ATHENS — It’s known that Florida has a talented group of pass-catchers. Between Trevon Grimes, Van Jefferson, tight end Kyle Pitts and a number of other options, the Florida group doesn’t just have high-end talent, but it also has depth. It is the best part of the Florida offense.
“They’ve got as deep a group of wide receivers as I’ve seen anywhere from top to bottom,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “They’ve got six, seven, eight guys playing wide receiver that are really good players. An elite tight end, one of the best in the country.”
Perhaps no one knows this better than Georgia defensive backs coach Charlton Warren. In addition to scouting the Gators ahead of their match-up with No. 8 Georgia, Warren also saw them every day in practice last year when he was the cornerbacks backs coach for Florida.
So as the Georgia secondary gets ready for its biggest test of the season, you can bet Warren is sharing tips with his group of defensive backs.
“He’s given some tips and he knows those guys inside and out. That’s definitely helped us,” senior safety J.R. Reed said
Warren joined the Georgia staff this past offseason, filling part of the role that Mel Tucker left when he took the job as Colorado’s head coach. In Warren’s first year with the Bulldogs, Georgia ranks third in the SEC in passing yards allowed per game. It’s given up just 6 touchdowns while snaring 5 interceptions and allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 55 percent of their passes. Only Wisconsin, Ohio State and Clemson allow fewer yards per attempt.
And Georgia has been playing without one of its starting cornerbacks for the past month, as sophomore Tyson Campbell has missed the last four games with a turf toe injury. Campbell did return to practice last week but had to have his workload scaled back on Thursday. The expectation is that he should be able to play against Florida.
Which will be needed given the arsenal the Gators have. Florida has four wide receivers with at least 20 catches and five with more than 200 receiving yards. Georgia, by comparison, has only one wide receiver with 20 catches.
“Those guys are really good. They have a lot of weapons,” Reed said. “You never know who is going to get the ball, so we have to play really well in the secondary.”
Georgia safety J.R. Reed speaks on Charlton Warren, defending Florida
Florida will also be getting back its most explosive playmaker in wide receiver Kaduris Toney. He’s only played in two games this season but is expected to return for the Gators after dealing with a shoulder injury.
In Smart’s press conference this week, he mentioned if Georgia is to limit Florida’s passing game, it will be because the Georgia pass rush is able to bother quarterback Kyle Trask and the secondary will be able to hold up in man coverage against the talented array of Florida receivers.
That latter part should be made easier if Georgia is able to pair Campbell with the likes of Eric Stokes. Against Kentucky, Georgia rotated between junior D.J. Daniel and senior Tyrique McGhee at the cornerback position.
As for the former, Georgia has struggled to generate a consistent pass rush against Power Five opponents. The Bulldogs have just 4.0 sacks in their past four games, and all but one of those came in the game against Tennessee. If Georgia is going to best Florida, the Georgia pass rush is going to have to make things difficult for Trask in order to help out the Georgia defensive backs.
“We have to make sure he can impact the quarterback. We have to make sure we get sacks and get there,” Ojulari said.
To date, Florida is the best passing offense Georgia will have faced among Power Five competition. Wide receiver is the one position group that has a similar recruiting profile to that of Georgia, as Grimes, Jefferson, Tyrie Cleveland and Jacob Copeland were all top-120 recruits.
So if Georgia is going to slow this group, and thus the Florida offense, down, it is going to take a total team effort from all levels of the Georgia defense.
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