Nakobe Dean finally healthy after early season injury and more we learned about Georgia football
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Nakobe Dean highlights what we’ve learned about Georgia football heading into Tennessee game
Quarterback: Earlier this week, we asked Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm what aspect of his game he thought he had improved on from last season.
“Throwing on the run, getting out of the pocket and making some throws,” Fromm said. “I think I’ve done a pretty good job from last year in making those throws. So hopefully I can see improvement on that throughout the season as well.”
We were able to find an example of Fromm doing this back in the Notre Dame game. On third down, Fromm broke from the pocket and rolled to his right. He then flicked a pass to the back of the end zone. In year’s past, he might’ve been trying to just throw the ball out of the back of it, just to live another down. But against Notre Dame, he put the ball right on Tyler Simmons’ hands.
Unfortunately for Fromm, his wonderful throw wasn’t rewarded with a touchdown. But it’s clear that as a junior, Fromm added a few tricks to his bag.
Running back: Georgia didn’t run all over Notre Dame like many people thought it would. The Bulldogs finished with 152 rushing yards, their lowest on the season. Notre Dame’s rushing defense had given up over 200-rushing yards in its first two games.
The Bulldogs will have a chance to get back on track this week, as they face another suspect rushing defense in Tennessee. The Vols are 11th in the SEC in rushing yards allowed per game with 149.8 rushing yards.
Last season, in a game where running back D’Andre Swift wasn’t totally healthy, the Bulldogs finished with 251 rushing yards and a 38-12 win.
Wide receiver: In terms of receiving yards, Georgia’s four leading receivers are all newcomers to the program. The top two receiving leaders — Dominick Blaylock and George Pickens — are freshmen who so far are living up to their lofty billing.
The next two are graduate transfers. Lawrence Cager — who caught all 5 of his targets and a massive touchdown against Notre Dame — has 139 yards and a team-best 10 catches. Eli Wolf, more on him in a moment, has 7 catches for 98 yards which puts him fourth on the team.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart gave an update on why these newcomers have been able to come in and make an impact right away.
“They have gotten more confidence. You only get confidence when you don’t have experience through experience,” Smart said. “We’ve been able to play four games where a lot of these young guys have gotten more and more experience. It’s good to have a little bit of a running game to help them. It’s good to have an experienced quarterback that they can rely on. That part I’m pleased with.”
Tight end: We mentioned Wolf above. This game figures to be mean a lot to Wolf, given he spent the previous four years at Tennessee.
We’ve documented before that Wolf doesn’t really want to talk about the mess at Tennessee, and he hates that the program is once again floundering.
But Wolf is thriving at Georgia. His numbers this year are already on par with what he did in the last three seasons as a Volunteer. And Smart attributed his time there — along with the constant turnover on the coaching staff — as a reason why he’s been able to come in and play well.
“I don’t know what number offense in the last four years, but he’s in a different offense again, which he went through there and he went through coming here,” Smart said. “So the transition has been smooth for him because he’s bright, he picks things up, he’s smart. But he works hard at it, and he’s got a lot of pride in knowing what to do, and that part he spent extra time on so that he could have an effective senior year.”
Offensive line: Don’t expect to see Cade Mays at left guard on Saturday. The sophomore will continue to rotate at guard and tackle on the right side of the line, but based on what Smart said this week, it sounds like Justin Shaffer will be the guy getting the start at left guard.
“I mean, we feel good that Justin Shaffer’s playing good football,” Smart said. “Cade will alternate with some backup stuff because Cade kind of backs up a lot of positions but we’ve got other guys who can play left guard.”
Shaffer will likely be starting in place of Solomon Kindley. He suffered a lower left leg injury in the win over Notre Dame. Kindley was spotted at practice on Tuesday, but the indication from Smart was that he would not be fully ready for Saturday’s game.
Defensive line: Georgia’s defensive line has gotten off to a strong start this season and alleviated some of the concerns about the position. The Bulldogs rank first in the SEC in rushing yards allowed per game and fifth nationally.
