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Friday Dawg Bites is the Next Man Up

NCAA Football: Georgia at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Friday, and if you’re strolling around campus in Athens today, you’ll probably run into the College Gameday set. You’ll also run into the SEC Nation set. This is getting routine for your #1 ranked Bulldogs, and that’s a good thing for the UGA brand.

It’s the type of thing that makes a big name recruit listen a bit more intently when a UGA coach comes calling. Despite his insistence that he’s not decomitting from FSU, Kirby Smart went and visited five-star Travis Hunter last night. The #1 player in Georgia has been strongly tied to the Noles for a long time now, but when the head coach of the nation’s top ranked team shows up two days before his school is going to get its second 3 hour advertisement on College Gameday in the last few weeks, you’ve gotta pay attention right?

Just in case all of the recent media attention on UGA didn’t have Hunter’s attention, the Kirbycopter was on the scene. Will it matter enough to get Hunter back on campus for an official visit? Time will tell... But when a Champ Bailey level athlete is about to leave your backyard for a 2-4 football team in Tallahassee, you gotta try.

Smart has recruited as well as anyone in the country since becoming the head coach at Georgia, and it’s a good thing he has. I don’t know of many teams that could survive the rash of injuries that have come Georgia’s way lately, and you can add another big one to that list. 2020 All-American Safety Tykee Smith tore his ACL in practice this week, and is done for the season.

Smith had finally gotten his first game action of the season last Saturday after a foot injury during Fall Camp. He could technically return, but that will depend on his draft stock. A guy who many UGA fans thought would help anchor a secondary that was depleted by last year’s NFL Draft will end up having played just 8 snaps for Georgia this season. The next man up mentality of these Bulldogs will have to press on, and the bye week can’t get here quickly enough. Get well soon, Tykee.

As far as the other injured Bulldogs, it does look like UGA’s wide-receiver group will have some big names back on Saturday. Jermaine Burton and Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint look to be good to go, and Kenny McIntosh and Christopher Smith II are questionable. Dominick Blaylock and Arian Smith remain doubtful, but they continue to make good progress. It’s quite possible that the starting wide-receiver group the Dawgs had against Auburn might be entirely different than the ones UGA runs onto the field for its first series at the end of the season. If this offense gets fully healthy, then watch out.

Obviously there has been plenty of worry and speculation this season around the health of JT Daniels, but Stetson Bennett IV has alleviated some of those concerns with his recent performances. Former Dawgs Matt Stinchcomb and Aaron Murray both said they’d keep Bennett starting for the time being.

It was just a short time ago that I was being laughed at for saying that Bennett’s starting experience in big time SEC games was an important luxury for UGA in 2021. After silencing the Jordan-Hare crowd with a ruthlessly efficient performance last week, there seems to be much less concern around how soon Daniels will be healthy across Bulldog Nation.

So what’s going to happen on Saturday?

Well, I see a Kentucky team that’s down two starting tackles, and also has a lot of guys in the secondary that Georgia can create favorable matchups with, It’ll be dealer’s choice for Todd Monken, and my guess is he will make his choices based on what Kentucky is doing formationally. The Wildcats will have to run to win, and that’s a problem when you’re facing this Georgia defense. I like the Dawgs big, and I think we see a couple more long touchdown passes from the arm of Stetson Bennett.

Lost in all of the hype around this matchup is that this version of the Kentucky defense isn’t as good as some of the ones the Dawgs have faced in recent years. This could get ugly.

Until later…