October 4, 2013

Preview: UGA at UT


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All-Time Meetings: 43rd meeting (Tennessee leads series 21-19-2)

Mark Richt: 121-41, 13th year

Butch Jones 3-2, first year; 53-29 overall

When: Saturday, October 5

Where: Neland Stadium, Knoxville, Tenn.

When:3:30 p.m.

TV CBS (Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson, Tracy Wolfson)

Record: Georgia 3-1, 2-0. Tennessee 3-2, 0-1

Latest Line: Georgia by 11

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Quarterback

Barring the Georgia team bus getting lost on its way to Neyland Stadium, Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray will become the all-time leading passer in SEC history. Murray needs just 100 yards to break the record of 11,528 yards currently held by former Bulldog quarterback David Greene. Murray is off to an outstanding start having completed 79-of-116passes for 1,338 yards with 11 touchdowns and just three interceptions. His passing efficiency rating of 191.1 is the top mark in the SEC which also ranks fourth nationally.

Meanwhile, Vol quarterback Justin Worley is on the other end of the QB spectrum. Worley has been inconsistent at best for Tennessee after earning the starting role in preseason drills. The Rock Hill, S.C. native has completed 65-of-116 passes yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions. Worley was actually booed last week against South Carolina and Vol fans have been clamoring for Jones to play one of the team's true freshmen. But Jones has remained steadfast, meaning Worley will continue to be the man for the Vols until he feels otherwise.

Running Back

The major storyline for the Bulldogs will be whether or not star sophomore Todd Gurley is able to suit up after spraining his left ankle in the second quarter against LSU. Gurley did not return against the Tigers and had not practiced Monday through Wednesday of practice this week. Assuming Gurley can't go, the Bulldogs will turn to fellow sophomore Keith Marshall who rushed for a career-best 164 yards in last year's victory over the Volunteers, scoring on touchdown runs of 72 and 75 yards. Freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas would serve as the top backups.

Fayetteville native Rajion Neal is coming of a career-best 169-yard effort and benefits by running behind what most believe is the top offensive line in the SEC, and perhaps the entire country. The 5-11, 212-pounder has had success against the Bulldogs, too, after rushing for 104 yards last season in Athens. Junior Marlin Lane is Neal's top backup after rushing for 658 yards last year.

Wide Receiver/Tight end

Despite the loss of Malcolm Mitchell the Bulldogs are proving why everyone was enamored with the team's depth as Georgia features four receivers (including tight end Arthur Lynch) with at least 11 catches. Three - Chris Conley (15 catches for 254 yards), Justin Scott-Wesley (14-289) and Michael Bennett (13-162) - are averaging over 15.4 yards per catch. Seven different Bulldogs have caught touchdown passes from Murray, including freshman wideout Reggie Davis and Keith Marshall on a toss out of the backfield. Georgia received a brief scare on Wednesday when Bennett banged his knee but Richt said the junior would be able to play against the Vols. Bulldog tight end Arthur Lynch has been a big focus with 11 catches for 169 yards and two scores.

Tennessee, meanwhile, will start two true freshmen in its three-receiver set, including Marquez North and Josh Smith, while the team's most experienced starter Pig Howard is only a sophomore. In fact, five of the team's top six wideouts are either freshmen or sophomores. In fact, North was the first true freshman to start at wide receiver for Tennessee since Marsalis Teague in 2009. Vol tight end Brendan Downs has seven catches for just 42 yards and is not considered a huge receiving threat.

Offensive Line

Georgia's offensive line turned in what was arguably its finest performance of the year against LSU, as the Bulldogs kept Murray upright all game long not allowing a single sack and opening up enough running lanes for the backs to rush for 196 yards. Last week, the Bulldogs once again started Kenarious Gates at left tackle, Dallas Lee at left guard, David Andrews at center, Chris Burnette at right guard and Kolton Houston at right tackle. Houston will continue to rotate with sophomore John Theus with Mark Beard (left tackle), Brandon Kublanow (left guard), Hunter Long (center) and Watts Dantzler (right guard) the other top backups.

