Chip Towers takes a look at the three position groups generally considered in the preseason to be Georgia’s weakest, the offensive line, receivers and secondary, and evaluates their performance to date. His best grade, an A, goes to the o-line.
Status: Not only has Salyer stuck at left tackle, but he has played at an all-conference level while not allowing a sack. Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Sedrick Van Pran has played extremely well since taking over at center in Ericson’s absence. And Ericson slid over to replace Ratledge at right guard, and the Bulldogs still haven’t missed a beat.
Grade: A – Georgia quarterbacks have been sacked only twice, and the run game got on track last week. Meanwhile, the O-line has depth and emerging young talent.
While I’ve been pleased with the pass pro (and the backs deserve some credit for that, too), I think he’s being a little generous with the grade there because the run blocking, as good as it was against Arkansas, hasn’t been consistent. Also, to claim the line hasn’t missed a beat with Ericson at right guard is a stretch. I’d probably go with a B.
Here’s how he evaluates the receiving corps:
Status: Freshmen Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey were surprise starters in the opener against No. 3 Clemson. Bowers, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound tight end, has started every game for the Bulldogs and enters the Auburn game as Georgia’s leading receiver with 18 catches for 272 yards and four touchdowns. McConkey, a 6-foot, 185-pound slot receiver, has started three of the five contests and is the team’s third-leading receiver with 11 catches for 145 yards and a score. The Bulldogs also are getting great contributions from freshman Adonai Mitchell (9 catches, 159 yards, 1 TD), who has gotten the past three starts at the “X” position voided by Pickens and Gilbert. Meanwhile, injuries continue to limit Georgia to about seven healthy receivers and starting quarterback JT Daniels remains sidelined with a back issue.
Grade: B — The wonder is what the Bulldogs might be able to do with a full complement of receivers and a healthy starting quarterback.
I don’t want to think where this group would be without the three freshmen. They’ve been huge so far and all you can do is wonder where things might go if some of the missing return to the field. Fair grade, IMO.
Finally, the secondary.
Status: Kendrick has started every game at cornerback for the Bulldogs and has an interception, a tackle for loss and a quarterback pressure to go along with seven tackles. Smith, favored to start at Georgia’s “Star” nickel back position, suffered a foot fracture the second week of preseason camp and still has not played in a game. But senior Latavious Brini, the heir apparent to 2020 starter Mark Webb, has played fantastic at star. He’s second among defensive backs with 15 tackles and has four pass break-ups. Senior Ameer Speed (3) and redshirt freshman Kelee Ringo (2) have split the starts at one cornerback position while the Bulldogs have been solid at safety with Lewis Cine and Christopher Smith.
Grade: I (incomplete) — Georgia has yet to play an offense ranked above 85th in pass offense. Auburn is 57th.
“Incomplete”? Cop out. Tykee Smith has yet to see a snap and they haven’t missed a beat at Star because Brini has continued his surprisingly stellar Peach Bowl play all season. Ringo has taken over one cornerback spot, while Kendrick has lived up to expectations. So have the safeties. Georgia leads the country in defensive passer rating (a ridiculous 79.20) and that’s impressive even if you’re playing against air. If you want to grade on a curve because of the opposition, fine, but I don’t see how this group rates worse than a B+/A- so far.
Bottom line, Georgia is where it’s at right now because all three position groups have outplayed preseason expectations to varying degrees. Your thoughts?