With lots of top-end talent headed to the NFL, the back-to-back champion Georgia Bulldogs have some big shoes to fill on both sides of the ball. They're still easily the championship favorites at +220, per FanDuel, but who are the players poised to have breakout seasons for Kirby Smart and Georgia football in 2023?
These aren't necessarily sleepers to have big seasons, because Georgia's roster is always so loaded. Practically everyone on the team is supposed to be a good to great player at the college level.
Still, here are three guys that project to have bigger roles than last year and excel in those positions:
Ladd McConkey, wide receiver:
Georgia likes to run the ball more than throw it, but the Bulldogs have been able to find some success through the air in both of their championship runs. Ladd McConkey is one of the few guys on this roster that wasn't a highly-touted recruit, yet makes big contributions.
In his junior year, he was actually Georgia's leading receiver, though it didn't feel like it because of how much Kirby Smart likes to keep the ball on the ground. McConkey caught 58 passes for 762 yards and seven touchdowns. He also added 134 rushing yards and two more scores on the ground.
McConkey really shined in the CFP National Championship Game against TCU with five catches for 88 yards and two touchdowns.
As a high school prospect in Georgia, McConkey was just a 3-star and was the No. 187 ranked receiver in his class, per 247Sports. He redshirted as a freshman and has steadily improved since.
That performance in the championship game shows the promise McConkey has going into next season. He's not anything special in terms of his physical build or athleticism, though he does have high top-end speed. He also played many positions in high school and has helped out on special teams for the Bulldogs.
With Stetson Bennett now on the Los Angeles Rams, Carson Beck will take over at quarterback for Georgia. Bennett was undersized and, while he was a good, mobile athlete, he wasn't going to stand in the pocket and command the passing game.
Beck is a more traditional fit for this team, and he was the No. 5 pro-style quarterback in his class. At 6-4.5, 225 lbs, Beck has considerably stronger arm talent. He's more suited to let plays develop and deliver the ball to a guy like McConkey than Bennett was.
Bennett was obviously the right choice for Georgia football the last two years, as they won two championships. But that doesn't mean he was the best quarterback to maximize his receivers' production.
Kamari Lassiter, cornerback:
Kelee Ringo was Georgia's top corner last year, and Kamari Lassiter played right there alongside him. Or rather, opposite him. Lassiter started all 15 games for the Bulldogs a year ago and graded out strongly, particularly in the run game.
Lassiter is a physical cornerback who stands 6-0, 185 lbs. His 247 scouting report reads:
“Flat-out football player with experience in all three phases. Strong ball skills translate to cornerback role. Shows high-pointing, timing, and adjustment abilities commensurate to ample snaps at receiver. Instinctive high school cornerback who plays aware. Disruptive at the catch point in coverage. Physical tackler who can provide the big hit.”
Lassiter did his job well last year and has earned the right to take on his opponents' toughest assignments. While Lassiter was already an every down player, Georgia is counting on him to assume the responsibility of a team's top corner and lock up opposing elite receivers.
So far, there's no reason to believe he won't do just that. Expect Lassiter to take the next step and be a key part of what projects to be college football's best defense.
Marvin Jones Jr., EDGE,
No, not the Detroit Lions' wide receiver Marvin Jones Jr. The No. 2 ranked edge rusher in the class of 2022, that Marvin Jones Jr.
Jones didn't play a ton in his freshman season, but he had four total tackles and a sack last year. Georgia's defense was so stacked last year, they didn't exactly have all that much room for freshmen.
Still, Jones got a little bit of game experience at the top level of college football and certainly has the physical tools to emerge as one of the best pass rushers in the sport.
At 6-5, 250 lbs, this dude just looks the part. Even if he doesn't have a huge year this year, he'll get it eventually, and we're going to be watching Jones play on Sundays for a lot of years.
Jones missed the spring season with a shoulder injury, so it's important to monitor his health ahead of the season. However, Jones' physical traits and potential just make him too strong of a prospect to overlook this year.
Georgia hopes Jones can be the guy to replace the Philadelphia Eagles' 2023 first-round draft pick, Nolan Smith. The coaching staff loves the upside Jones has and will likely try to get him involved as much as possible early in the year.