Opponent Preview: No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs

    by -

    (Photo via Steffenie Burns/UGA)

    2019 Record: 4-0 overall (1-0, SEC)

    Head Coach: Kirby Smart (4th year, 36-10 overall)
    Location: Athens, Georgia

    Leading Passer: Jake Fromm (Jr.) — 62-of-82, 788 yards 6 TD, 0 INT
    Leading Rusher: D’Andre Swift (Jr.) — 49 carries, 392 yards, 3 TD, 7.9 YPC
    Leading Receiver: Lawrence Cager (Sr.) — 10 receptions, 139 yards, 2 TD
    Leading Tackler: Monty Rice (Jr.) — 22 tackles (8 solo), 2 QBH

    Total Offense Rank: 15th (508.8)
    Passing Offense Rank:
    54th (255.8)
    Rushing Offense Rank: 12th (253.0)
    Scoring Offense Rank: 11th (42.8)

    Total Defense Rank: 9th (262.5)
    Passing Defense Rank: 46th (205.5)
    Rushing Defense Rank: 5th (57.0)
    Scoring Defense Rank: 6th (10.0)

    Just like Tennessee, Georgia is coming off of a bye week heading into Saturday’s match-up. The Bulldogs were at the center of the college football universe in their last game, welcoming a top-10 Notre Dame team to Sanford Stadium. With College Gameday in town and primetime kick-off, Georgia defeated the Fighting Irish 23-17 to remain undefeated on the season.

    Head coach Kirby Smart’s squad began the season with a dominating 30-6 win over Vanderbilt before returning home to squash Murray State 63-17 in their home opener. Georgia then defeated Arkansas State 55-0 during Week 3. The Bulldogs now make their way north to Knoxville for their second conference game of the year as nearly a four-touchdown favorite.

    Here’s a complete preview of Tennessee’s opponent this Saturday, the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs.

    Offense

    Georgia’s offense is as balanced as it comes. Led by junior quarterback Jake Fromm, Georgia’s offense is putting up 508.8 yards of offense per game, scoring 42.8 points, throwing for 255.8 yards, and running for 253 yards a contest. Statistically speaking, the Bulldogs’ offense is third-best in the SEC and is top 15 in the entire country.

    “When you look at Georgia, to me, I see a complete football team,” Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt said during the SEC coaches teleconference on Wednesday. “It starts with Jake Fromm. To me, he does as good a job as anybody in the country — and maybe as anybody I’ve ever coached against — as far as keeping their offense in positive situations. He takes care of the football, gets the ball out of his hand, controls protection, keeps them in positive run plays.”

    The future NFL quarterback has plenty of freedom at the line of scrimmage pre-snap, more than any other quarterback in the conference. On the season, the third-year starter is completing 75.6 percent of his passes and has yet to throw an interception on the season. Fromm has thrown for 788 yards and six touchdowns.

    Georgia’s starting quarterback can thank his offensive line for the consistently clean pocket. Led by Andrew Thomas at left tackle, Solomon Kindley at left guard, Trey Hill at center, Cade Mays or Ben Cleveland at right guard, and Isaiah Wilson at right tackle, the Dawgs just may have the best offensive line in the country. The group has yet to allow a sack on the season.

    “This week, they’ll (Tennessee’s defensive line) have a tremendous challenge because I think these guys (Georgia) run the football probably better than anybody in college football,” Pruitt explained on Wednesday after practice. “[Georgia’s O-line has] seven guys. And they probably have got some more… They have some big men who have played together.”

    Fromm isn’t the only one benefiting from the offensive line. Led by the big uglies up front, D’Andre Swift is averaging 7.9 yards per carry and has rushed for 392 yards on the season to go along with three touchdowns. Backing up Swift, senior Brian Herrien is averaging 5.6 yards on 29 carries.

    “He’s (Swift) built very powerful and strong,” Pruitt described Swift. “He’s low to the ground. He has really good balance and body control. He has great vision, good patience as a runner.

