KIRBY SMART (UGA Head Coach)
Smart enters the Georgia Tech game Saturday with a splendid 31-8 three-year coaching record at his alma mater, including a 23-3 mark over the past two seasons. But Smart is 1-1 in his two meetings thus far with the arch-rival Yellow Jackets, losing in Athens 28-27 to Tech in 2016 before routing the Jackets in Atlanta by 38-7 last season. Tech, in fact, boasts a two-game win streak over Georgia in Athens, having also beaten Mark Richt’s 2014 Dawgs in Sanford Stadium by 30-24 in overtime. Thus, all this considered, you can bet Kirby will have his team supremely motivated to protect the home field on Saturday against “The Enemy” from the Flats.
JONATHAN LEDBETTER (DE, #13)
This 6-4, 277-pound senior has been a leader for Georgia’s defensive front all season long and a good performance by Ledbetter on Saturday will be vital for the Bulldogs having success in slowing down the Yellow Jackets’ famed triple-option attack. Ledbetter and Georgia’s outside linebackers will have to stay at home when Tech QB TaQuon Marshall fakes a dive handoff and pitches to his backs on the outside. Discipline and more discipline is the big key to thwarting the ground-gobbling Jacket offense.
ERIC STOKES (CB, #27)
Stokes, a 6-1, 185-pound redshirt freshman, has certainly had his moments this season when sharing time with freshman starter Tyson Campbell. Stokes had a key punt block in the win at Missouri, which he returned for a touchdown, and then, in Georgia’s 27-10 win over Auburn two weekends ago, he had a clutch pass breakup in the end zone to prevent a Tiger touchdown and force Auburn to go for a field goal instead. Stokes, Campbell and the rest of the Bulldog secondary not only have to be at their best in run support against Tech on Saturday but have to be alert and ready when Tech QB Marshall does try to hit a deep ball.
RILEY RIDLEY (WR, #8)
One of the best defenses against Georgia Tech’s triple-option is to keep the Jacket offense on the sidelines. Thus, the Bulldog offense needs to keep the ball as much as possible … go on long drives and eat up clock. Georgia can do that with not only another strong running game, but a controlled passing attack as well. Jake Fromm and his receiving corps must be “on” Saturday and keep the sticks moving. Ridley, a 6-2, 200-pound junior, has been at the top of the UGA receiving leaders all season and he and the rest of the Bulldog wideouts will need to be at the top of their game against the GT secondary.
SOLOMON KINDLEY (OG, #66)
And if the Georgia offense is to control the ball and time of possession Saturday, rather than let the Yellow Jackets win that battle, the Bulldogs up front in the O-line will have to create space for the likes of tailbacks D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield … the way they did against tough Kentucky and Auburn defenses when the Georgia running attack rolled up over 300 yards in both games. Kindley, a 6-4, 330-pound redshirt sophomore, will be a big key in the Bulldogs’ offensive front doing just that.
JAKE CAMARDA (P, #90)
Camarda, one of the nation’s top prep kickers out of Norcross High, has gone through an admittedly up-and-down freshman season as the Bulldogs’ starting punter. Camarda has boomed punts of 63 and 62 yards but has also shanked several kicks that resulted in poor field position for the UGA defense. But in recent games Camarda has been much more consistent, in fact several times kicking opponents dead at their own 1-yard line. His ability to “flip the field” Saturday will be crucial, so as to make Tech’s ground-gobbling offense begin drives deep in its own territory.