Georgia football senior day demonstrates just how much rosters will change in coming weeks: ‘It’s a jigsaw puzzle’

Should he elect to return next year, he could climb higher.

“Yet to be decided if that will be my last home game,” Podlesny said. “That will be decided at the end of the season.”

The Georgia kicker is far from the only player with a decision to make in the coming weeks. Only for Stetson Bennett, Chris Smith and Robert Beal will Saturday definitively be their final home game. Georgia has many seniors who will be honored on Saturday, though some have already gone through the pregame ceremonies that accompany senior day.

“It’s like a jigsaw puzzle,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “I think we got seven or eight that will be repeat walkers. Meaning, they walked last year and they’re walking this year. And then we’ll probably have the same because the timetable for decisions and things like that. It’s off in college football.”

Smart is extremely proud of what this “senior” class has been able to do. Of the 2019 signees, that includes the likes of Kenny McIntosh, Nolan Smith and Warren McClendon, players who have already won a national championship and emerged as key leaders for the program.

“There’s not a huge star-studded cast,” Smart said. “There won’t be 15 draft picks out there. But there’s some guys that really care about UGA and have sacrificed a lot to this program.”

Saturday though won’t just be a final game for seniors. There will be draft-eligble juniors like Jalen Carter or Kelee Ringo who will possibly hear their names early on draft night.

Related: Georgia football very glad to get Jalen Carter back with Tennessee looming: ‘He impacts games different’

And given the transfer portal, a number of less-known names will also likely play their final home game in Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs had 13 players transfer out after last season.

Expect something similar again this offseason.

“We’ll know a lot more, you know, in the next coming weeks about all of it,” Smart said on the state of his roster. “Because nobody’s really been through this window. It’s very similar to last year.

“But the window — portal window opening and closing and not letting coaches go out on the road during the SEC Championship week so they can get their rosters right, it’s all kind of new and different.”

Georgia’s roster might be more held together than most if it’s able to make the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs didn’t have a playoff enter the transfer portal until after its season ended in the College Football Playoff.

Due to changes in the NCAA calendar, players have from Dec. 5 through Jan. 18 to enter the portal. There will also be a second portal opening in the spring from May 1 through 15.

The Bulldogs will have a game the week before the transfer portal opens, as Georgia will play LSU on Dec. 3. Smart understands the ask he has of his players in that they put the team before themselves.

“So we don’t get to go and have those conversations and do those things,” Smart said. “So each and every player has to have an ability to put the team first while at the same time realizing that, Hey, their individualism now in college football is bigger than ever in terms of decisions you make.”

Smart knows not every player he signs as a recruit will make it to senior day. It’s part of what makes Georgia the program that it is.

And what makes days like Saturday so special for those that are able to stick it out and make it to the end of their Georgia careers.

“You know, if you’re not good enough to play here, you’re probably not going to be able to play in the NFL,” Smart said. “So what do you want to be a part of? Do you want to be a part of something winning, something special? And that’s what we sell. And it’s not for everybody, but it’s what we sell.”

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