Georgia football preseason storylines include starting quarterback competition

Summer officially has more than seven weeks to go but signs of the hustle and bustle of what’s to come in the fall are here.
A new school year arrives Wednesday for students in Clarke and Oconee counties
The MLB trade deadline just passed. NFL training camps are open.
And the two-time defending national champion Georgia football team officially reports Wednesday.
Preseason practices crank up Thursday.
“This team, the 2023 team, is still defining itself,” eighth-year coach Kirby Smart said. “I love the buy-in. I love the fact these guys being around each other and they love competing and they love football.”
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Here are five storylines to follow in the four-plus weeks before the Sept. 2 opener against UT-Martin:
Georgia football starting quarterback timeline
Carson Beck enters the preseason ahead of Brock Vandagriff for the starting quarterback job.
Is it just a matter of time before the fourth-year junior is anointed the starter or can the redshirt sophomore Vandagriff make it more interesting?
Smart was asked when he and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo need to trim the quarterback reps that also include redshirt freshman Gunner Stockton.
“I can’t put a timetable on that or a volume of plays,” he said. “The one luxury we have is Carson has had a greater volume, so if you’re willing to cut his volume, you’re able to increase the other two’s volumes with the ones."
Beck saw game action behind Stetson Bennett last season. Vandagriff played three games in spot duty.
“We didn’t give Brock an opportunity to open and do things in games,” Smart said. “Gunner didn’t get any. The closest thing these guys have to game action is the spring.”
Smart told ESPN.com he may know if Beck is the guy after the second preseason scrimmage.
UGA Bulldogs defense generating a pass rush
Georgia lost top 10 NFL draft pick Jalen Carter at defensive tackle and first-rounder Nolan Smith at outside linebacker. Fifth-round pass rusher Robert Beal also departed.
“One of my major concerns is, can we get to the quarterback?” Smart told CBSSports.com. “Do we have elite pass rushers or do we have to create it another kind of way and reinvent yourself? We have good defensive players, but I don’t know if we’ve got the guys on the edge and on the interior that we’ve had in the past.”
In the 2021 national championship season, Georgia’s defensive line also had first rounders Travon Walker, Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt.
Defensive end Mykel Williams and nose guard Nazir Stackhouse lead a defensive line that also includes defensive tackle Warren Brinson.
“I see a lot of guys that are hungry, a lot of guys that have a lot to prove," cornerack Kamari Lassiter said.
Outside linebacker Marvin Jones, coming off labrum surgery, is expected to be able to practice fully but Smart said he’s likely to be in a harness.
Getting and staying healthy at running back
While Kenny McIntosh is making waves in the Seahawks camp, Georgia still has Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards leading the running backs.
It’s a position where injuries will play into how carries are distributed. Branson Robinson (foot) will be limited and a timeline for him being able to practice fully or play is unclear.
Smart said that Milton was at “full health.” He’s dealt with an assortment of injuries including a hamstring this spring.
Edwards rushed for 769 yards and 7 touchdowns last season.
Freshman Roderick Robinson also is in the mix.
Smart expects redshirt freshman Andrew Paul, who sustained a torn ACL last preseason, to be able to be a factor but practice at first in a brace.
Walk-on Len’Neth Whitehead, a Clarke Central grad who was on scholarship at Tennessee, adds depth.
“He's got to get in shape and go into a competitive room and earn it," Smart said.
Who will be the kicker?
Jared Zirkel certainly helped himself in his chances to take over as Georgia’s kicker with his showing this spring.
Freshman signee Peyton Woodring will still have a chance to win the job.
Georgia is replacing first team All-SEC Jack Podlesny who held the starting job the last three seasons.
“I will say this. I was very pleased with Zirkel," Smart said. "He had his best spring by far, and it will be a good competition.”
The competition rolling into the season
When the opponent on the other side of the ball is a Clemson or Oregon, Georgia has reason to expect it needs its best players play after play.
Not so much with a soft serve September schedule that begins with UT-Martin, Ball State, South Carolina and UAB.
So the battle between Earnest Greene and Austin Blaske at left tackle and Nyland Green, Daylen Everette and Julian Humphrey at the corner spot opposite Lassiter may roll on.

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