ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart says he’s looking for improvement from Week 2 to Week 3 against Arkansas State, the Bulldogs building toward their Sept. 21 showdown with Notre Dame.
Georgia’s focus has been on the Red Wolves all week, Smart warning of Arkansas State’s capable pass game and pass rush in the days leading up to the noon kickoff at Sanford Stadium.
“They spread you out,” Smart said on the SEC teleconference this week. “They’re not easy to cover because the spacing is such that they cover the width of the field, and they do a great job of packaging those plays with their run game.”
The No. 3-raked Bulldogs will counter with a defense that’s allowed just one touchdown through the first two games.
While Jake Fromm and the UGA offense figure to add polish their pass game and grow young tailbacks Zamir White an Kenny McIntosh, the defense figures to get a lift from a young, but familiar name in the linebacking corps.
That’s as good of a place to start as any, so here are this week’s 7 Georgia players to watch against Arkansas State
LB Nakobe Dean
Dean looked impressive in the G-Day Game last April, but an ankle injury has kept him under the radar through the first two games. Smart indicated that’s likely to change this week against Arkansas State.
“He got his first real taste last weekend getting to go in the game and play, being involved in a lot of different formations, a lot of different third-down situations, and I think he’s improving his health, meaning he’s able to practice and sustain longer so he can take more reps in practice,” Smart said.
“The last two weeks we weren’t able to get him a lot of reps in practice, because of his injury, and this week he’s been able to play on first and second down more and play with a little more pace.”
RB Zamir White
Yep, three weeks in a row the player known as “Zeus” makes the 7 players to watch list. While led the Bulldogs in rushing yardage last Saturday against Murray State (8 carries, 72 yards) and scored his first career touchdown.
But the game within the game is how White grows more comfortable with each carry and regains his feel and instincts after the 21-month layoff between his final high school game and the opener at Vanderbilt.
“The burst and acceleration is starting to come back,” Smart said. “The acceleration through contact, I thought we saw a little bit last week, and he continues to grow with that.”
WR George Pickens
Three weeks in a row for Georgia’s most talented receiver, too, and this is another big opportunity for Pickens to earn trust from Fromm.
Arkansas State is sure to pay plenty of attention to No. 1, and it will be up to Pickens to show his quarterback he knows the playbook better and can run discipline routes.
Pickens, next to Fromm, is the most irreplaceable player on the UGA offense.
DT Julian Rochester
This senior defensive tackle is another player on the comeback trail from injury, and he might not yet be ready to play against Arkansas State as he returns from offseason ACL surgery.
The Bulldogs’ defensive line is a work in progress, and a healthy Rochester will bolster its potential once he is back contributing in games.
Georgia fans should look for No. 5 and see how he’s looking in warmups and should he get into the game. Rochester was recruited to be a difference maker, and time is running out on him.
CB DJ Daniel
The junior college cornerback was a scratch last week due to a hamstring injury, but he was practicing during the media viewing portions of practice this week.
Daniel had a strong enough fall camp to earn reps with the first team, and he’s competing for more playing time. Arkansas State should provide a good test with is pass game and a receiving corps that features two former Power 5 players.
OL Jamaree Salyer
Salyer got the start at right tackle last week, but No. 69 didn’t look completely up to speed just a few days back from the lower body injury that had sidelined him for more than a week of practice.
Salyer was the No. 1-ranked offensive guard in the 2018 signing class, and UGA will soon need him to play like it. The Bulldogs like to rotate players in the heat, but assistant Sam Pittman prefers to do so without any drop-off.
It will be interesting to see how many snaps Salyer plays against Arkansas State and how effective he is once on the field.
DE Malik Herring
Speaking of potential, Georgia’s defensive line could use more contributions from Malik Herring, who was benched in the opener at Vanderbilt and managed just one tackle against Murray State.
The 6-foo-3, 280-pounder has proven his heart is in the right place, but his focus and productivity have yet to catch up, and he has yet to play like the Top 100 player in the nation some felt him to be coming out of high school.
Smart has talked openly of Herring’s ability, so one would think it’s only a matter of time before that translates on the field for No. 10.
DawgNation Georgia-Arkansas State week