ATHENS ― Kerryon Johnson. Jarrett Stidham. Eli Stove. A physical offensive line.
Auburn’s offense showcases a diverse attack, which Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Monday is the key for the Tigers.
Behind that talented offense, Auburn is the hottest team in the nation. At least, that is the way Smart has been describing the Tigers in the days leading up to the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta on Saturday.
“I think the line of scrimmage is really critical for this game on both sides,” Smart said. “They have a really big, physical offensive line. They are really patient in the way they block, and the guy they have behind that offensive line is pretty good running the ball as well.”
But against Auburn, the key is now about more than just looking at the running game. Smart said that when a team has a quarterback who has improved the way Stidham has, defenses can’t overlook him.
“They have physical players that can run gap plays, they can run zone plays, they can run on the perimeter,” Smart said. “Then when you add the dimension of a quarterback who can throw the ball and be elusive enough to make plays with his feet, you hit the perfect storm. Right now they are playing at a high level because they have all of those factors.”
So what does this mean for the Georgia defense going up against “the perfect storm”?
Well, it starts on the perimeter. This is where Lorenzo Carter said the Auburn offense makes it name.
“We have to work on setting that edge because they like to get a lot of things going on the edge,” Carter said. “That is where their offense thrives, so we have to make sure we focus on setting the edge.”
Aaron Davis echoed this notion of keeping the Auburn offense away from the perimeter, saying that there is a lot to learn from the teams’ first meeting: a 40-17 Auburn win.
“I don’t think we played Georgia football, and we let a lot of things get outside of us and that is something that we are going to be looking to correct,” Davis said. “They have really good playmakers, and they are going to get those guys the ball, but we just have to do our job and play technique football so that we can defend them the best we can.”
But when it comes to stopping playmakers such as Johnson and Stidham, Carter breaks down what needs to happen, explaining that the Iron Bowl was an eye-opener to how Stidham can use his arm and his legs to advance the play.
“We knew he was athletic. We knew he could make plays with his arm, but he made a lot of big plays with his legs [against Alabama],” Carter said. “We just have to try to get him off his spot. He is comfortable in the pocket. He is now comfortable moving around, so our whole thing is to make the quarterback uncomfortable.”
When it comes to Johnson, Carter said that regardless of his status, defenses have to plan for him no matter what.
“You gotta prepare for him,” Carter said. “He is a great player, and you know that he is going to make plays, so you have to prepare for him and try to limit the impact that he can have on the game.”
When it comes to playing “the hottest team in college football,” Smart said Georgia has to play its best Saturday.
“We want to be at our best when our best is needed, and it is certainly needed this week,” Smart said. “At the end of the day, it’s a lot of parts that have to play better.”