KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Georgia football coaching staff and players put a lot of work into the bye week, but Kirby Smart said he’s reserving judgment when it comes to evaluating the progress made.
“We’ve got to wait and see in the game, we worked in a lot of areas,” Smart said on the SEC teleconference. “The proof is in the performance. We got to see where we got better.
“We have to go out and do it on a big stage and in front of an opposing team’s crowd. I want to reserve judgement until we actually go out there and do it.”
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs (4-0) play Tennessee (1-3) in a game that will kick off at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday in Neyland Stadium (TV: ESPN).
Smart emphasized some areas need more work than others.
“Our kicking game has to improve, we have to be able to control the ball, we’ve got to be able to control field position,” Smart said during his radio show. “Defensively we have to pressure better, we didn’t get a sack against Notre Dame.
“Then offensively we have to spread the ball around and be more efficient.”
Here are some players to keep an eye on against Tennessee, based on the areas Smart is emphasizing and the matchup with the Vols:
QB Jake Fromm
Georgia scored five touchdowns in a 38-12 win against Tennessee last season, and Jake Fromm didn’t throw a touchdown pass or run for a touchdown. It remains the only game in Fromm’s career that he didn’t have a TD pass. Surely that has to change, right? Fromm has improved his accuracy and mobility since last season, something the Vols’ will force him to prove.
DT Jordan Davis
The Bulldogs nose tackle says this game is personal for him, as it involves bragging rights with fellow former Charlotte N.C. high school standout and Tennessee two-way player Quavaris Crouch. Davis also said he wants to test himself against Tennessee lineman and team leader Trey Smith.
TE Eli Wolf
It’s not what you think! Yes, Wolf played for Tennessee and was a Vols’ team captain in 2018. And, yes, Wolf is one of Georgia’s top targets, his speed and route-running presenting matchup issues. But most importantly will be Wolf’s role in protection. Vols’ OLB Darrell Taylor had three sacks on Fromm last season, including one where he breezed past tight end Isaac Nauta and stripped the ball. Wolf’s blocking on the perimeter and in the goal line package will also factor.
P Jake Camarda
The Bulldogs’ punter will be scrutinized after his struggles against Notre Dame. Camarda shanked two punts, a 25-yarder at the start of the game and a 27-yarder in the game’s final minutes. Smart said he would continue to monitor competition at the position in practices.
RB James Cook
Smart has said he wants to get Cook more involved in the offense in different ways, special teams being one of them. Georgia’s kick return game has left something to be desired, even with the explosive Cook back deep. Cook has been used at receiver and tailback throughout this season, but he hasn’t been targeted often, and he has yet to crack 100 yards rushing on nine attempts this season.
WR George Pickens
Every week, Pickens is in the “players to watch” article because he’s the Bulldogs’ most talented pass catcher and it’s interesting to see if offensive coordinator James Coley can come up with ways to free up Pickens. Smart has let everyone know he wants to see Pickens get more opportunities with the ball in his hands, any number of ways.
LB Tae Crowder
The senior linebacker had a career-high nine tackles against Notre Dame, and Tennessee will offer Crowder a chance to follow that up. The Vols want to run, but OC Jim Chaney also likes to set up linebackers and safeties with play-action passes. The guess here in this three-dimensional chess matchup of familiar coaches is that Tennessee will throw to the tight end more often than usual.
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