Georgia football defense ready for Vanderbilt’s talented offensive playmakers
ATHENS, Ga., — Georgia might not yet know the starting quarterback Vanderbilt will play on Saturday. But Kirby Smart and the Bulldogs are well aware of the weapons the Vanderbilt starter will have at his disposal.
At running back, Vanderbilt brings back one of the few running backs who might be better than D’Andre Swift in Ke’Shawn Vaughn. He’s the SEC’s leading returning rusher as Vaughn finished the 2018 season with 1,244 rushing yards. That’s 195 rushing yards more than Swift had, and that’s in two fewer games.
Senior safety J.R. Reed compared Vaughn to another former Georgia running back.
“He runs really hard. That’s what really stood out from when we played against him,” Reed said. “He reminds a little bit of (Elijah) Holyfield. He can bust the ball out, he’s a patient runner and a downhill guy.”
The Vanderbilt quarterback — either Ball State grad transfer Riley Neal or junior Deuce Wallace — will also have plenty of elite options to throw to as well. The Commodores return tight end Jared Pinkney, who caught 7 touchdown passes a season ago while catching 50 passes for 774 receiving yards. Georgia fans would be over the moon excited if the Bulldogs had a tight end put up those numbers.
Pinkney was voted First Team All-SEC this preseason. The Norcross, Ga., product figures to be a major challenge for whoever is tasked with covering him.
And he’s not the only talented pass-catcher in Vanderbilt’s arsenal. The Commodores return Kalija Lipscomb this season as well. Last season he finished with 87 catches for 916 yards. That was the third most yards by any receiver in the SEC.
“They have a receiver — Kalija Lipscomb — that seems like he has been playing there forever,” Smart said. “Every time we have had to play them, I thought he was a very good wideout.”
A season ago, Lipscomb had his worst output of the season against the Bulldogs, as he had a season-low 2 catches for just 16 yards. But he spent most of the night going up against Deandre Baker, who is now suiting up for the New York Giants.
Vaughn finished the 2018 game against Georgia with 79 yards on 9 carries. Pinkey also had his worst performance of the season against Georgia, as he finished with only 1 reception for 12 yards. The Bulldogs won in blowout fashion a season ago, stomping Vanderbilt by a score of 41-13.
In addition to breaking in a new quarterback, Vanderbilt will also have a new offensive coordinator in Gerry Gdowksi.
Georgia will have to replace its top two defensive stars from a season ago, as Baker and D’Andre Walker are now both in the NFL. The Bulldogs have recruited as well as in the country, and have a number of former 5-star prospects they can turn to.
Georgia also has a number of veterans like Reed it will have to turn to stifle Vanderbilt’s talented trio.
“If I can run the ball, they are going to stack the box, now that’s them (Lipscomb, Pinkney) getting open,” Vaughn said at SEC Media Days. “If we can throw the ball, now they aren’t stacking the box anymore, so we balance each other out, basically.”
Georgia football coach Kirby Smart previews Vanderbilt opener
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