Earlier this week, Richt called Tennessee's offensive line the best in the SEC and perhaps the country. He may be right. Left tackle Antonio Richardson is a likely first-round draft pick and a member of the preseason All-SEC team. Center James Stone is also on a number of preseason All-Conference lists, as is right guard Zach Fulton, who made the SEC Coaches Preseason second-team list. Right tackle Ja'Wuan James is also a potential early-round pick and currently on the Watch List for the Outland Trophy.

Defensive Line

Like the offensive line, Georgia's defensive front has shown steady improvement, especially against the run. After allowing 197 to Clemson and 226 to South Carolina, the Bulldogs limited North Texas to just 7 and 77 to LSU. The arrival of 325-pound nose Chris Mayes, who was sidelined by a concussion the first two weeks, has helped solidify the unit which continues to get solid play from Sterling Bailey, Garrison Smith, Toby Johnson, Ray Drew, John Taylor and Mike Thornton. The group is also showing it can put pressure on the quarterback. After the defensive line contributed just 3.5 sacks in all of 2012, the unit already has 4.5 through four games this fall.

At 6-foot-8, 365 pounds, nose tackle Daniel McCullers isn't a tackling machine, but he eats up space and can be very disruptive. He does a good job of taking on double teams and getting penetration, but he can struggle at times in pursuit. Jacques Smith, Corey Miller and Marlon Walls have all played defensive end position on a regular basis for the Vols in 2014, and all have been effective at times. Smith and Miller are quick, athletic edge rushers that can wreak havoc if they are allowed to shoot gaps while Walls has proven to be one of the defense's best playmakers in 2013 with four tackles for a loss on the season.

Linebacker

Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera continue to rank among the leading tacklers in the SEC. Wilson is fourth with 37, followed by Herrera with 30, which ties him for fifth. Both figure to get the majority of the work at inside linebacker against the Vols. On the outside, sophomore Jordan Jenkins picked up his first sack against LSU, although he ranks fourth in the league with tackles for loss with five. Freshman Leonard Floyd may look bad on one play but come back the next play and look like an All-SEC performer. His three sacks actually tie him for third in the SEC.

For Tennessee, A.J. Johnson is one of the most productive players in the SEC. Johnson is a big, physical type of inside linebacker that is great against the run. He does a great job of taking on blocks downhill, and shedding them to get to the ball carrier. Johnson does struggle in coverage and in getting to the edge. Dontavis Sapp and Brent Brewer man the other two linebacker positions for the Vols and their games are quite similar.

Defensive Backs

Georgia's young secondary came up big on LSU's final possession when it helped four Zach Mettenberger into a final four-and-out enabling the Bulldogs to win last week's game. However, there were still some issues with alignment as some players claimed they had trouble getting the pre-snap calls. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham stated that was wasn't the case, but communication has been an issue for the secondary, which should find the going much easier against Worley and the Vols' equally young receiving corps. The Bulldogs may, however, be without the services of starting safety Tray Matthews, who tweaked his hamstring on Tuesday. If Matthews is unable to go, look for fellow freshman Quincy Mauger to get the call. Strong/safety star Josh Harvey-Clemons is coming off a 15-tackle effort, while starting cornerbacks Brendan Langley and Damian Swann will look to pick off their first passes of the year.

Safety Brian Randolph is the team leader in tackles with 7.4 per game and leads the team with three interceptions. Randolph is a rangy safety that covers a lot of ground. He can man up on a receiver occasionally, but he is best when asked to play centerfield and read the quarterback's eyes. The other safety, LaDarrell McNeil has also been good. McNeil is fourth on the team in tackles with 4.2 stops per game, and he has an interception as well. The cornerback positions are manned by a couple of long athletes that can make plays on the ball in freshman Cameron Sutton and junior Justin Coleman.

Special Teams

Michael Parody is a one-man band for Tennessee as he handles all of the kickoffs, punts, field goals and extra points for the Volunteers. Parody has been responsible for 21 touchbacks and is a perfect 21-for-21 on extra points. He's also converted 4-of-5 field goal attempts, his only miss a 52-yarder against South Alabama.

Marshall Morgan is coming off a huge game for Georgia last week after converting all five extra points and booting three field goals, including a career-best 55-yarder. The Bulldogs also did a much better job covering kicks than they did against North Texas while punter Collin Barber averaged 48.5 yards on his two kicks.

