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Georgia photo by Travis Bell / Georgia running back James Cook provides a big gain during last season's 45-16 win at South Carolina.

The reasons for Georgia's offensive optimism after last season's inconsistencies are limitless.

Quarterback JT Daniels is back, as is coordinator Todd Monken. The Bulldogs are deep at receiver, even deeper at running back and are returning veterans such as Warren Ericson, Jamaree Salyer and Justin Shaffer up front.

"I would say the biggest difference from last year would be that we have that continuity," junior tight end John FitzPatrick said. "We are returning a lot of starters and a lot of great players. We brought in a great deal of freshmen. We are excited, and we are ready to make explosive plays through the pass game and through the run game.

"I think we are going to connect on all cylinders."

Georgia went 8-2 last season and won the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl despite having a carousel of quarterbacks, with D'Wan Mathis and Stetson Bennett getting opportunities before Daniels took the reins with four games remaining. In those final four contests, the Bulldogs averaged 486 yards and 37.3 points per game.

While that late productivity was a notable improvement over Georgia's season averages of 424.1 and 32.3, it still wasn't in the same neighborhood of what Alabama assembled last year and LSU in 2019 during national championship seasons. Georgia sixth-year coach Kirby Smart expects continued improvement, but he also realizes Alabama and LSU set lofty bars in terms of their productive personnel.

"I think Alabama had four first-rounder receivers," Smart said. "I know they had them in separate years, but I don't know if we have four first-rounders at wideout. I know LSU had two first-round receivers on the team that we played (in the 2019 SEC championship game). They had a first-round back (Clyde Edwards-Helaire) and the first overall pick at quarterback (Joe Burrow).

"I don't know how ours compare to that because you can only know that after the fact. You can't compare it to before the fact. I do know that having skill players who can light up the scoreboard and score points is certainly critical, and I think that we have been able to close the gap in that if the standard was Alabama or LSU in terms of those offenses."

Options for Daniels in the passing game likely will begin with receivers Jermaine Burton and Kearis Jackson, though each missed time in preseason camp. Georgia also has one of the nation's top tight ends, Darnell Washington, who at 6-foot-7 and 265 pounds is a significant matchup problem.

Georgia is beyond loaded at running back with Zamir White, James Cook, Kendall Milton, Kenny McIntosh and Daijun Edwards, but Smart wants better blocking from all of his skill players.

"We've had just as many 7-, 8- and 9-yard runs, but we haven't had the explosiveness that we've had in the past," Smart said. "Most people would point to the sheer speed of the backs, but that's not the case with our guys. They're just as fast now as they were when we had the other guys, but we haven't been as explosive. A lot of that is breaking tackles at the second level and being able to block down the field and getting the second hit.

"Our wideouts like Mecole (Hardman), Riley (Ridley), Jayson (Stanley) and Javon (Wims) had second-level blocks, and we need to continue to do that."

Many of Georgia's offensive components flew out to California earlier this year with Daniels to work with the Southern Cal transfer. It made for quite the bonding session by multiple accounts, but whether it leads to the Bulldogs joining the elite ranks of recent Alabama and LSU attacks will be played out in the months ahead.

"We know we've got a good offense," Cook said, "so we're just working and coming together as a team."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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