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The best 6 Georgia football players through the first 6 weeks of the season
6. Eric Stokes, defensive back
The why: We had to include at least one defensive back on this list. And the margin between Stokes and senior safety J.R. Reed is razor-thin. Reed does so much in terms of setting up the defense and he’s warranted the label “The Human Eraser.”
But after watching what Stokes did against Tennessee, we have to give the slightest of nods to the redshirt sophomore cornerback. While he’s yet to snare an interception this season, he’s got a team-best 6 pass break-ups. And that’s despite missing a majority of the Notre Dame game.
Georgia has been vulnerable at times over the middle of the field. But teams have had very little success when trying to go after Stokes in coverage. If and/or when Georgia goes up against Alabama or LSU, the Bulldogs should feel as comfortable as any team putting Stokes on whichever elite wide receiver he’s tasked with covering.
And as he showed against Tennessee, he’s very capable of just laying out an opposing player.
The quote: “He’s just always working, he’s already whenever his number is going to call. We expect him to play and do big things when he’s out there.” — Georgia safety J.R. Reed
— Hiro Katsuki (@KatsukiFB) October 6, 2019
5. Andrew Thomas, offensive tackle
The why: Thomas came into the season with First Team All-SEC honors and he’s continued to play at a high level. He’s the best offensive lineman on perhaps the best offensive line in the country. The Bulldogs have given up just one sack on the season and also lead the SEC in rushing.
Where Thomas really shines is as a pass blocker. His natural athleticism and long arms allow him to keep opposing players far away from quarterback Jake Fromm. He might not be the punisher that Cade Mays is on the right side of the offensive line, but Thomas has been Georgia’s most consistent lineman to date.
If there’s one complaint about the offensive line it’s been the struggles in short-yardage situations. But that shouldn’t keep a player as great as Thomas off this list.
The quote: “He started every game that he’s been at the University of Georgia. He’s a tremendous leader, person. Charismatic. Doesn’t say a whole lot all the time.” — Kirby Smart at SEC Media Days.
The play: Watch how Thomas keeps the opposing rusher from ever turning the corner and never once forcing Fromm to think about backside pressure as he makes a huge third-down throw to Demetris Robertson.
— Hiro Katsuki (@KatsukiFB) October 6, 2019
4. Azeez Ojulari, outside linebacker
The why: There’s was a lot of offseason talk about how Georgia needed to create more pressure and get more production out of its outside linebacker room. And so far, Ojulari has helped quell some of those doubts.
He’s picked up at least 0.5 sack in four of Georgia’s first five games. He really stood out in the Tennessee game, as he picked up 2.0 sacks against the Volunteers. One of them, in the play below, he pretty easily beats 5-star offensive tackle Wanya Morris.
Another reason Ojulari is this high on the list is because he’s one of the few Georgia defenders who can realistically be on the field in every situation. He’s good enough against the run to merit being on the field on first and second down, and athletic enough to be in on obvious pass-rushing downs.
Ojulari also gets a bump here because of his leadership abilities. Against Tennessee, he became the first freshman to become a named a captain in the Smart era.
The quote: “Azeez is a great leader for this team. He was a captain for this game, to do that as a redshirt freshman is pretty special. He leads in practice, he plays the right way, he’s everything you want in a student-athlete. It’s a credit to his family. They did a great job with him.” — Kirby Smart after the Tennessee game
Azeez Ojulari @_Azeez_8 with the SACK!!!!!!!
— Hiro Katsuki (@KatsukiFB) October 6, 2019
3. Rodrigo Blankenship, kicker
The why: In a sport where #collegekickers is a meme, Blankenship is an automatic three points every time he steps on the field. So far this season, he’s made all 11 of his field-goal attempts and been named the SEC’s Special Teams Player of the Week three times.
Blankenship started his career as a cult figure of sorts because of his rec specs. Then he began to make clutch kick after clutch kick during the 2017 College Football Playoffs and emerged into perhaps the most beloved Georgia Bulldog of the 21st century.
It should also say a lot about Blankenship that he came back after missing a makable kick in the 2018 SEC Championship Game and hasn’t missed a field goal since then. It might not be the coolest thing to have Blankenship this high, but he’s shown he’s possibly the best kicker in the country.
