7 Georgia football players to watch against Kentucky, starts under center
ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart used the phrase “step up” quite a bit this week.
The 20-17 overtime loss to South Carolina certainly wasn’t acceptable, and nothing less than a convincing win over Kentucky at 6 p.m. on Saturday (TV: ESPN) will satisfy.
Here are seven players to watch that all into the “Step Up” category if the Bulldogs are to evolve into the championship contender they were projected to be:
QB Jake Fromm
It starts with the quarterback. Fromm is under pressure to bounce back from the worst outing of his career, a performance that brought his talent into question.
Heavy rain is forecasted, so it’s not likely Fromm will get a chance to prove he can win a game when he throws more than 30 passes (UGA is 0-5 in such games).
Fromm will, however, get a chance to show he can pull a teetering offense back together. The junior captain needs to throw his tight ends and receivers open after an uncharacteristically spotty performance last Saturday.
Fromm missed a handful of reads and was not as accurate as he had been the first five games of the season.
Center Trey Hill
Hill was the weakest link last Saturday on the rotating front line once known as the “Great Wall.” The mere mention of the nickname draws snickers from opposing fanbases and makes even the most loyal Georgia fans wince.
The fact is, UGA’s projected starting line played just one game together, at Vanderbilt, before injuries led to bodies shifting in and out and a breakdown in continuity.
Hill has remained a constant in the lineup. The sophomore was exposed by South Carolina defensive tackle Javon Kinlaw, and his low, slow shotgun snaps appeared to throw off Fromm’s timing.
RB D’Andre Swift
Swift isn’t a big talker, but he made sure to get the message out for everyone to hear that he’s not going to accept results like last Saturday’s against South Carolina.
Smart said Swift had developed into more of a vocal leader, and that was obvious by the fact he came out and publicly took accountability on behalf of the entire offense.
A straight shooter, Swift has been honest about his intent to turn pro after this season. It’s clear he doesn’t plan on the Bulldogs going out with a whimper his final season in Athens.
Swift bowed up last Saturday and showed he could handle short-yardage situations.
RB James Cook
Will Georgia get this exciting playmaker involved this week? Or will Cook go back to being a decoy and/or end around specialist?
It’s baffling OC James Coley hasn’t gotten Cook more touches, but game flow has apparently dictated the ball go to other perimeter threats. Cook would be an easy quick throw into the slot, his ability to make yardage in space superior to any of the receivers.
Smart said opponents have schemed to prevent Cook from touching the ball.
Good plan; part of the reason the Bulldogs are lacking explosive plays is because explosive players like Cook aren’t touching the ball enough.
Safety J.R. Reed
The Bulldogs need playmakers in the secondary, and Reed’s production does not yet match his preseason All-American accolades.
Reed is second on the team with 31 tackles behind linebacker Monty Rice, but he has just one interception and three pass break-ups through six games.
The senior’s talent and savvy is unquestionable. But Reed has yet to show he can play with the level of enthusiasm necessary to ignite teammates and raise the level of play around him.
Punter Jake Camarda
Can this sophomore punter put two solid games back-to-back? Can Camarda handle a slick ball and snaps in inclement weather?
Camarda has been shaky in big moments this season, but he’s apparently the best option Georgia has on the roster.
The Kentucky game will give him an opportunity to win back some trust and gain much-needed confidence and momentum heading into a pivotal November stretch.
Impossible to name just one with what has happened. Who will step up? Kearis Jackson, Matt Landers? Tyler Simmons? Demetris Robertson? George Pickens? Dominick Blaylock?
Maybe all of the above, but whoever lines up at that receiver position needs to show reliable hands and an ability to make yards after the catch.
Georgia receivers haven’t helped Fromm out much in that capacity, unable to get much separation from coverage, they are often tackled immediately and don’t break tackles.
Smart said on his coaches show the receivers group has shown the most improvement since the start of this season. But he also said they had the furthest to go.
Georgia-Kentucky Game Week