ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart is always looking to put players in position to make plays, but it’s often a matter of circumstance.
Offense has a bit more control where the ball is directed, be that handoffs or via quarterback progressions, and that skews this “Players to Watch” piece each week.
Of course, there’s also the fact there’s a makeover receiving corps and new faces in the offensive backfield.
The No. 3-ranked Bulldogs play at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Sanford Stadium against FCS Murray State. The Racers play an uptempo “Air Raid” style offense, spreading the ball out and trying to limit defensive substitutions.
Murray State coach Mitch Stewart has vowed his team will play harder that Georgia on Saturday and play the full 60 minutes — perhaps a reference to how FCS Austin Peay begged out of the final five minutes of last season’s UGA home opener.
Smart, while not responding directly to Stewart’s comments, has said the Bulldogs will play to their standard, regardless of who the opponent is.
Some players figure to have more impact than others, even after the starters are out of the game. Here are this Saturday’s seven Georgia football players to watch:
CB Tyrique Stevenson
Remember when Dan Lanning said his initial reaction to Stevenson was, “Holy moly we’ve got a ball player” in spring drills? This is the sort of game Stevenson could shine in depending on how aggressive the UGA coaches are with their coverages. Murray State gets the ball out quickly, and Stevenson has shown a knack for anticipating plays. A Pick-6 would not be surprising from this player.
CB Tyson Campbell
Campbell showed great improvement in coverage in game one from the player we saw a season ago. But the reason to watch Campbell isn’t just his solid coverage, it’s also the way he comes up in run support. Campbell has shown he can play physical, and there figures to be several opportunities to swarm clean-up hits as well as open-field hits.
TE Eli Wolf
Is there a transfer out there happier this week than the former Tennessee football captain and SEC Media Days spokesperson? Wolf has gone from being deemed too small to be an effective blocker to springing two touchdown runs in Georgia’s win at Vanderbilt, including one from the fullback position. Wolf will be hunting more big plays, as a blocker and receiver.
DL Travon Walker
Look for No. 44 on the Georgia kickoff team — the Murray State players certainly will. After all, it’s not often you see a 6-foo-5, 290-pound defensive line covering kickoffs, but that’s just how athletic of a player that Walker is, and Smart is serious about improving the Bulldogs’ coverage units.
WR Dominick Blaylock
Blaylock traveled Vanderbilt but was a surprise DNP, as there was much talk about his potential impact for the Bulldogs. This is a Saturday that could open the door. Slot receiver Kearis Jackson is sidelined, and the Georgia coaches might not want to over-utilize Demetris Robertson in what figures to be a blowout. Blaylock should get his first catch along with chances to impress with his perimeter blocking.
RB Zamir White
Georgia fans have made it clear they’ll be keeping a close eye on White in every game, but particularly a matchup like this where Smart has said he wants to posses the football. Senior Brian Herrien is likely first in line for the carries between the tackles, but there will likely be plenty of work to go around.
WR George Pickens
Is this the game Pickens gets his first SportsCenter Top 10 play? It’s going to happen sooner or later, Pickens is too special of a talent for it not to take place provided he continues to check all the other boxes. Another Pickens pirate video surfaced after the Vanderbilt game, this one of Pickens applying a dominant block on a Vanderbilt defensive back almost to the extent of drawing a flag. Pickens is coming soon to a highlight package near you.
DawgNation Murray State week