The quote: “Hot Rod does a great job. He does everything he’s asked. He’s a great leader for our team, and he’s very consistent. He has an approach to the game and an approach to his method of doing things that is unique to him. He believes in it. We trust him a lot, and he’s been a tremendous leader, you know, just in this room with our team because people see how hard Rod works. So it’s an honor to have him on here, and he works really hard.” — Kirby Smart
Kick is GOOD!!
50 yd FG by Blankenship @RodTheKicker3
— Hiro Katsuki (@KatsukiFB) October 5, 2019
2. D’Andre Swift, running back
The why: So far, Swift only has a single 100-yard rushing game this season. Against Tennessee, he posted a season-worst 4.24 yards per carry. But the reason Swift is so high is that even though he hasn’t matched the torrid pace he set at the end of the 2018 season, it’s clear he’s a better player this year than he was a season ago.
One only has to look to the Notre Dame game to see Swift show that in addition to being able to run by you, he’s also able and willing to run through opposing defenders now as well. And even though the Tennessee game was his worst rushing output of the season, he caught a season-high 4 passes for 72 yards.
As a junior, Swift has become a complete player. He can do just about everything that’s asked of him, even if he isn’t great in short-yardage situation’s at the moment. When an offense is as reliant on its ground game as Georgia is, it really helps to have a running back that impacts the game in as many ways as Swift does.
The quote: “He is a great running back and a great player. He is an explosive, big back and a guy that is just competitive as well. He is tough for anyone to match up against.” — Notre Dame safety Alohi Gilman
You: How could D'Andre Swift's hurdle be any better? It was perfect!
— Connor Riley (@Kconnorriley) September 24, 2019
1. Jake Fromm, quarterback
The why: In Fromm’s last six quarters, he’s completed 33 of his 43 pass attempts for 414 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those games came against a top-10 team in Notre Dame and on the road against Tennessee. After turning a corner during the Florida game last year, Fromm has continued to improve his game.
Fromm will never get a chance to put the statistical numbers that Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Fields do. But Fromm is asked to do so much for Georgia in terms of pre-snap adjustments that it’s almost Peyton Manning-esque.
It is unfortunate for Fromm that’s he’s at his absolute apex when Georgia is running its hurry-up offense. As the Tennessee game showed, he can be deadly when he gets to operate at the pace. But Georgia can’t play fast all the time, as that runs counter to Smart’s belief in wearing down an opponent over the course of the game. This also shows just how special Fromm is as a leader in that he’s willing to sacrifice elements of his own game in order to better help the team succeed.
Guys like Thomas and Swift might be more talented than Fromm. But no player has been a bigger reason for Georgia’s unbeaten start so far than Fromm. And that’s why he’s been the best player on Georgia’s team to this point in the 2019 season.
The quote: “Jake takes things that are broke and fixes them, and he makes wrong right. He’s a leader, he’s a commander in chief, the guy makes good decisions.” — Georgia coach Kirby Smart.
That sound you just heard was Sanford Stadium reacting to this touchdown. pic.twitter.com/GFYl0v1enG
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 22, 2019
*Just missed: Georgia safety J.R. Reed, Georgia defensive tackle Tyler Clark, Georgia wide receiver Lawrence Cager, Georgia linebacker Tae Crowder
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
- WATCH: Georgia OL ‘Big’ Ben Cleveland not a fan of Jake Fromm’s singing
- ESPN makes the case for, and against, Georgia being the No. 1 team in the country
- WATCH: How 2019 sets up as Georgia football championship season
- Georgia football short-yardage struggles ‘unacceptable’
- Georgia’s improved run defense is why you shouldn’t panic if it falls behind
- Georgia football podcast: A simple suggestion to make UGA’s offense more ‘explosive’
- Homegrown: Trey Hill stands tall at the center of the Georgia offense
Dawgs on Twitter
— Maria Taylor (@MariaTaylor) October 10, 2019
— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) October 9, 2019
— Ryan Seacrest (@RyanSeacrest) October 6, 2019
— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 7, 2019
Good Dawg of the Day
This is Po. She sets aside a few minutes every day to chase her tail. Regretfully, I must report that today it got away again. 13/10 pic.twitter.com/xhKPZyeNfe
— WeRateDogs® (@dog_rates) October 9, 2019