Georgia football: Things I've liked, haven't liked about Bulldogs through 4 games
Record-wise, things have gone about as expected for the Georgia Bulldogs headed into a bye week before they face Kentucky on Oct. 31. How they got here is a much different story.
While the defense has (mostly) held up its end of the bargain, we’re again faced with the possibility of a quarterback controversy in Athens — depending on whom you ask. But some individuals have especially stood out, which should excite Bulldogs fans as the season progresses.
With four games in the rearview mirror, here’s a look at some things I’ve liked thus far, and some I haven’t liked as much.
Three things I’ve liked
The play of Kendall Milton
The true freshman is behind Zamir White on the depth chart, but when the California native has been handed the ball, he has shown why he was rated as a top 10 running back nationally. He recorded just a 4-yard run against Arkansas in the season opener, but he has gradually integrated himself into this offense ever since, carrying the ball 20 times for 130 yards for an average of 6.5 yards an attempt.
Georgia has historically recruited some stellar backs. Is Milton the next on that list? It’s much too early to tell for sure, but he certainly appears to be trending in that direction.
The emergence of Kearis Jackson as a top receiver
Talk about a pleasant surprise. Four games in and Jackson could be on track to join Terrence Edwards as the only receivers in program history to record 1,000 yards in a single season. That’s after he made just 5 catches for 79 yards all of last season.
He’s a little behind schedule after catching just 2 of his 7 targets for 23 yards against the Crimson Tide, but he could have a shot at returning to form on Oct. 31, albeit against a stingy Kentucky defense that has allowed 235 passing yards a game thus far. Nonetheless, he has become a great story in the early going for the Dawgs.
The run defense (apart from the Alabama game, that is)
Numbers can be a bit deceiving. At first glance, the fact that the Dawgs allowed 147 yards to Alabama on Saturday suggests that the defensive front wasn’t at its best.
And, by all accounts, it wasn’t. The good news is that Najee Harris, despite 152 yards, needed a career-high 31 carries to get there and had a pair of 17-yard runs that served as his longest of the night. It was more like a “death by a thousand paper cuts” situation with him.
Still, Georgia is allowing 2.2 yards per carry on average after giving up a total of 115 yards combined over the first three games. Consider Saturday as likely just a blip and not a sign of things to come.
Three things I haven’t liked
George Pickens’ slow start
I personally expected to see Pickens assert himself as one of this team’s leading receivers, especially after his terrific freshman campaign a season ago. So far, he has been slow off the blocks, and despite good games at Arkansas and Alabama, we haven’t seen much of him in the offense.
And we are all aware of the incident in the Tennessee game. He squirted water on Vols quarterback Jarrett Guarantano, an act that earned him an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and the disgust of his coach.
Pickens has the talent needed to compete in this conference, and while the staff needs to get him more involved in the offense, he needs to grow up and show that he is ready to be a leader on this team. Hopefully, the Alabama game is a sign of better things to come.
The play of the secondary
Georgia’s known for its stingy run defense. The pass defense, though, still needs to iron out some issues, evidenced by its performance against the Tide.
Bulldogs defenders had a tough time keeping up with Alabama’s 1-2 receiving punch of DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle. When they did, they were forced into committing penalties and offering up free yardage.
It wasn’t good enough, and while Bama’s receiving group is in a class of its own, there are still several teams that can stretch the field against the Bulldogs.
Stetson Bennett’s inability to show he can be a top SEC quarterback
I’m a fan of Stetson Bennett. He was cast into a rather unexpected situation, and for the most part, he has handled himself well.
The thing that concerns me is whether he has the ability to truly assert himself as a top-tier quarterback in this conference. I’m not saying that he needs to be the Dawgs’ version of Mac Jones or Myles Brennan. But the staff needs to evaluate whether he has reached his ceiling or can develop more as the season goes on.
That’s far from a prediction that Georgia will make a switch at quarterback, but Kirby Smart would be lying if he said that he hasn’t at least considered it.