This game has been on everyone’s mind from the moment Tennessee upset Alabama in week seven. These were the top two teams in the country, although the playoff committee didn’t agree, having Ohio State ranked between them. For the added drama this was set up as the game of the season! One which would go a long way to deciding who will win the SEC East, and make the SEC championship game.
In all honesty the game never lived up to the billing, as the Georgia defense suffocated one of the best offenses in the country, and rightly won the game 27-13.
I’ve covered Tennessee a couple of times already this season, so we’ll focus the main notes on the Georgia players, but we’ll start with some brief notes on the defeated Volunteers.
I’ve been a big fan of quarterback Hendon Hooker and his performances this season, but even I will admit that this was not a good day at the office for him. He was constantly harassed by the Georgia front four, and his big play receivers were very much kept in check.
He looked sharp completing short passes, but he missed on three big deep balls, over throwing his receivers every time. From a scouting perspective this game showed the limitations he has, but it shouldn’t hurt his stock too much, as he already has big performances in big games this season. So when evaluating, there’s no need to start moving him down boards on just one bad day.
Tennessee were very happy to have wide receiver Cedric Tillman back from injury, and although his stat line doesn’t stand out (7 catches for 68 yards), it was nice to see him back out there and showing the scouts his nice routes and sure hands.
In Tillman’s absence Wide Receiver Jalin Hyatt has been putting up some monster performances. Hyatt couldn’t really get going in this game though as he was superbly marshalled by the Bulldog secondary.
He also got hurt twice in the game and never really threatened the big plays like he has in the previous weeks. His name is still hot right now though, and if he hasn’t sustained any game costing injuries, he has an easy three game slate to finish the season and keep his name relevant.
I think right tackle Darnell Wright has moved himself into the top 100 with his performances this season, and he did a good job in this game too, which will keep his stock on the up.
Without elite EDGE Nolan Smith, most of the Georgia pressures were from the interior, but when the Bulldogs did send outside rushers Wright handled them easily. He has all the tools you need, and now the light seems to have come on for this former 5-star recruit, and he is starting to live up to the high school hype and play his way into day two of the draft.
This Georgia team has a true leader in quarterback Stetson Bennett, and no matter what you think of him as a draft prospect, it’s hard not to root for this undersized overachiever.
The offense goes through him, and he makes enough good throws and improvised plays, to always have his team in position to win games. He was excellent here hitting the big plays when needed, and his running touchdown was a thing of beauty.
All that being said, Bennett is probably not going to be drafted, as his size limitations and arm strength will be big issues. Even so, you can easily see him being a Chase Daniel type back-up in the NFL and will probably turn into a very good coach when he’s done playing.
The star of this offense is Tight End Brock Bowers. He’ll be eligible for next year’s draft, but he is already the front runner to be TE1 in the 2024 group.
He is undersized (6’3 230lbs) and is deployed more like a receiver than a true tight end so he can show off his excellent hands and run after catch ability.
Tennessee did a pretty good job on him here though and limited him to just three catches in the game, but you can see the great hands and precise routes are there, and he will be widely talked about in next year’s cycle.
Fellow Tight End Darnell Washington is draft eligible though, and he has been making quite a name for himself this year. Some of his highlight plays from earlier in the season are quite mind-blowing, especially when you consider his size.
He is almost like an extra offensive tackle out there, but one that can catch and probably run in the 4.5’s at the combine, making him a really intriguing prospect.
This game won’t feature on his highlight reel though, as he was held catchless, and his trademark aggressive blocking wasn’t as destructive as it normally is. He is still going to be drafted high, if he decides to come out, but he needs to pick the production back up, and get himself back into the TE2 conversation.
Georgia has produced some very good offensive lineman in recent years, and there’s two more that have first round potential, if they declare. Both center Sedrick Van Pran-Granger and left tackle Broderick Jones are Redshirt Sophomores and are listed as the same size too at 6’4 310lbs, but there is a difference of over 500 snaps played between the two. Van Pran-Granger has played the more snaps and he is a lot more polished technique wise.
He is an excellent tone setting leader of this line, and has played exceptionally well this season, including this game where he was picking up blitzes and opening up nice running lanes all day long. He has great football IQ, looks a decent athlete and has a strong powerful base, all vital traits of playing Center. There really isn’t a clear cut OC1 in this class yet, so if he were to declare he’d put himself in that mix for sure.
For someone so young, he has a really high floor and would be a very safe pick who could anchor your line for a decade.
Jones on the other hand would be much more of a gamble, but he plays the premium left tackle position, where teams are more likely to take a chance on potential rather than production.
I was super high on Jones during the summer, as you could see from the few games he stepped in for Jamaree Salyer last year that he was so naturally gifted.
However, I’m not sure I’ve seen enough progress this season to give him the lofty top ten pick that I’ve seen in recent mock drafts. He was inconsistent here against Tennessee, looking like an All-Pro on one play and undraftable the next, but teams will look at that upside and think they may get the next great one. But it all hinges on whether he can fulfil that potential.
I personally would like to see him go back for another year at Georgia and iron out those flaws he has now, as if he did, he has number one overall pick potential.
If he did come out though, I can see him ending up in the range that Dallas took Tulsa’s Tyler Smith last year, a player he compares favourably to, right now.
This Georgia defense lost so much talent to the NFL last year that there were questions entering this season whether they would be able to replace them all.
Well they have.
With Defensive Tackle Jalen Carter, they probably have the best player they’ve had for some time. Carter has been banged up this year, missing two full games and barely featuring in several others. However, for this game, he was back to full strength, and boy what a difference he makes to this team.
He is such a phenomenal watch, it’s so easy to just focus on him alone and watch him tear apart respected offensive lineman. Tennessee’s guard Javontez Spraggins will be having nightmares after Carter took his soul in this game.
He has such a quick first step that he can club, swim or bull rush you before you are set, and in a blink of an eye he is in the backfield causing mayhem. He was credited with four tackles, two for a loss and a sack.
Not only that but he caused two fumbles too, all in his first full time action for months against the number one ranked team!
He is a lock for the top ten, and depending on what team is drafting where, has a legitimate shot at being a top three pick.
Georgia has another potential first round defender in cornerback Kelee Ringo. He was another one who flashed huge potential last season when he cracked the starting lineup, but hasn’t kicked on quite as much as hoped, although he is still flashing elite traits at times.
He had a very up and down game here against the Volunteers, giving up eight catches on just nine targets, but then made a sensational interception on a deep ball in the end zone. He has all the size and speed you want, but his technique can fail him at times, and he has given up 61.1% receptions when targeted, which is far too high for a player of his calibre.
Whilst this isn’t the season he wanted so far, plays like the interception in this game show what he can be. Big speedy corners like this don’t grow on trees, and usually end up as first round picks.
Follow Keith on Twitter @lordlucken