders. Jr.
An okay prospect, but not considered among the superstars of superstars, he did a nice job right away as a part of the secondary mix as a nice tackler with good upside. Last year it all worked at strong safety, turning in an all-star season making 48 tackles with six picks, returning one for a score while making a sack and five tackles for loss.
He came up with two interceptions against Kentucky, and picked off a pass against both Georgia Tech and Penn State to close out the season, but he was just as good as a steady tackler and decent helper against the run. At 6-0 and 189 pounds he’s not huge, but he’s able to pop with the range to play either safety spot.
4. RB Sony Michel, Jr.
It wasn’t like Nick Chubb filling in for Todd Gurley, but Michel was able to step in for an injured Chubb and keep the running game going. The 5-11, 212-pound shifty back ran for 1,161 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 5.3 yards per carry, and was a solid receiver making 26 grabs for 270 yards and three scores, but now he has to come back healthy and in one piece after suffering a broken arm on July 4th weekend.
A good part of the rotation early on, he took over in the Tennessee game when Chubb got hurt and ran for 145 yards in the loss. Able to show he could handle the work, he ran 20 times or more in seven of the last eight games. He’ll be the main man again until Chubb is ready, and while he might not be a special back, he’s more than good enough balance out the attack once he returns.
5. LB Tim Kimbrough, Sr.
The one-time super-recruit hasn’t lived up to his billing, and he was suspended for the bowl game for undisclosed reasons, but now that has to change in his senior year. A spot starter in the rotation, now he’ll need to take over as one of the key leaders to a corps that loses Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd and Jake Ganus – three of the team’s top four tacklers. Steady, the 6-0, 226-pounder isn’t big, isn’t flashy, and might not pull off the spectacular, but he’ll do the dirty work making 67 tackles with a sack and 5.5 tackles for loss with 13 tackles against Alabama and 11 a week later against Tennessee.
6. S Quincy Mauger, Sr.
The team’s fifth-leading tackler, Mauger came up with 58 stops with five broken up passes, but didn’t pick off any passes. At 6-0 and 200 pounds he’s built well and can provide a little bit of pop, coming up with eight stops against Alabama in a steady year. Can he start to come up with any interceptions? He made four as a sophomore and has been a good, sound pass defender over his first three years, and he can also get into the backfield from time to time.
7. LB Lorenzo Carter, Jr.
A superstar recruit as a hybrid defensive end/linebacker, he hasn’t quite been able to get It all going last year after a promising freshman season, but now he’ll get his shot to shine. He’s got the 6-6, 242-pound size to sort of look like another Leonard Floyd, but can he be a pass rusher? He’s got the skills to do it, and he started to shine just enough this spring to think it’s all about to come together. He wasn’t bad last year as much as he had to wait his turn – now he’ll get every shot. The new coaching staff should do wonders for him.
8. OT/OG Isaiah Wynn, Jr.
It doesn’t matter where he works, he’ll be the team’s rock on the line. A tackle at times, the 6-2, 278-pounder is better as an undersized guard. He started out inside last year, moved outside over the second half of last season, and now he can hold his own again at guard to be the people-mover for the ground game. He might not have the bulk to be a blaster, but he’s a talented technician who doesn’t make mistakes.
9. WR/PR Isaiah McKenzie, Jr.
Small and shifty, the 5-8, 170-pound junior doesn’t quite fit the Georgia mold of tall targets, but he’s productive no matter how he gets the ball in his hands. He only caught ten passes for 123 yards last year, but he ran 11 times for 117 yards and two scores and dominated as a punt returner, averaging close to 13 yards per try with two scores. His 53-yarder for a score turned out to be the difference against Auburn, and he hit Vanderbilt with a touchdown, too. There was talk about transferring, but he’s still around looking to add to his school-record five punt returns for scores.
10. CB Malkom Parrish, Jr.
It’s hard to make too much noise is a strong secondary with the safeties standing out, but Parrish did his part on the outside of one of the nation’s top pass defenses. Very smart and with good deep speed, he also showed off his physical nature with 42 tackles. But now the 5-10, 188-pounder has to be a little more dangerous after coming up with just two picks and four broken up passes – he’ll get his chances with quarterbacks attacking him against the bigger receivers.