We continue our look at the best players on each SEC team by checking out the top 10 Georgia Bulldogs.
1. Nick Chubb: It remains to be seen whether Chubb returns to the form that made him one of the nation’s top running backs before suffering a gruesome season-ending knee injury last year. When healthy, he has the ability to dominate, as evidenced by a breakout freshman season where he rushed for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns after taking over for a suspended Todd Gurley at midseason. Chubb had 747 yards and seven scores last year when he went down against Tennessee at midseason, and Georgia was a much less imposing team without him.
2. Dominick Sanders: The only 2015 Associated Press first-team All-SEC pick returning for the Bulldogs is junior safety Sanders. One of the top playmakers on Georgia’s defense, Sanders led the team with six interceptions and six pass breakups. Only six FBS players had more interceptions than Sanders last season, and his 205 interception return yards were the most by any Georgia player in one season since at least 1976. The Bulldogs lost several key players off last season’s defense, so Sanders’ presence will be especially important.
3. Sony Michel: He’s not the same style of running back as Chubb, but Michel did a darn good job replacing him in the second half of last season. Michel had been a multi-dimensional player when both he and Chubb were healthy, lining up at receiver and in the backfield. Once he took over as the lead tailback after Chubb’s injury against Tennessee, he rushed for 110.6 yards per game -- including his run for the game-winning touchdown on the first overtime play against Georgia Southern. Nobody knows yet how the Chubb-Michel tandem will function in 2016, but the Bulldogs’ new regime is in much better position because of the presence of the two star junior backs.
4. Terry Godwin: With Malcolm Mitchell gone, Georgia desperately needs to identify a new go-to weapon in the passing game. Perhaps Godwin will be that guy. The speedy sophomore is Georgia’s top returning receiver with 35 catches for 379 yards and two touchdowns last season. He also rushed for a touchdown and threw for another. Godwin’s productive second half of 2015 -- he caught touchdowns in two of the last three games and notched a season-high 78 receiving yards against both Missouri and Georgia Tech -- makes him one of Georgia’s few proven commodities.
5. Greg Pyke: The Bulldogs return three starting offensive linemen -- including second-team All-SEC center Brandon Kublanow -- but Pyke might have the highest ceiling of the group for 2016. The 6-foot-6 senior started 23 games over the previous two seasons at guard, but has practiced at right tackle this spring while new position coach Sam Pittman has experimented with a number of lineups. Pyke has been named to various all-conference and All-America teams in the past, so he will be one of Pittman’s pivotal performers as he settles on a starting five.
6. Isaiah McKenzie: The fleet-footed junior still has a lot to prove as a receiver -- he had just 10 catches for 123 yards last year -- but he could become one of the SEC’s top kick returners in history before it’s all said and done. McKenzie returned two punts for touchdowns last year after taking two punts and a kickoff to the house as a freshman. McKenzie is tied for fourth in SEC history with four career punt return TDs, three behind Alabama’s Javier Arenas.
7. Davin Bellamy: Now that star pass-rushers Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd are chasing NFL dreams, Bellamy is among the leading candidates to take over as a starting outside linebacker. The 6-5 junior trailed only Jenkins and Floyd among Georgia players with three sacks and nine quarterback hurries a season ago. He also forced two fumbles -- one of which Floyd recovered and returned for a 96-yard touchdown against Tennessee. Potential first-round pick Floyd paid Bellamy the ultimate compliment at Georgia’s recent pro day, saying his former teammate might be the superior player.
8. Malkom Parrish: Last season, his first as a starter, Parrish did a bit of everything for the Bulldogs’ secondary. The junior cornerback registered 6.5 tackles for loss (third on the team), 42 tackles, one sack, picked off two passes, recovered a fumble and blocked a punt. He completed the season in strong fashion, matching a career high with six tackles (1.5 TFLs) in the bowl win over Penn State after picking off passes against both Georgia Tech and Auburn.
9. Lorenzo Carter: The 6-6 junior has not lived up to his five-star billing yet, mostly living in Jenkins and Floyd’s shadows in his first two seasons. Now Carter and Bellamy have an opportunity to form a strong pass-rushing duo of their own. Carter failed to build off a stellar freshman season by notching just 19 tackles and two forced fumbles last season. However, nobody would dispute the notion that he possesses legitimate star potential. It’s up to Carter to make something of that ability.
10. Quincy Mauger: There are players with higher ceilings on the Georgia roster, but senior safety Mauger deserves the last spot on the list for being a consistent presence in the lineup. He tied for the team lead with four interceptions as a sophomore and earned honorable mention All-SEC honors that season before becoming a full-time starter for the first time last year. Mauger led Georgia’s secondary with 58 tackles and finished second on the team with five pass breakups.