Sure, we’ve done our best here at Dawg Sports to preview the Georgia Bulldogs’ upcoming opponents, including the South Carolina Gamecocks. But there’s no way we can know them as well as the writers who cover those opponents day in and day out.
That’s why when it’s possible we like to pick the brains of the experts. Today’s guest is Kody Timmers of our SB Nation sister site, Garnet and Black Attack. Kody has some interesting thoughts about The development of quarterback Jake Bentley, what Bryan McClendon’s offense might look like, and who the playmakers in garnet and black not named Deebo Samuel might be. Enjoy. If you're so inclined you can find my responses to Kody’s questions about the Bulldogs here.
- Where is Jake Bentley in his development process? Is there a sense that he fully has control of the offense?
There’s no question Bentley suffered through a sophomore slump last season. No one’s exactly sure why, though a convenient scapegoat is former offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper (and there’s no question he was very, very bad for the offense at large). Entering Year 3, I think most fans are feeling positive about Bentley’s progress, especially after his efficient and methodical performance in Week 1.
Yeah, it was against Coastal Carolina, but he had a calm and collected demeanor about him that he rarely did last season -- even against bad defenses. And that’s really the biggest thing for him, because we know he’s a film junkie, can make all the throws, etc. I don’t think any Gamecock fans are concerned about his physical tools or grasp of the offense. But he’s such a passionate guy, so can he finally keep that emotion in check and avoid getting the yips in big games? We’ll find out soon.
2. How accurate are the rumors that Bryan McClendon has installed an up-tempo offense in Columbia? Does Will Muschamp know this?
Frankly, I don’t know (on both counts, ha). I’m probably more of a skeptic than most, but we were promised up-tempo/HUNH when Muschamp was hired, and aside from a handful of snaps, we still haven’t seen it on display to any meaningful degree. I trust McClendon a lot more than I ever trusted Roper (Editor’s note: that’s probably prudent), especially after watching him put together a very effective one-minute drill in the Coastal game, but I’m still going to need more evidence than that.
There was conflicting chatter during the offseason about tempo just being mixed in versus the HUNH being our base offense, so it’s tough to say. I think (and hope) this game will reveal more about our offensive philosophy, because the lack of a coherent approach has been hurting that unit more than anything else.
3) Imagine Deebo Samuel gets kidnapped by separatists from the breakaway republic of Greenwood before kickoff. Who would South Carolina go to if the Gamecocks need one big play to win it?
Great question. I think I’d have to go with Bryan Edwards, who stepped up big time in Deebo’s absence last year. He’s a go-up-and-get-it kind of receiver, so if we need someone to win a crucial 50-50 ball, Edwards is likely the target. I’d also put Rico Dowdle forward as kind of a sleeper option. I think he’s underrated, and understandably so -- injury has stolen a lot of snaps from him. But he’s an athletic, versatile back who also does a great job with his receptions out of the backfield.
4) The Gamecock defense is replacing some major contributors from 2017. Who appears poised to step up on that side of the ball in 2018?
T.J. Brunson at linebacker is as steady and reliable as they come. Not a flashy guy, but he gets the job done, and he almost beat out Skai Moore to lead the team in tackles last year. Defensive lineman D.J. Wonnum is probably the best-known player on the defense, as a preseason All-SEC pick, but he’s banged up coming into this game with a sprained ankle, so I’m not sure how effective he’ll be against UGA specifically. Fellow defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw is another guy who could have a productive year, but otherwise, this is kind of an anonymous defense right now. Like UGA, we’re breaking in our share of new players and first-year starters, particularly in the secondary.
5) Because we must: what is your score prediction?
Our games against each other rarely seem to go as everyone expects, whether that ends up being good or bad for us, so I’ve been waffling on predictions all week. As I’ve said elsewhere, I think this game could be similar to some of the shootouts in the Spurrier years, at least through the first few quarters.
I see a 35-21, 35-28 type of result, with Georgia as the likely victor. I think South Carolina has a legitimate chance to pull the upset, but they’re probably going to need some trickeration or a defensive score to do it -- or just an exceptionally great day across the board, like the Alabama upset in 2010.
Thanks to a Kody for his thoughtful responses. Here’s looking forward to a clean, spirited football game before Georgia moves onto its big rivalry game with Middle Tennessee State.