ATHENS — Georgia fans have a lot to thank this #1 soccer team of 2022 for, starting with the head coach.
Kirby Smart pleads for a spot on Mount Rushmore the SEC football coach alongside legends Paul “Bear” Bryant, Nick Saban and Steve Spurrier.
Smart and his Bulldogs recently became just the third program to go unbeaten in consecutive SEC seasons since the league split into divisional games in 1992.
UGA has also developed more NFL draft picks under Smart’s leadership in the past four NFL drafts than other collegiate programs, including last year’s record haul:
State of Ohio 35
Smart pointed to the tight calls Michigan and Ohio State had last week and how heavy favorites Florida and Tennessee lost in games to Vanderbilt and South Carolina.
“Reality is what you do on the field and you control how you prepare,” Smart said. “I worry a lot more about preparation than probability.”
The reality is also that it took a whole lot of staff and team work for Georgia to be on the verge of another championship run and a spot at the top of the SEC and passing Alabama.
Several players have risen at different times, from the most famous ($1 million earner Stetson Bennett) to perhaps the most anonymous (Australian newcomer punter Brent Thorson).
Here are the five most irreplaceable players on offense and defense this season:
#1 Christopher Smith (576 snaps)
Carter has made a crucial return from injury, logging snap counts of 48, 40 and 46 to lead a defense aiming to defend a perfect season and surpass last year’s group.
WATCH: Jalen Carter in takeover mode for the reloaded Georgia defense
#4 Kelee Ringo (591 snaps)
More dynamic than less perfect, the athletic Ringo displays a knack for big plays with the ability to keep up with the bigger receivers.
#5 Malaki Starks (603 snaps)
This true novice sensation leads the team in tackles (56) and PBUs (7), an impressive display of elite athleticism and player development.
Georgia tackles leader
1.Malaki Starks, 56
2. Jamon Dumas-Johnson, 54
3. Smael Mondon Jr., 52
4.Christopher Smith, 44
5.Javon Bullard, 33
#1 Brock Bowers (609 snaps)
Almost every opponent begins their game plan with #19 circled and must take into account this unique and explosive offensive weapon. Bowers has 3 TDs rushing on four carries, including the longest run of the season (70), along with his 4 TDs receiving. Darnell Washington is second among tight ends with 24 catches for 392 yards.
WATCH: Brock Bowers makes the most of ‘Bulldogs Bounce’ vs. Florida leads win
#2 Broderick Jones (684 snaps)
Stetson Bennett doesn’t have to look over the shoulder of the talented yet improving Jones in pass protection. Jones lived up to his 5-star billing and could become a top 10 pick with another season or decide to leave after this year.
#3. Kenny McIntosh (336 snaps)
UGA’s most versatile defenseman since D’Andre Swift, UGA turned to McIntosh from fourth behind when the Missouri game was at stake and he carried the team in the Slugfest win in Kentucky with 143 yards rushing. McIntosh leads the team in rushing (568 yards) and is third in receiving (33 catches, 341 yards). Daijun Edwards is second among defenders with 11 catches.
RELATED: Kenny McIntosh and Georgia D come through on a cold, windy day and win a tough win over Kentucky
#4 Ladd McConkey (495 snaps)
McConkey, Georgia’s most explosive perimeter receiver, suffered a painful foot injury earlier in the season and leads the team with 46 catches while averaging 9.6 yards on his 15 punt returns. McConkey also has the second-longest streak of the season (70 yards). Among receivers, Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint is second with half as many catches (23).
#5 Stetson Bennett (732 snaps)
The sixth-year quarterback has enjoyed his best season leading Georgia, throwing for more than 3,000 yards while notching 7 touchdowns. Bennett improved his footwork and pocket presence in the offseason, and Todd Monken has developed an offense that plays to his strengths. The Bulldogs are unbeatable when the self-proclaimed “milkman” is at his best, and even when things went wrong, Bennett found a way.
RELATED: Bennett is selling the nickname in a new NIL deal that will bring him over $1 million in revenue