Injury Update

Gurley appears doubtful with his sprained left ankle while Matthews appears questionable at safety after straining his hamstring during Tuesday's practice. The Bulldogs are also expected to be without defensive end James DeLoach (concussion), while wide receiver Jonathon Rumph is questionable as he continues to have issues with a strained hamstring.

Projected Starting Lineup

Georgia

Offense

QB Aaron Murray (6-1, 208, Sr.)

RB Keith Marshall (5-11, 219, Soph.)

FB Quayvon Hicks (6-2, 265, Soph.)

LT Kenarious Gates (6-5,327, Sr.)

LG Dallas Lee (6-4, 295, Sr.)

C David Andrews (6-2, 295. Jr.)

RG Chris Burnette (6-2, 314, Sr.)

RT Kolton Houston (6-5, 280, Jr.)

TE Arthur Lynch (6-5, 254, Sr.)

WR Michael Bennett (6-3, 205, Jr.)

WR Chris Conley (6-3, 206, Jr.)

Defense

DE Ray Drew (6-5, 276, Jr.)

N Garrison Smith (6-3, 299, Sr.)

DE Sterling Bailey (6-3, 282, RSoph.)

Sam Leonard Floyd (6-4, 235, Fr.)

Will Jordan Jenkins (6-3, 246, Soph.)

MIKE Ramik Wilson (6-3, 232, Jr.)

MOE Amarlo Herrera (6-2, 244, Jr.)

CB Brendan Langley (6-1, 181, Fr.)

CB Damian Swann (5-11, 178, Jr.)

SS Corey Moore (6-2, 214, Jr.)

FS Quincy Mauger (6-0, 200, Fr.)

Tennessee

Offense

QB Justin Worley (6-5, 222, Jr.)

RB Rajion Neal (5-11, 212, Sr.)

LT Antonio Richardson (6-6, 327, Jr.)

LG Alex Bullard (6-2, 302, Sr.)

C James Stone (6-3, 291, Sr.)

RG Zach Fulton (6-5, 325, Sr.)

RT Ja'Wuan James (6-6, 318, Sr.)

TE Brendan Downs (6-5, 248, Jr.)

WR Marquez North (6-4, 215, Fr.)

WR Pig Howard (5-8, 185, Soph.)

WR Josh Smith (6-1, 193, Fr.)

Defense

DE Jacques Smith (6-2, 243, Sr.)

DT Daniel McCullers (6-8,365, Sr.)

NG Daniel Hood (6-4, 277, Sr.)

DE Corey Miller (6-3, 265, Sr.)

WLB Dontavis Sapp (6-2,227, Sr.)

MLB A.J. Johnson (6-3, 243, Jr.)

SLB Brent Brewer (6-1, 221, Sr.)

CB Justin Coleman (5-10, 184, Jr.)

SS Brian Randolph (6-0, 199, RSoph.)

FS LaDarrell McNeil (6-1,199, Soph.)

CB Cameron Sutton (6-1, 180, Fr.)

Did you know?

• Aaron Murray needs 100 yards to become the SEC's all-time leading passer.

• The Bulldogs have played 14 true freshmen this year, including three starters - Matthews, Floyd and Langley.

• Georgia rank sixth nationally in total offense averaging 554 yards of offense per game.

• Tennessee will be wearing their "Smokey Gray uniforms for the first time in school history.

• The Vols' 11 interceptions tie them for first in the country with Virginia Tech.

Overview-Projection

For Georgia, the question is, will the Bulldogs come into this game flat after last week's thrilling 44-41 win over LSU? Richt certainly hopes not. To help guard against it, the Bulldogs practiced in full pads on both Monday and Tuesday with Richt calling Wednesday's workout a success and that he felt like the team was focused on the challenge that lies ahead. On paper, this is not a very good Volunteer team but Richt and the Bulldogs know, if they can't get past Tennessee Saturday afternoon, then their victories over South Carolina and LSU last week won't amount to a thing. That alone should be plenty of motivation for the Dawgs.

Predictions:

Jake Rowe - Georgia 31, Tennessee 17 (Record 3-1)

Anthony Dasher - Georgia 45, Tennessee 17 (Record 3-1)

Steve Patterson - Georgia 42, Tennessee 10



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