But the Bulldogs have been doing it without one of their senior leaders. Julian Rochester has yet to play significant snaps as he’s recovering from an ACL injury that occurred late last season.
Smart did provide an update, though he was a little testy when asked about why the senior has yet to see much of the field.
“Julian is progressing, getting better,” Smart said. “When he’s ready to play, and he’s better than the guy that he’s going against or better than the guys that he’s behind, then he’ll play.”
Outside linebackers: Much like Mays and Wolf, this will be a big game for outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari.
The redshirt freshman has a younger brother — B.J. — who is a 4-star prospect in the 2020 recruiting class who will be making a trip to Knoxville this weekend. And he’ll be doing so as a committed prospect for the Volunteers.
The Ojulari brothers talk frequently and this week has been no exception. Azeez did add that he’s still trying to get B.J. to flip his commitment to the home-state Bulldogs.
“It’s going to be a good one. I know he’s going to be there, but I’m still trying to change his mind,” Azeez Ojulari said. “I know he’ll be rooting for me and the Vols for sure, so we’ll see how that plays out.”
As for his on the field play, Azeez has been outstanding to start the year. He’s racked up 1.5 sacks and earned some lofty praise from Smart.
“He’s on the field a lot because we feel like he’s our best either-or player. He can stand up. He can rush. He communicates well,” Smart said. “He plays really physical. He strains, rushes the passer.
Inside linebacker: Freshman Nakobe Dean was the belle of the ball during spring and August practice. He drew high praise for his early efforts, as well as how quickly he grasped the defense.
But an ankle injury slowed his progress to start the season. Fellow inside linebacker Monty Rice estimates that he wasn’t fully healthy until the Arkansas State game.
Smart did give a positive update on where Dean is now that he seems to be fully healed from that preseason ankle injury.
“I do think that the setback held him back some from being able to play every snap and also from getting the reps,” Smart said. “There was a brief time in there that he couldn’t get as many reps, and it probably hurt him there from a mental standpoint. But he’s picked that back up, and he’s working really hard and pleased with what he’s doing.”
Through his first four games, Dean has racked only 3 tackles. Meanwhile, Rice, Tae Crowder and Quay Walker have all impressed at various points during the season
Defensive backs: Georgia’s defensive backs were comprised against Notre Dame due to injuries to Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell. And the Fighting Irish were able to take advantage late, as wide receiver Chase Claypool found the endzone in the fourth quarter to cut into Georgia’s lead.
Stokes was spotted at practice on both Monday and Tuesday and appears good to go for this week’s game against Tennessee. However, Campbell looks like he’ll miss a second consecutive game. The sophomore was seen at practice on Tuesday, but he was not going through drills and working out off to the side.
The Georgia cornerbacks will have another tough wide receiver to defend in Jauan Jennings. He most famously hauled in the Hail Mary at the end of the 2016 game to steal a victory from the Bulldogs.
He’s caught 19 passes on the season for 281 yards and 4 touchdowns. And Smart is very well versed in what Jennings can do for the Volunteers.
“He plays physical at the point of attack. He goes up and attacks the ball,” Smart said. “He’s always had really good ball skills, and after he catches it is when he sometimes becomes the most dangerous because he’s really hard to get on the ground.”
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
- What the national media is saying about Georgia football heading into Tennessee game
- Cover 4 on Georgia football: Debating the nation’s top 4 teams … for now and on down the road
- 3 keys for Georgia football against Tennessee in Knoxville
- Georgia football injury report for Tennessee: Two starters questionable
- Evan Pryor: Nation’s No. 5 junior RB feels his Notre Dame visit boosted Georgia’s chances
- Changes coming for Georgia offense, dialing up the possibilities for Tennessee
- Former Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith updates his status, vows he’s playing
- Georgia football podcast: Jeremy Pruitt stumbles into PR disaster days before UGA showdown
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— Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) October 4, 2019
— Brian Herrien (@brianherrienn) October 4, 2019
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) October 4, 2019
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) October 3, 2019
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