    “You know, there’s some running backs that take a lot of licks. He don’t take a lot of licks. If he ever gets hit, it’s because he wanted to do the hitting. He does a great job of setting up defenders, running through the soft shoulder, and he has home-run speed. He’s one of the better backs in college football, and he has been for a couple of years.”

    At receiver, Georgia is led by a mix of transfers and freshmen. Miami grad transfer Lawrence Cager is tied with Cal transfer Demetrius Robinson for the team lead in receptions with 10, but the freshmen duo of Dominick Blaylock and George Pickens lead the team in receiving yards with 179 and 162, respectively. Cager has hauled in two touchdowns to go along with 139 yards, while Robinson has also caught two touchdowns to go along with his 92 receiving yards. Both Blaylock and Pickens have nine catches on the season.

    Senior Charlie Woerner starts for the Bulldogs at tight end, while Tennessee graduate transfer Eli Wolf backs him up. Wolf has been more productive, catching seven passes for 98 yards. Woerner has just four catches for 15 yards.

    Defense

    Defensively, Georgia is led by a tremendous front-seven that has a mix of newcomers who are impacting games right away. Along the defensive line, senior Tyler Clark starts at defensive tackle, senior Michael Bennett starts at nose, and senior David Marshall starts at defensive end. While the trio of seniors lead the way, sophomore Jordan Davis and junior Malik Herring play large roles up front.

    Clark is tied for the team-lead in sacks, claiming 1.5 out of the team’s 12 sacks — which is the fifth-most by a team in the SEC. He also leads the team in tackles for loss (2.5).

    Georgia’s linebacker room is the most talented unit on the defensive side of the ball. Led by junior WILL linebacker Monty Rice, the Dawgs are only allowing 57.0 yards per game and 10.0 points per game. Rice leads the team in tackles with 22 stops.

    Next to Rice stands junior Jermaine Johnson as the SAM linebacker, Azeez Ojulari at the JACK, and senior Tae Crowder as the MIKE linebacker. Crowder has 17 tackles and 2.0 tackles for a loss on the season while Ojulari has 11 tackles and 1.5 tackles for a loss. Johnson also has 2.0 tackles for a loss.

    Junior Walter Grant, freshman Nolan Smith, sophomore Quay Walker, and sophomore Nakobe Dean also play key roles at linebacker for Smart and the Bulldogs. Grant, Smith, and Walker each have at least one tackle for a loss on the young season.

    “They’ve added several pass rushers in this past signing class that you see out there, but they’ve got lots of depth up front,” Pruitt said of Georgia’s defensive front during his Monday press conference. “They’re big, physical. They’ve done a nice job stopping the run, haven’t allowed a rushing touchdown this season. Creating much more negative plays probably than they have in the past.”

    Georgia’s secondary has been hit with injuries to begin the season, but the unit still stands strong. Junior Richard LeCounte and senior JR Reed lead the defensive backs from their safety positions, while junior Mark Webb has wrecked shop from his STAR-nickel position. LeCounte has 17 tackles on the season, while Reed has tallied 18 tackles and an interception. Webb is second on the team with 19 tackles.

    At corner, redshirt sophomore Eric Stokes starts on one side and either junior DJ Daniel or sophomore Tyson Campbell start on the other side. None of the three have recorded an interception on the season, but Divaad Wilson and Otis Reese have.

    Special Teams

    Tennessee’s special teams unit is very good, but so is Georgia’s.

    “Rodrigo (Blankenship), seems like he’s been playing there for 10 years,” Pruitt said. “They’ve got good returners, got good speed on coverage teams, so it’ll be a challenge for our football team.”

    Blankenship, Georgia’s starting kicker, has yet to miss on the season, as the senior is 8-for-8 on field goal attempts with a long of 50 yards. He’s also a perfect 21-of-21 on extra points.

    Sophomore Jake Camarda is the starting punter. Camarda has punted 11 times through four games, averaging 44.6 yards per punt.

    Sophomore James Cook and senior Brian Herrien serve as the kick returners, while senior wide receiver Tyler Simmons serves as the punt returner.