Georgia football: 4 players I'm keeping a close eye on down the stretch, besides QB
Saturday was supposed to be Georgia’s chance to respond to a loss to Florida. They needed a complete effort against Missouri to get back on track and keep themselves in the SEC East race.
COVID-19, though, has cast a pall of uncertainty. Its effects on the college football schedule have never been heavier than this past weekend, as 15 games — 4 in the SEC — were postponed or canceled. The Bulldogs’ desire to hit the field would have to wait until a contest against Mississippi State next Saturday.
The bad news: Georgia’s window of opportunity in the SEC East is just about closed. The good news: If they run the table, they could put themselves into a New Year’s 6 bowl. Considering the expectations the Dawgs have put on themselves annually under Kirby Smart, that’s a disappointment. But it might be all they can hope for.
And the schedule is favorable: Each of their remaining opponents has a sub-.500 record. That being said, the way they have played in their past few games — and with a very big piece of the puzzle to put into place (we all know what that is) — they may be setting themselves up for an upset.
Here are 4 players, 2 on offense and 2 on defense, whom I’ll be keeping especially close tabs on in these remaining games, outside of whoever is chosen to play quarterback:
Jermaine Burton, WR
Burton’s numbers are far from eye-popping. He’s not having the impact that Dominick Blaylock and George Pickens had as true freshmen in 2019. And he has had a quiet past 2 games, finding himself not highly involved in the offensive game plan.
That should change against Mississippi State, with Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint sidelined and the Dawgs looking for another wideout to complement Pickens and Kearis Jackson. Burton showcased his speed against Tennessee, recording a 43-yard run on a jet sweep, and had 4 catches for 58 yards against Alabama.
The future’s bright for the first-year player, and with more stability at quarterback, he can become a reliable target over the next few years. He’ll get a chance to take a step closer toward that goal during the remaining games.
James Cook, RB
Cook is that versatile Swiss Army knife-type player that this Georgia offense needs. We saw that during the Alabama game, where he made 4 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown while receiving 5 carries out of the backfield. His performance against Kentucky saw him take 6 carries for 39 yards and 4 catches for 62 yards.
While we didn’t see nearly that level of production against Florida, it’s in the best interest of Todd Monken to keep Cook involved on a weekly basis. He should receive more carries with Kendall Milton out of the lineup while continuing to be a key figure in the receiving game, as the junior is on track for a career season.
Adam Anderson, LB
There’s a chance Azeez Ojulari will be gone after the season, but having a quietly solid season behind him at the Jack linebacker slot is Anderson, who had a pair of sacks against Auburn and split a 3rd against Kentucky,
He has played in all but 1 game this year. I’d look for his time on the field to increase, as he could be in line to step in for Ojulari if — big if — the latter decides to declare for the NFL Draft.
In any event, Anderson has made the most of his opportunities more often than not in the linebacker rotation.
Christopher Smith, SS
The injury to Richard LeCounte was not only a loss for the Georgia secondary but a massive emotional blow to the entire Dawgs defense.
All eyes shifted to Smith to see how he would fare in place of his teammate. Despite a disappointing showing for a group that allowed a career-best passing day to Florida’s Kyle Trask, the junior from Atlanta finished with 3 tackles. He’ll play a much bigger role in 2021, so by all accounts, these remaining games standing in for LeCounte should serve as an extended audition.