ATHENS — When Kirby Smart first got to Georgia, defensive tackle Derrick Brown was maybe his highest priority defensive target for his first signing class. He was a 5-star defensive tackle and the state’s No. 1 player in 2016, as he hailed from Buford, Ga.
But Smart wasn’t able to land Brown, as he ended up signing with the Auburn Tigers. Since spurning the Bulldogs, he’s gone on to become one of the best defensive players in the country. He was named a preseason All-American prior to the start of this season and has lived up to that billing so far.
To this point in the year, he’s racked up 4.0 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss, forced two fumbles all while anchoring the Auburn defense. He’s by far the most talented defensive player Georgia has played to this point in the season.
Quite simply, if Georgia wants to win on Saturday, it’s going to have to block the 6-foot-5, 315-pound Indiana Jones-esque rolling boulder in the middle of the Tigers’ defense.
“Derrick is an extremely good athlete. I mean, first of all, when you put athleticism in a person’s body that is that size, I mean, he was a great basketball player,” Smart said. “You got that kind of twitch and you’re as big as he is, it’s hard to block, and he’s been a very disruptive player in this league for a long time.”
Georgia does have one of the top offensive lines in the country to combat not just Brown but a host of other talented Auburn defensive linemen. In addition to left tackle Andrew Thomas — who might be the best left tackle in all of college football — Georgia also can send out the likes of Isaiah Wilson, Cade Mays, Solomon Kindley and Ben Cleveland, who was named the SEC Offensive lineman of the week thanks to his play against Missouri.
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) November 11, 2019
And Georgia had no problem with the Auburn front a season ago, as the Bulldogs ran for 303 rushing yards on their way to a 27-10 win. Brown had only two tackles in that game, while running back D’Andre Swift finished with a career-best 186 rushing yards.
But the Bulldogs’ talented offensive line is coming into the game a little banged up. Mays left the Missouri game but all indications are he’ll be good to go for Saturday. More pressing is the status of starting center Trey Hill. He left the Missouri game with a left ankle injury and did not return either. Smart did indicate that Hill would practice starting on Monday, which would seem to be a positive sign for the sophomore.
If Hill can’t go for whatever reason, Mays will slide over to center. And while he recognizes Brown’s greatness, he’s not losing sleep over how to attack the Auburn defender.
“[Brown] is definitely a great player but no matter who’s lined up across me, I just try to focus on my technique in my mind and try to get it done,” Mays said.
Georgia has gone up against some stout defensive lines before, such as in the Florida and Notre Dame games. The Gators lead the SEC in sacks, but couldn’t touch Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm.
What makes Brown more challenging is that he’s able to be disruptive from the interior of the defensive line. South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw was able to do the same and he gave Georgia fits. Kinlaw finished the game with only 1.0 sack, but he was the one who pressured Fromm into a crucial pick-6.
Saturday will be the final time Georgia has to try and figure how to block Brown. He’s not the only talented Auburn defender, but given the concerns with the middle of Georgia’s offensive line and his own talent, limiting his impact will go a long way towards the Bulldogs potentially leaving Jordan-Hare Stadium with a win.
Georgia OL Cade Mays discusses Auburn DT Derrick Brown
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