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Georgia football needs to turn to George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock to help passing offense
ATHENS — Georgia running back D’Andre Swift fully recognizes there’s a problem with the Georgia offense right now. The Bulldogs scored only 17 points on Saturday, and Georgia even had a tough time doing that, as both touchdowns came on drives that nine and 13 plays.
As for a solution, Swift did have one, and it seems fairly simple.
“I think we need to take more shots downfield. Try to get the ball to our playmakers in space,” Swift said. “Whatever the coaches think that is, think that might be, I think we need to do a better job of it.”
Swift added that more and more teams are loading the box against Georgia, given its prowess as a running team. And the only way to pull defenders out of the box will be by taking shots downfield. If Georgia could hit on a few more downfield passes, it should open up more rushing lanes for Swift and the Georgia ground game.
One of the bigger reasons the offense struggled so much against South Carolina though wasn’t because Georgia wasn’t taking downfield shots. It was just that its wide receivers weren’t getting much separation. Georgia coach Kirby Smart said as much on Saturday and then brought it up again on Monday.
When asked whether the receivers had to do a better job getting open or the coaching staff has to a better job of helping out the wide receivers, Smart put the responsibility on both parties.
“I think it’s always a combination of both. You’re looking for man-to-man to stay on the run,” Smart said. “Can you get off of press coverage? Can you separate? What kind of style defense are you going against? Is it more zone or more man,” Smart said. “And each one of those is really important, and it’s important for our wideouts to be able to create separation for Jake. It’s important for Jake to see separation to feel confident and to be able to throw it.”
Related: Georgia RB D’Andre Swift: ‘We know how good we can be’
So Georgia’s wide receivers pretty clearly need to do a better job of getting open, especially downfield. But that’s going to be a challenge as one of the Bulldogs few consistent options at the position will likely miss the upcoming Kentucky game due to an injury.
The Bulldogs will likely be without Lawrence Cager for the Kentucky game as he continues to deal with shoulder and rib injuries that forced him to exit the South Carolina loss. Cager was Georgia’s leading pass catcher going into the South Carolina game.
Georgia also saw poor individual moments in the game from Tyler Simmons and Matt Landers that directly led to interceptions. Landers ran the wrong route on Fromm’s second interception of the game. Simmons had a ball bounce right off his hands in overtime that led to Fromm’s third pick of the game.
All of that means Georgia is going to have to turn to its freshman receivers in George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock if the Bulldogs are going to cure their passing woes.
Pickens had his best game to date on Saturday, as he hauled in seven passes for 98 yards. He was targeted nine times overall and did come down with a 33-yard pass. As for Blaylock, he was targeted only three times on the game, catching two passes for 27 yards. Both of Blaylock’s receptions went for first downs.
“Dom’s a really good player,” Georgia defensive back Eric Stokes said. “He gives me problems in the slot and he’s someone who can really take advantage of that position because he’s a tough cover.”
Both freshmen lead the team in key categories. Pickens is now the yardage (283) and reception (19) leader for the team, while Blaylock leads Georgia in yards per reception (18.7). Blaylock is also Georgia’s leader in receiving yards per game, as the freshman didn’t play in the season-opener against Vanderbilt.
And it’s clear that the trust is there between Fromm and these young receivers. No receiver was targeted more on Saturday than Pickens. Blaylock meanwhile was targeted twice on Georgia’s game-tying drive. The Bulldogs also seem to trust Blaylock enough to return punts, albeit all seven of his punt return opportunities against South Carolina ended in a fair catch.
Georgia also has Demetris Robertson who it can turn to, and Fromm did also target him nine times on Saturday. Robertson did most of his work closer to the line of scrimmage as he had five catches for 51 yards against South Carolina. But at times — against Vanderbilt and Tennessee — he’s shown he can be a deep threat.
Swift added he knows Georgia can potentially be one of the best offenses in the country if they put all together. That means if Georgia hitting on big plays in both the running game and passing game. And hitting those big plays should lead to more of things that Kirby Smart deems are part of a successful offense.