ATHENS, Ga. — Last Saturday’s opener against Austin Peay didn’t provide Georgia much of a challenge. The secondary, in particular, was called upon to defend only 21 passes.
That won’t be the case for No. 3 Georgia in this weekend’s game at No. 24 South Carolina. Quarterback Jake Bentley and a host of quality receivers figure to give the Bulldogs’ young defensive backfield a huge early test.
“They’re big, they’re physical. They throw the ball vertically down the field. I think Jake Bentley does a tremendous job of throwing the touch passes, throwing fade routes, throwing vertical patterns, and they catch them at a high percentage,” head coach Kirby Smart said.
“I think if you look back over the last few games, they’ve hit a lot of those long balls, and they have big wideouts to do it with. They’re committed to the run game to the point where you can’t sit there and cover up the pass the whole time. So they take their shots and you have to cover them.”
Senior corner Deandre Baker and junior safety J.R. Reed obviously have plenty of experience and are two of the better players at their respective positions in the SEC.
Elsewhere, it’s a ton of youth.
This fall marks the first extensive action for sophomores William Poole, Richard LeCounte, Deangelo Gibbs and Mark Webb. Redshirt freshman Eric Stokes and true freshman Tyson Campbell will be playing in just their second collegiate game — and first in a hostile SEC environment.
So far, however, Smart likes what he’s seen, especially at corner, where Campbell made his first career start last week. He’s expected to start again against the Gamecocks.
“I feel a lot better about where we are at corner right now than I did at times in the past,” Smart said. “They just need to go play. They’re going to have to play well this week, because they (South Carolina) have some really good wideouts.”
All-American candidate Deebo Samuel gets most of the ink for South Carolina, and rightfully so, but the Gamecocks also have Bryan Edwards (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) and former Georgia commit Randrecous Davis.
“He’s probably the most underrated player in all of college football, because I don’t know that everybody in the country knows what the SEC knows about Deebo Samuel,” Smart said. “I mean the guy is phenomenal. When you look at what he’s done, even two years ago, he gave us fits in that game.”
Edwards and Davis know how to get deep. Both caught touchdown passes in last week’s win over Coastal Carolina.
Reed said: “They kind of remind me of our team with the receivers, running backs, and smart quarterback they have. They have really big receivers and they have a lot of speed. Especially from what you see from Deebo (Samuel). He is a very big and physical receiver. He is one of the top wideouts in the SEC.
“Jake Bentley reminds me a lot of Jake Fromm. He is very smart, a great competitor, and will play really hard out there for his team. It’s going to be a good game. We can’t make any mistakes back there in the secondary, but as long as we stay in communication, we’ll have a great game.”
–QB Jake Fromm picked up right where he left off last fall by completing 12 of 16 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns in last Saturday’s 45-0 win over Austin Peay. Freshman Justin Fields impressed in his Bulldog debut by completing 7 of 8 throws for 63 yards and one score while rushing for an additional 33 on three attempts. Both are expected to play against the Gamecocks.
–WR Demetris Robertson, the transfer from Cal, did not catch a pass but took a speed sweep 72 yards for a score. The play actually allowed Robertson to finish as the game’s leading rusher. He figures to get even more opportunities against the Gamecocks on Saturday afternoon in Columbia.
–RB D’Andre Swift received 10 of his 11 touches in the first quarter, rushing eight times for 43 yards and one touchdown. He also caught four passes for 33 yards. The Bulldogs were able to pull Swift in the second quarter and held him out the entire second half.
–S J.R. Reed may not get a lot of attention outside the state of Georgia but he’s become one of the two most dependable members of the defensive backfield along with preseason All-American corner Deandre Baker. Reed led Georgia with six tackles against Austin Peay and is considered one of the better overall leaders on the team.