What we learned about Georgia football prior to facing Texas A&M
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Dominick Blaylock could have another big game and more we learned about Georgia football before playing Texas A&M
Jake Fromm has been called a lot of things in his time at Georgia. Game-manager, overrated, underappreciated, potential first-round pick, consistent. But above all else, Fromm should be remembered as a winner.
Per ESPN, Fromm is the only quarterback in the history of the SEC to lead his team to a division title in his first three years as a starter. Peyton Manning didn’t do that. A.J. McCarron neither.
Freshman: SEC East 🏆
Sophomore: SEC East 🏆
Junior: SEC East 🏆
Jake Fromm is the only QB in SEC history to win his division in each of his first three years as a starter. pic.twitter.com/sjFw5LSp9N
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) November 22, 2019
Fromm still has decent numbers this season, as he’s thrown 16 touchdown passes to 3 interceptions. His completion percentage and yards per attempt have dropped this season, he’s still been clutch for Georgia when the Bulldogs have needed it. Even as the offense sputtered last week against Auburn, Fromm still threw 3 touchdown passes against the Tigers.
We wrote quite a bit about Georgia running back D’Andre Swift earlier this week, who in all likelihood will be playing his final game in Sanford Stadium on Saturday. And while he may not have reached the heights of Nick Chubb or Sony Michel he’s been an absolute joy to watch for the Bulldogs.
One quote that didn’t quite make it into that story was about how much Swift has meant to the Georgia program in his time playing for the Bulldogs.
“He’s not overlooked within the perception of most people who look at these guys, scouts and people like that. They realize how good he is,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. We’ve probably been spoiled by some of the guys we’ve had. He’s as good as anybody we’ve had, in my opinion, because he can do it all. There’s no limitation, pass protection, catching the ball, creating, running the ball, vision, toughness. He checks the box.”
To this point in his Georgia career, Dominick Blaylock has been at his best in big games. He caught a crucial touchdown pass against Florida and then added to that narrative by catching a bomb against Auburn.
— Hiro Katsuki (@KatsukiFB) November 16, 2019
For Smart, this is exactly what Smart expected when Georgia signed him as a member of its 2019 signing class.
“He’s done it everywhere,” Smart said. “He went to the all-star game (U.S. Army All-American Game) and had two touchdowns, three, whatever it was. He played big everywhere. 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 could play another big role on Saturday, but not just as a wide receiver. Blaylock has begun to show promise as a punt return, specifically against Missouri. And Texas A&M is one of the worst teams in the country when it comes to defending punt returns. The Aggies rank 126th in the country in punt returns yard allowed.
In a game where field position could be huge due to limited possesions, a big one could really make a difference in the game.
The Georgia offensive line has been banged up all season. What else is new? Against Auburn, Georgia finished the game with Jamaree Salyer at right guard, as Ben Cleveland and Cade Mays were both battling injuries.
As for this week though, it does look like Mays and Cleveland will be able to give it a go.
“Absolutely, health will be the No. 1 factor. If you don’t have health, you don’t have an opportunity. Some of that is going to be based on health versus is a guy 90 percent better than a backup that’s 100 percent,” Smart said. “We’re hopeful all those guys are going to play. Cade’s been out there working. Ben’s practiced so we’re in a good spot.”
Georgia’s offensive line should have a much easier test this week, as the Aggies don’t have the likes of Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson to bring to battle.
The light bulb may have come on for Malik Herring against Georgia Tech last year, but that light has never shined brighter than it did against Auburn.
The junior had a pass breakup and a tackle for loss in the win over Georgia. The defensive line rotates a bunch, and given the group’s depth, it’s hard for one guy to stand out. Herring was able to do that against the Tigers, as he was named one of Georgia’s Defensive Players of the Week.
But Smart pumped the brakes on anointing Herring just yet.
“He’s just been getting better and better. He works really hard. He continues to get better. He’s got to continue to get better, too,” Smart said. “He hasn’t arrived. He struggled out there today some. He’s got to keep getting better.”
Georgia has perhaps the best offensive line in the country. When it comes to pass protection, the Texas A&M Aggies might be the worst in the SEC. Texas A&M has given up 24 sacks this season, tied for the most in the conference.
That could mean Azeez Ojulari or Nolan Smith have big games on Saturday. As a whole, the sack numbers have been up for Georgia this year, as the Bulldogs have 22.0 through 10 games, compared to 24.0 in 14 last season.
“I think we’ve been really consistent throughout the year on that. We don’t get the numbers all the time. Sometimes the numbers lie,” Smart said. “But statistically, I’m pleased with our ability to affect the quarterback. Sure I wish we had more sacks, but we have played athletic quarterbacks and a lot of people get the ball out quick on us.”
The Bulldogs will play another athletic quarterback on Saturday in Kellen Mond. In addition to 18 passing touchdowns, he’s also run for 400 yards and rushed for 7 touchdowns.
Auburn became the first team to find the endzone via the ground against the Bulldogs. Georgia has now given up just a single rushing touchdown on the season, which is still the fewest in the country.
One of the bigger reasons for that has been the play of Monty Rice. The junior leads the team in tackles with 66 and was recently named SEC Player of the Week for his play against the Tigers.
“I think number one his confidence in the system is at an all-time high,” Smart said of Rice. “He understands things. He knows checks. Things are happening for the 100th time instead of the 40th or 50th. He understands how to use the tools of the defense. He is playing with confidence. He’s one step ahead and sometimes one step in football is the ability to make a lot of plays.”
It was around this time last year when Rice suffered a foot injury that ended up keeping him out for the remainder of the season. That meant missing the SEC Championship game against Alabama. Rice would very much like to make a difference this time around when the Bulldogs play in Atlanta on Dec. 7.
Georgia’s secondary lost Deandre Baker off its 2019 team. It also saw defensive backs coach Mel Tucker depart for the head coaching job at Colorado.
And yet the group hasn’t missed a beat this year. Between Eric Stokes, J.R. Reed, Richard LeCounte, D.J. Daniel and Tyson Campbell, Georgia is actually allowing fewer yards per attempt —6.0 to 5.5 — and quarterbacks have a lower passer rating.
And Smart did take some credit this week for himself about how the Georgia defensive backs have played.
“I think Dan (Lanning) has done a good job. This is no knock on Mel (Tucker), because I’m as much responsible for it as anything. Dan’s done a good job of bringing — whether it’s new ideas, less risk-averse,” Smart said. “We got secondary back. I mean, when you got a new secondary and you got true freshmen, true freshmen or sophomore that haven’t played back there making (plays.”
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
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- Georgia receiver real talk: What Kirby Smart wants, and what he’s gotten
- Georgia football podcast: Rain or shine, UGA fans should make most of home finale
- 3 keys for a Georgia football win over upset-minded Texas A&M
- Georgia football podcast: UGA can send message with win vs. Texas A&M
- What the national media is saying about Georgia football before it hosts Texas A&M