Amid all the QB talk, what Georgia really needs is for these players to take over
It is worth remembering this week that Georgia is 3-1 … and has a schedule that, should it beat Florida, would likely result in a 9-1 regular season. After the Bulldogs lost to Alabama 2 weeks ago, there has been a growing sense that things have to be fixed.
Much of that talk centered around the quarterbacks and whether Stetson Bennett IV is capable of producing a championship. Or whether Kirby Smart should consider his other options, from JT Daniels to D’Wan Mathis.
And admittedly, if the goal is to make or succeed in the CFP, that topic looks a little different than trying to beat Kentucky on Saturday.
Regardless of how the quarterback battle shakes out, that player can’t do it alone.
Here are 4(ish) UGA players who have to produce more to get the Bulldogs to that next level they’re seeking.
George Pickens, WR
Stats: 13 catches, 140 yards, 2 TDs
In 2019, Pickens looked like an absolute future star. Not only did he snag 49 passes for 727 yards and 8 touchdowns, but he was the home-run threat on the edge. Pickens caught passes of 30+ yards in 6 different games in 2019.
In 2020, his long grab so far was a 21-yard reception against Auburn.
The chunk plays were largely the difference in the battle with Alabama. The Tide made them. Georgia didn’t.
While Georgia’s defense is outstanding, it may be too much to expect the UGA offense to nickel-and-dime down the field and beat a top team. Given Pickens’ 6-3 frame and the physical nature of his play, whoever is throwing him the ball should have a big-time weapon on the edge. Georgia needs it.
James Cook, RB
Stats: 17 carries, 83 yards, 6 receptions, 111 yards, 1 receiving TD
Cook is the junior athlete with all the tools, but so far, inconsistent results. He’s averaged over 6 yards per carry as a back-up in the past 2 years. Expected to split time with Zamir White, Cook has been the less featured of the two by far. He did sustain an injury in the Auburn game, which sidelined him after he opened the game with 5 carries for 41 yards.
Against Alabama, Cook’s 82-yard scoring reception was absolutely electrifying. But other than that play, he touched the ball on 5 rushes and 3 more receptions, and gained a total of 35 yards.
The point is not that White shouldn’t play or see the football fairly frequently. But at 4.2 yards per carry for White, Georgia could make better use of both backup Kendall Milton and Cook, who can be featured in a variety of roles.
If Georgia is going to succeed, Cook needs to be more than just a guy who occasionally pops a big play. He needs to have a regular role that gets him 15 or so touches a game — if not more.
Demetris Robertson, WR
Stats: 7 catches, 53 yards
The frustrating thing about Robertson is that he can be an outstanding wide receiver. He’s done it at times. Robertson caught 30 passes last season for 333 yards and 3 scores, but he’s disappearing before our eyes in 2020. In the past 2 games, Robertson caught 1 pass for 14 yards. That’s it.
When the Georgia passing game bogs down, it’s because the intermediate stuff isn’t working. Whether it’s Bennett or some combination of QBs, the ability to keep the offense moving, particularly on 3rd down, feels like an area where Robertson can contribute. But time is running out on him.
There’s plenty of momentum on the topic of a QB change at Georgia. Mathis was the Week 1 starter, but he looked lost against Arkansas, and Bennett grabbed the job.
Alabama kind of dented the idea that he was capable of leading the Bulldogs to the promised land. But whether the ultimate fix is to use Bennett and substitute Mathis or Daniels to provide an occasional spark or go with somebody else, Georgia has to get more from the position.
Obviously, Mathis has the next-level athleticism on the ground that Bennett doesn’t, and would probably open up the rushing attack. Daniels is the pure passer with the (allegedly) big arm, and might hit the big passes that Bennett couldn’t against Bama.
But again, whether it’s a whole substitution or UGA just starts trying to play the other QBs occasionally, the Bulldogs have to find some kind of offensive identity. Outside of Alabama, playing defense and just taking what the other defense allows will probably win Georgia plenty of games. It probably won’t beat the big dogs, though.