The 2023 edition of the Florida-Georgia game is almost here, but it’s not too late for a crash course on the enemy.
The media has asked Billy Napier all week long about how the absence of UGA tight end Brock Bowers will affect the outcome of the game. Florida’s head coach has pointed out the abundance of talent on Georgia’s roster in response each time, and it’s hardly a cop-out of an answer.
Georgia has recruited at an elite level over the past several years and should be able to compete for a national championship for many more seasons ahead.
We can’t go over the whole roster right now, but let’s get to know five players that should make a difference for the Bulldogs on Saturday.
No. 15 QB Carson Beck
As usual, we start with the quarterback. The Carson Beck era has begun in Athens, and the junior signal-caller has put together a campaign comparable to Florida quarterback Graham Mertz.
Beck ranks third among SEC quarterbacks in passing yards (2,147) and is fifth in yards per attempt (9.14) this season, one spot ahead of Mertz (8.51). Both have 12 passing touchdowns this season. While Beck is losing the interception battle with four to Mertz’s two, both have a quarterback rating of 163 and some change. In fact, the two are separated by 0.15 points.
Like Mertz, Beck is growing more and more comfortable as the season continues. That’s not lost on Billy Napier and the goal will be to keep him limited this week.
“He’s gotten comfortable in their system. I think he’s got arm talent. He’s very accurate, and certainly, he’s done a nice job of making some plays with his feet,” Napier said of Beck. “He’s gotten better every week as he gains more experience and gets comfortable. You can see his confidence grow.”
Whoever replaces Brock Bowers
Beck and Georgia will be down their top option in the passing game, though, with tight Brock Bowers recovering from surgery. He leads the team with 52 targets, 41 receptions, and 567 yards while having more touchdowns (4) than drops (2).
Napier called Bowers one of the “best players of all time” earlier this week, but he didn’t say the Gators will have it easy with him sidelined. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart suggested that multiple players would replace Bowers’ productiveness following the injury, and the Bulldogs have plenty of elite tight ends behind Bowers.
Sophomore Oscar Delp, freshmen Pearce Spurlin III and Lawson Luckie are next up on the depth chart, and all three were ranked in the top 8 at the position out of high school.
No. 84 WR Ladd McConkey
Receiver Ladd McConkey could see a big uptick in targets this week. He was second on the team, behind Bowers, last season with 58 catches, 762 yards and seven touchdowns, but a back injury kept him sidelined through the first four weeks of 2023.
Now healthy, and coming off a bye, McConkey could make the Florida game his big return. He hauled in four catches for 51 yards and a touchdown last year against the Gators. Holding him to that stat line again would give Florida a shot.
No. 24 S Malaki Starks
Georgia’s defense constantly loses key pieces to the draft, yet Kirby Smart manages to replace that talent at an equal rate. While the Bulldogs’ D may not carry the same reputation as last year’s squad, the Gators are certainly in for a challenge.
Leading the secondary is Malaki Starks, who is one of the nation’s top second-year defenders. A finalist for the Shaun Alexander Freshman of the Year Award in 2022, Starks leads the Georgia defense and was named to several midseason All-America teams.
He holds the highest defensive grade on the team, according to PFF, with an 89.8 overall. That’s a top-5 figure in the SEC and is in the top 20 across all of Division I football. Graham Mertz is going to have let it fly at some point. Hopefully, Starks isn’t around when that happens. He’s also an elite run defender.
No. 2 LB Smael Mondon Jr. and No. 7 LB Jamon Duman-Johnson
Leading the front seven of Georgia’s defense are linebackers Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Smael Mondon Jr. Both have played over 250 snaps this season and help anchor the defense of the top-ranked team in the country.
Mondon leads the team with 32 total tackles, 13 quarterback pressures and eight quarterback hurries. While his overall defensive grade of 62.0 is on the low end for Georgia, his tackling is a strong point.
Dumas-Johnson leads the team with 2.5 sacks for 23 yards and 4.5 tackles for loss. He is the highest-rated run defender up in the front seven and should be an equally disruptive presence as Mondon.