Okay, I admit Matt Hinton’s key observation about tonight’s game is prefaced by “… if Georgia is eliminated with a next-level talent on clipboard duty, it’s going to follow Smart for a long time”, but I think this is something we may not be factoring into our take on the Dawgs’ offense as much as we should:
The wideouts, on the other hand, might be an even bigger question mark than Michigan’s. The only player with a catch in every game, redshirt freshman Ladd McConkey, is a former 3-star signee who’s often mistaken for a walk-on; he raised some eyebrows in a midseason win at Auburn, hauling in five for 135 yards, but in the meantime he has just 150 yards over the last seven and is reportedly dealing with an undisclosed injury. No one else on the depth chart has come close to an above-the-fold performance. 2020 holdovers Jermaine Burton and Kearis Jackson have been limited by nagging injuries. Dominick Blaylock got just a handful of snaps at the end of the regular season after being sidelined by multiple knee injuries for nearly two full years. True freshman Adonai Mitchell has played significantly but struggled with drops.
If we’re being fair about it, that’s a pretty mundane bunch, although I believe injuries have played a significant part in their modest production. More than anything, what’s saved Georgia’s passing game was finding lightning in a bottle with Brock Bowers, who’s had a ridiculous season so far. As Matt notes,
… A 5-star talent with bona fide wide receiver skills, Bowers had a breakout day in the SEC Championship loss to Alabama, finishing with season highs for receptions (10) and yards (139) in his introduction to a national audience; that was consistent with his role throughout the season, which he ended as the only UGA player among the top 30 in the SEC in receptions (47) or yards (791).
At the end of Year 1, he already looks like the complete package for a “move” tight end, equally comfortable in a traditional inline blocking role or as a receiver from the slot, and as he’s healthy you can go ahead and pencil him in as an All-American in the next two.
Given what there’s been to work with, maybe Daniels wouldn’t have had much more to show for things had he been the one taking most of the starting snaps this year instead of Bennett.
The good news — at least I hope it will be — is that Georgia has a potential game changer for tonight, if health permits.
The X-factor is George Pickens. For most of the year, it was doubtful Pickens would play at all in 2021 following a torn ACL in the spring, or would ever put on a Georgia uniform again with a certain NFL career waiting. But after a tentative return in the regular-season finale against Georgia Tech, he showed glimpses his old, acrobatic self against Alabama, playing 20 snaps and accounting for UG’’s longest gain of the day on a 37-yard catch in the first quarter. Like JT Daniels, he made the trip to Miami and expects to be available after his status was threatened by COVID protocols. If he’s anywhere in the remote vicinity of 100%, he immediately adds a downfield dimension that Georgia has struggled to sustain all year.
No kidding. If Pickens can be a regular contributor tonight, he may turn out to be Stetson Bennett’s best friend. Or JT Daniels’, for that matter.