ATHENS — Georgia already faced the most explosive player in the SEC this season.
But they might be seeing him again, with the title arguably passed from Alabama receiver Jaylen Waddle to Florida receiver Kadarius Toney.
“He’s extremely hard to tackle, he’s got extreme quickness — one-step quickness — and he plows powerful,’ UGA coach Kirby Smart said, asked about the 6-foot, 193-pound Toney.
“He’s elite as far as his cutting ability, (and) his ability to make guys miss,” added Florida defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
Toney, his 22 catches tied for the Gators’ team lead all-world tight end Kyle Pitts, is just one of the new faces set to play a prominent role in the storied Georgia-Florida rivalry on Saturday.
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The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (4-1) play the No. 8-ranked Gators (3-1) at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in Jacksonville Florida.
Kearis Jackson is Georgia’s answer to Toney, a 6-0, 200-pound junior who has seemingly put the injury bug behind him after being derailed by hamstring injury his freshman season, and a broken hand in 2019.
Jackson, who like Toney played in last year’s game but didn’t have a catch in it, leads the Bulldogs with 24 catches for 348 yards.
In fact, only two players return from last season’s game that had more than two catches in the Bulldogs’ 24-17 win in 2019. Pitts, who had 4 catches for 78 yards, and UGA’s Demetris Robertson, who had 2 catches for 20 yards.
Georgia’s George Pickens played in last season’s game and only had one catch, but his role in this year’s game has yet to be determined. Pickens suffered an upper-body injury against Alabama on Oct. 17 and his status is questionable.
The Bulldogs do, however, have a healthy and versatile receiving threat ready to make a name for himself in the rivalry in the form of James Cook.
Cook, like Pickens, was limited in his contributions in last year’s game with just one carry for 6 yards. But the tailback/slot receiver is third on the UGA team with 10 catches this season, and he has had the most explosive play of the year turning a short pass into an 82-yard touchdown.
NEWLY STACKED BACKS
Both teams’ backfields, much like their receiving corps, have a much different look than a year ago.
The teams’ 2019 Bell Cow backs D’Andre Swift and LaMical Perine, who combined for 115 of the teams’ 140 yards of cumulative rushing in last year’s meeting, both moved on to NFL roster.
That’s left Dameon Pierce, who had just four touches in last year’s game, to take over a young Florida backfield. Pierce leads Florida with 34 carries for 169 yards and averages an impressive 5 yards per carry.
Georgia has been leaning on junior Zamir White, who is averaging 4.5 yards per carry on his 90 carries this season, and Cook.
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“I’m the older guy now,” Cook said, asked how to handle offensive team leaders like Swift and Cager having moved on. “So I have to step up now and play my role to the best of my ability.”
Pierce and Cook have also caught some passes. Pierce with four catches for 48 yards, while White has 3 catches for 19 yards.
YOUNG AND OLD
Florida, however, has perhaps the key constant in the game in the form of Kyle Track.
While Georgia team captain and Gator slayer Jake Fromm has moved on, taking his 3-0 mark and tremendous success against Florida with him, Trask is back to lead Florida’s high-powered attack.
Trask was a competent 21-of-33 passing for 257 yards and 2 touchdowns last season, and that was playing from behind throughout the contest.
Georgia, meanwhile, has redshirt junior Stetson Bennett making his fifth career start at quarterback.
Beyond the obvious next men up at the skill positions the Bulldogs have several freshmen hoping to connect with Bennett and have break-out games.
Among the young Georgia players looking to make a name for themselves in the rivalry are 2020 signees Darnell Washington, Kendall Milton, Jermaine Burton and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint.
Finally, Georgia has one more wild card, and a player who has also seen plenty of Florida over the course of his career in Florida State grad-transfer Tre’ McKitty.
Last year’s hero for Georgia was Miami grad-transfer receiver Lawrence Cager, so it wouldn’t be out of the question to see McKitty stand out.
Here’s a look at the team leaders from last year’s game from both teams:
Jake Fromm 20-of-30 passing, 279 yards, 2 TDs, not sacked
Kyle Trask 21-of-33 passing, 257 yards, 2 TDs, sacked twice
D’Andre Swift 25 carries, 86 yards, 3.4 ypc, 30 yard run
Brian Herrien 7 carries, 13 yards, 1.9 ypc, 9-yard run
LaMichel Perine 7 carries, 31 yards, 9-yard run
Dameon Pierce 3 carries, 11 yards, 9-yard run
RECEIVERS & TIGHT ENDS
Lawrence Cager 7 catches, 132 yards, 52-yard catch
Brian Herrien 4 catches, 46 yards, 18-yard catch
Eli Wolf 2 catches, 26 yards, 22-yard catch
Demetris Robertson 2 catches, 24 yards, 17-yard catch
Freddie Swain 8 catches, 91 yards, 23-yard catch
Kyle Pitts 4 catches, 78 yards, 29-yard catch
Trevon Grimes 2 catches, 31 yards, 27-yard catch
Van Jefferson 2 catches, 31 yards, 23-yard catch
Georgia-Florida Game Week