Georgia football has plenty of big-name returning stars that fans are already familiar with, but surprise contributors are always a large part of the team’s success year-to-year.
Players like Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey were unexpected key pieces to the Dawgs’ offense in 2021 and entered this season having already made a name for themselves.
Bowers’ expectectations coming into Georgia were high, but the production level he was responsible for as a true freshman was utterly unforeseen. He quickly became the biggest offensive weapon on the team and is still one of the best tight ends in the country.
McConkey got thrusted into a significant role in the offense due to an injury-riddled wide receiver room in the early stages of last season. He finished the year with the second-most receptions on the team, behind only Bowers.
Who are the 2022 unexpected stars of the Georgia football roster?
The player responsible for the third-highest reception total for the Dawgs was another freshman, Adonai Mitchell. It puts into perspective how important roster depth is, given how much of Georgia’s offensive production came from freshmen and guys who weren’t expected to contribute initially.
Let’s look at who could step up unexpectedly and become stars for the 2022 team.
Branson Robinson is a running back that looks like he was should have been a powerlifter rather than a football player. The 4-star true freshman out of Mississippi has drawn comparisons to Nick Chubb for his stature and physicality as a runner.
Georgia has solid depth at running back ahead of Robinson entering the season, but head coach Kirby Smart is not shy about playing young guys if they’ve earned the reps. Injuries are also unpredictable, meaning Robinson could be given a larger role earlier than expected.
His impressive strength and physical running style could make him a viable option in goal-line situations. Rotating in to spell primary backs Kenny McIntosh and Kendall Milton can keep their legs fresh and lessen their overall workload.
Robinson’s role could steadily increase as the season progresses if he proves to be a valuable asset as a rotational running back. With his build and archetype, all he needs is an opportunity to begin to make a name for himself.
Smael Mondon Jr.
Georgia’s inside linebacker corps has undergone a complete overhaul from the historic 2021 team. After seeing three inside linebackers selected in the NFL Draft, the Dawgs will be counting on younger guys to step in and fill those shoes.
Smael Mondon is a former 5-star prospect entering his sophomore season with the potential to break out as a major contributor on a reloaded Georgia defense. He should slot in alongside fellow sophomore Jamon Dumas-Johnson to patrol the middle of the field for the Dawgs. Both linebackers will look to prove themselves and fill a major void for the defense in 2022.
At 6-3 and 220-pounds, Mondon is a physical freak of an athlete with an incredibly high ceiling. Given his overall youth and inexperience, there will still be room for improvement even with a solid 2022 season. Still, with Smart and co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann’s reputation for developing linebackers, Mondon should make a big leap forward in production this season.
Georgia’s defense also has big shoes to be filled on the defensive line. With three first-round picks from the line alone, each player will be tough to replace. Perhaps the most challenging to replace will be Travon Walker, whose unique athletic ability led to him going No. 1 overall.
Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins could be a surprise candidate to step into that role. He was initially considered by most to be an interior lineman but has shown the versatility to be able to be deployed as an edge rusher. After appearing in just one game last season, the former 4-star prospect will see his role grow exponentially in 2022.
Georgia constantly rotates players on the defensive line to keep everybody as fresh as possible, so Ingram-Dawkins won’t get thrown to the wolves with unrealistic expectations for a player getting his first real playing experience.
Still, a much larger role will be in store for him this season and could allow him to grow into an every-down player over time. While he should not be expected to be a plug-and-play replacement for Walker, he will likely step in and be a surprise contributor.
There are a lot of players on this 2022 team that could explode onto the scene. Georgia has that kind of roster, and the only issue is lack of experience. The talent is there, and these three guys will use their talent to burst into the limelight. Who are some guys you feel like will be unexpected superstars in 2022?