Why Dominick Blaylock is ready for the big moment in 2019 SEC Championship Game
As freshman Dominick Blaylock caught his fifth touchdown of the season, he was once again being overshadowed by George Pickens.
Against Georgia Tech, Blaylock created just enough separation and got in the perfect position to catch a Jake Fromm touchdown pass.
WHAT A CATCH!!!! pic.twitter.com/Ke4Lws3H1F
— Hiro Katsuki (@KatsukiFB) November 30, 2019
Of course, you might remember this play differently, as Pickens was simultaneously dragging a Georgia Tech defender into a wall on the other side of the field.
Pickens has drawn more headlines and attention this season with his spectacular catches and aggressive play. But in Georgia’s biggest game of the year — the 2019 SEC championship game against LSU — he won’t be on the field for the first half. And Georgia’s suspect passing offense will have to rely on another wide receiver to keep the offense in the game until Pickens returns.
If Pickens is your blockbuster action movie, than Blaylock should be seen as the family drama you find yourself watching over and over again. He does all the little things you need a wide receiver to do that often go unnoticed to the untrained eye.
And he’s also shown a propensity for making big-time plays in big-time games.
“He played big everywhere,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said.”He played big in high school playoff games. He had all the indicators of being ready for the moment. There’s no moment too big for Dom.”
Blaylock has already come through with touchdown catches in Georgia’s two biggest games this year against Florida and Auburn.
Against the Gators, he leaked out into the flat and created just enough of an angle to dive for the touchdown. Against Auburn, he snuck behind the defense and stumbled his way into the endzone for a 51-yard touchdown catch.
Neither of the plays were all that aesthetically pleasing but both were very crucial to a Georgia victory. In those two games combined, Pickens finished with just two catches for 15 yards
Blaylock has only 17 catches to this point in the year. But he’s turned those limited opportunities into 299 receiving yards, third-most on the team, and five touchdowns — second on the team. He’s also got two of Georgia’s three receptions for more than 50-yards and the best yards per catch mark on the team.
Based on his pre-Georgia track record, this shouldn’t come as a surprise.
As a high school freshman, Blaylock racked up nearly 200 receiving yards and multiple touchdowns in a key region game, recalled his coach, Daniel Brunner of Walton High School in Marietta. To open his senior season, Blaylock finished a game in Mercedes-Benz Stadium — the site of Saturday’s game against LSU — with 132 receiving yards and three touchdowns.
Later in his senior season, Walton faced off against defending state champion North Gwinnett in a game that was televised on ESPN2. Despite having Blaylock, Walton entered the game as the underdog.
And in a back-and-forth game that saw Walton lose its starting quarterback for a chunk of the game, Blaylock came up with the big plays as a wide receiver, running back and, yes, even at quarterback. He finished the game with 50 receiving yards, 55 rushing yards and 40 yards passing to go along with the game-winning touchdown run with 32 seconds left.
UGA commit 🐶 Dominick Blaylock GAME WINNING rushing TD 🏃🏾♂️💨 Walton beats North Gwinnett 27-24 UGA is LOADED nxt yr wit him and Jadon Haselwood pic.twitter.com/vm0SCX1BMh
— VERSACEBOYENT (@versaceboyent2) September 15, 2018
“The kid is just all substance,” Brunner said. “He’s not about the flash, he’s not about the look at me, he’s not about the social media.”
Walton played North Gwinnett again this season, once during the regular season and once again in the playoffs. Without Blaylock, Walton lost the two games by a combined score of 95-10.
As for what allows Blaylock to make these kinds of plays, it wouldn’t be because he has some other-worldly physical trait. Blaylock isn’t the most impressive looking athlete. His 6-foot-1, 195-pound frame doesn’t stand out on a field of freaks. He’s not the speedster Mecole Hardman was either.
In comparison to Pickens, Blaylock smaller, less physical and doesn’t have the same body control that Pickens displays.
But when asking around, just about everyone praises Blaylock’s intangible abilities.
“He’s always calm and collected,” senior wide Tyler Simmons said. “He’s pretty confident and he knows the playbook, so that gives you a certain level of confidence going out there on the field that slows the game down for you.”
Blaylock rarely made much noise after his commitment to Georgia prior to his junior season. Even when Brunner told him other coaches were going to pull him out of class to try and convince him to play elsewhere, Blaylock made it clear he didn’t much care for the recruiting hoopla.
“He told me, ‘Coach, I’m going to Georgia. I just want to be a good teammate, be here for my boys and just play football,’” Brunner said. “There’s not many kids like that in this day and age.”
However, those intangibles aren’t easy to calculate or factor into how good a recruit could end up being. That’s why over the course of the recruiting process, Blaylock slipped in the national recruiting rankings. This still irks Brunner, especially when time and time again Blaylock showed he was clearly one of the nation’s best wide receivers.
In the 2019 All-American Bowl — a high school all-star game which features many of the nation’s top high schools talents such as Georgia’s Nolan Smith and Travon Walker — Blaylock had two touchdown catches and a touchdown pass. It was clear he was an elite player and perhaps even the best wide receiver on the field.
After the game, Blaylock was downgraded from a 5-star prospect to a 4-star prospect. When he and Pickens arrived at Georgia, Pickens was the higher-rated recruit even though he spent almost the entire recruiting cycle as a lower-rated prospect.
“You want him to be recognized for all his hard work. But he doesn’t care about that stuff,” Brunner said. “He just wants to get out there and compete.”
That’s our Dawg.
— All-American Bowl (@AABonNBC) November 16, 2019
For all his praise though there have been times though when Blaylock has played like the 18-year-old freshman he is. He’s had a missed block here and there. He fumbled a punt that led to Georgia Tech’s only points in the 52-7 Georgia win.
But Smart stuck with Blaylock as the team’s punt returner despite having other options available. Blaylock responded with a 32-yard return later in the game, the longest of his young Georgia career.
He didn’t mope or sulk. He got back out there and made another play for the Bulldogs.
Brunner was confident Blaylock was going to produce as a freshman, given his work ethic and the fact that Georgia was going to be losing its top five pass catchers from 2018. In the spring, Smart said he was expecting big things from Blaylock before he even stepped on campus.
On Saturday, Georgia will once again be short-handed at the wide receiver position due to Pickens’ suspension and Lawrence Cager’s ankle injury.
It will need someone in the passing game to make a handful of plays if the Bulldogs are going to win their biggest game of the season.
And based on what Blaylock has done in the past, he’s going to have a chance to earn some widespread acclaim of his own.
“Dom, he’s a guy who just shows up and works. He doesn’t complain a lot,” Fromm said. “That’s what we like about Dom. He’s a really consistent guy and a guy who’s always going to get it done for us on the field.”
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