Nolan Smith highlights the 4 things we learned about Georgia football during unexpected off week
Coming into the game against Florida, the pass had not been a problem for Georgia. And on the year, the numbers still show that it isn’t. The Bulldogs still rank first in the conference in both sacks and sacks per game with 18 and 3.0 respectively.
But against Florida, the outside linebacker group struggled to get home. Georgia had just one sack in the game, and with all the time to throw, Kyle Trask picked the defense apart. It was similar to the second half of the Alabama game, as the Crimson Tide offense scored at will once Georgia stopped getting home with pressure.
Georiga outside linebacker Nolan Smith shared some insight on how the Bulldogs will try to continue to get a consistent pass rush over the final games of the season.
“We try to get better from week to week. Personally, there’s a lot of things that I can work on. I’m not a perfect player by any means,” Smith said. “Working on our pass rush, knowing our coverages and stuff like that and how we can really help with games. Just really pocket push from me, and being able to separate from blocks.”
The Georgia outside linebackers like Smith have all had productive seasons. Azeez Ojulari, Adam Anderson and Jermaine Johnson all have at least 3.0 sacks. Smith himself has 1.5 but he hasn’t registered a sack since the season-opening game against Arkansas.
Smith isn’t pressing the issue and trying to force the issue. He knows that if another outside linebacker is still racking up sacks, it’s something to celebrate.
“It’s never, ‘I need to get mine when I have to.’ It’s ‘I do it for my brothers and the team,’” Smith said. “If I see Azeez [Ojulari] get a sack, I’m going to be yelling from the sideline, ‘great job Azeez.’ I know when I get a sack, he’s yelling the same thing. That’s really a selfish mentality and there is nothing like that on our team.”
Jermaine Burton insight
There’s been much discussion this week about two of Georgia’s freshman wide receivers with Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint suffering a season-ending injury and Arian Smith returning to practice.
But we also learned a little bit about Jermaine Burton this week as well. He’s been the most productive of Georgia’s 2020 wide receiver signees, as he has 10 catches on the season for 130 yards and a touchdown.
Georgia defensive back Christopher Smith has long known about Burton’s teammates, as the two were teammates at Hapeville Charter Academy in Atlanta back in their high school days.
“From the day we seen Jermaine, we knew he was special. I remember the first play he caught a pass and took it about 80-yards. I knew he was special,” Smith said. “The thing I’ve always said about Jermaine is he’s one of the best receivers I’ve gone against in my entire life. He’s a special player.”
Burton has started four games this season and looks to be a promising player for the Bulldogs in the years to come. If Georgia is able to get more from its quarterbacks it could help open things up for the likes Burton. Having George Pickens return to the line-up could also help make things easier for the freshman wide receiver.
The importance of Lewis Cine
If there’s anyone that benefits from having the extra week off, it is safety Lewis Cine. The sophomore safety was still in concussion protocol as of Tuesday following his hit on Florida tight end Kyle Pitts.
The Georgia safety was visibly shaken up after the hit that warranted his ejection from the game. With Cine out of the game, Florida had no problem rolling up points in the first half, as Florida ultimately scored 38 on the Georgia defense in the opening 30 minutes.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart spoke this week about the hit as well as what kind of player Cine is in practice for the Bulldogs.
“We see it every day in practice and in scrimmages. He’s a vicious hitter, a striker,” Smart said. “We’ve had drills with him where we’ve told him he’s got to go full-speed, run through the mid-section of a bag or body, and he was trying to do that in that case.
“He felt like Kyle (Pitts) saw him coming and he dropped his head to protect himself, and it ended up being head-to-head contact. It’s unfortunate.”
Kyle Pitts and Lewis Cine involved in a scary collision. Mercy. pic.twitter.com/s0T3wf2PMF
— Connor O'Gara (@cjogara) November 7, 2020
Cine has 31 tackles on the season. With senior safety Richard LeCounte out for the foreseeable future, the Bulldogs will look to see a little bit more playmaking from the sophomore safety. And the extra week off should give him a better chance of returning to the field on Nov. 21 against Mississippi State.
Young defensive linemen stepping up
With Georgia missing Julian Rochester, Warren Brinson and Jordan Davis to injury, the Bulldogs were going to have to see what they could get out of their young defensive linemen against Florida.
Georgia has played freshman Jalen Carter throughout the year and Nazir Stackhouse is another freshman defensive lineman who has earned some playing time.
“They’re getting better,” Smart said. “We were concerned going into the game they wouldn’t be able to hold up, because Florida is really big in the run. They did a decent job in stopgapping the run and holding up. We didn’t get a lot of great pass rush out of the guys inside, which we needed, but they did hold up against the run, and Zion made a couple plays.
“I was really proud of him going in and trying to get through those growing pains I talked about and some added depth.”
Smart added that the likes of Logue and Norton were hurt by not having a normal offseason to develop more physically. Florida was the first time Logue played all season, while it was the second time Norton saw the field, after playing in the opening game of the season against Arkansas.
Davis continues to be week-to-week with an elbow injury and there’s an outside chance he could return against Mississippi State. If he’s not, Georgia will once again turn to some younger and inexperienced players to help fill some of the holes in the middle of the defense.
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