Every week, UGASports.com teams up with 11Alive to hand out grades to Georgia’s position groups. Here is the report card from the 17-16 loss to Vanderbilt.
After his worst performance of the season against South Carolina, Jacob Eason threw for 346 yards and a touchdown against Vanderbilt and looked like a completely different quarterback. Eason was also able to get the ball to nine different receivers. But Eason also had some iffy moments throughout the game, as well. The over-throws and under-throws that haunted Eason in weeks past were still prevalent against Vanderbilt. Eason’s receivers had to bail him out a few times with some great ballerina-type catches. The lone offensive touchdown for the Bulldogs was a 17-yard pass from Eason to tight end Isaac Nauta early in the third quarter, which was a nice pass and catch. Overall, Eason did a good job of limiting the mistakes that have plagued him in the past and was able to spread the ball around to get different receivers involved.
Running Backs: D
The running backs looked like a completely different group against Vanderbilt compared to what they did against South Carolina. After last week’s A+ performance, a lot of people, myself included, thought that this group was finally on the right track and that the second half of the season would be the complete opposite from the first. Boy, oh boy, was that the wrong assumption. Nick Chubb finished with only 40 yards on 16 carries, which equates to a measly 2.5 yards per carry. Sony Michel was not far behind in the lack of production department, tallying only 28 yards on 13 carries. Brian Herrien, who was a major factor against South Carolina, only touched the ball twice. As a whole, the group rushed for 75 yards on 35 carries with zero touchdowns and never seemed to find the right hole, which were few and far between because of the offensive line’s inability to create space, but we will get to that in a minute. What once was thought to be the strength of the offensive game plan prior to the season is now just way too inconsistent to rely on heavily. It will be interesting to see how offensive coordinator Jim Chaney decides to switch things up during the bye week to try and create running lanes for Chubb and Michel, because if they can’t, well, the offense might just stay in a holding pattern.
Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: B
After having only Isaiah McKenzie and Isaac Nauta catch passes from this position group last week, it was a welcome sight to see that nine different receivers caught at least one pass against Vanderbilt. Nauta led the way with five receptions for 74 yards and a touchdown, while fellow freshman Riley Ridley was right behind him with five receptions for 67 yards. McKenzie also had a nice game with four catches for 56 yards and Javon Wims had his best game as a Georgia Bulldog, hauling in three passes for 32 yards. It was mentioned in the quarterback grade, but the wide receivers did a good job of being able to twist and turn in order to catch some of the passes that Eason threw, seeing how some of the throws were behind, in front, or above the intended target.
Offensive Line: D
The offensive line took a step back against Vanderbilt, which is concerning, especially after it looked to be improving in each of the last two weeks. The offensive line did do a good job of keeping Eason upright, seeing how Vanderbilt only sacked the freshman once, but as good as the pass protection was, the run blocking was just as bad. The push off the line was just non-existent and the rushing stats show just that. Another area of concern for the offensive line was the penalties it incurred which stalled drives. The main one that sticks out is the holding penalty on senior center Brandon Kublanow that negated a 20-yard run by Eason, which turned an apparent first down into a punting situation. The offensive line is more than capable of putting together a solid performance and is has in previous games, but the performance against Vanderbilt was one that this group would like to soon forget.
Overall Offense: C
The wide receivers and quarterback positions looked to be in sync against Vanderbilt, but the running backs and the offensive line never found their rhythm. This seems to be a common theme for the offense with only two of the four positions groups stepping up, while the other two do not. That needs to change against Florida because Georgia is going to need a diverse offense to counter Florida’s dynamic defense.
Defensive Line: B-
Vanderbilt’s running back Ralph Webb, who is one of the best in the SEC, had only 48 rushing yards against Georgia, and a lot of that can be credited to the play of the defensive line. The line was led by Jonathan Ledbetter, who appeared in just his first game of the season after coming off of a six-game suspension. The reason the grade is not a lot higher though is because the defensive line really did not get a lot of pressure on Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt’s quarterback. David Marshall was credited with a half a sack, but outside linebacker Davin Bellamy was the main reason that Shurmur found himself on the ground. Overall, the run defense was extremely strong, but the defensive line just could not get penetration into the backfield.
Outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter had two sacks and just continues to look better and better as the year progresses. Bellamy led the team in tackles with eight and was all over the field for the Bulldogs. Inside linebackers Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick are really starting to mesh and feed off each other very well. Both Smith and Patrick finished with six tackles and a half tackle for loss. The linebackers did their job the entire game and probably played one of, if not their best, games of the season against Vanderbilt.
The secondary did a really good job of limiting Shurmur and held him to only 109 yards on 7-18 passing. Malkom Parrish climbed the ladder against a taller receiver and had a nice pass breakup, as did safety Dominick Sanders. Juwuan Briscoe filled in for the injured Deandre Baker and had four tackles, but still lacked a little in his pass defense. The secondary, much like the linebackers, did an excellent job against Vanderbilt, and if it weren’t for special teams blunders, the stat sheet would look even better.
Overall Defense: A-
If you take away the ten points that the Commodores scored off of short fields, courtesy oif the aforementioned special teams snafus, the defense only gave up seven points. Also, anytime that a defense can hold a team to 171 total yards of offense, that indicates an extremely strong performance.
Special Teams: F
The only good thing about the special teams unit against Vanderbilt was that Rodrigo Blankenship went 3-3 on his field goal attempts and also had a few of his kickoffs go for touchbacks. The special teams unit started off shaky on the first play of the game, giving up a 95-yard kickoff return to Darrius Sims. The sad thing is, it only got worse from there. After giving up the return, Georgia’s special teams unit managed to step out of bounds on the 3-yard line on the opening kickoff of the second half, bobbled two punts and let numerous punts bounce past the return man that pinned them deep in their own territory. Also, punter Marshall Long average only 38 yards per punt, with only one of his six kicks going 50 or more yards. This unit put the offense and defense in terrible field positions all game and that ended up hurting the Bulldogs in the worst way.
Paul Maharry is a contributor for the UGAInsider.com.
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