Players to Watch: Georgia vs. Kentucky 2018

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Players to Watch: Georgia vs. Kentucky 2018

Deandre Baker tells the Notre Dame crowd to be quiet – Georgia vs. Notre Dame 2017
Deandre Baker

Maybe the Bulldogs’ Most Valuable Player this season, the 5-11, 185-pound Baker rates as one of America’s top cover corners. The senior from Miami has shut down every leading receiver he has faced the past two seasons and his all-around ability in defending both the pass and the Benny Snell-led Kentucky running game on Saturday will certainly be key for a Georgia win over the Wildcats.
After facing Florida’s trio of running backs in Jacksonville, the Bulldog defense has to be concerned with only one tailback on Saturday in Lexington, Ky. and that of course is the SEC’s leading rusher for the past two seasons, one Benny Snell. Rice, one of Georgia’s fastest linebackers and leading tacklers with a nose for the football, will have to play big at Kroger Field so as to prevent Snell from gashing the Bulldog defense both inside the tackles and out on the edge.

Charlie Woerner (89) - UGA vs. Mississippi State - Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017
Charlie Woerner (89)

Woerner, along with Isaac Nauta, has been a starter at the tight end position for most of this season and his blocking ability has been instrumental in the success of Georgia’s infantry attack. The 6-5, 245-pound junior out of Rabun County is also capable — when the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks target the tight end — of making key receptions and running for good yardage after the catch. The Kentucky defense, paced by All-America candidate Josh Allen, can be very stingy at times; thus, the Bulldogs will need step-up performances from all segments of their offense Saturday and that includes tight ends Woerner and Nauta.
At the top of Georgia’s receiving corps along with fellow junior Riley Ridley, Hardman is counted on for explosive plays every single game by the Bulldogs’ offensive unit. With his breakaway speed, the 5-11, 183-pound Hardman is always a deep ball threat and, most certainly, Georgia needs some big plays from the Elbert County native Saturday when the Bulldog wideouts go against a talented UK secondary, which is led by All-SEC safety Mike Edwards.

Mecole Hardman (4)

The Bulldog defense faces quite a task this Saturday … attempting to stop the SEC’s leading rusher. Snell, a bruising 5-11, 223-pound junior, ended the 2017 regular season with an SEC best 1,318 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns while being named All-SEC first team by the Associated Press. And he has picked right up this season where he left off last season, punishing opposing defenses with his power and quickness. Needless to say, the Bulldogs can’t allow Snell to put up big numbers Saturday, that is, if Georgia is to come out of the Bluegrass with a victory.
This junior college transfer (Garden City, Kan.) has teamed with Snell this season to give the Wildcats a very potent running attack. The 6-3, 205-pound sophomore is Kentucky’s second-leading rusher and although the Wildcats are a run-oriented offense, Wilson is also capable of inflicting damage though the air when he does pass, mostly looking for ace receiver Lynn Bowden (#1). The UGA defense is bound to be keying on Snell Saturday but also must be wary of Wilson keeping the ball.
While Snell is the SEC’s top running back, this guy is among the very top defenders in the conference. Allen, a 6-5, 260-pound senior, was an All-SEC 2nd team selection in 2017 and this season ranks at the top of conference leaders in tackles-for-loss, sacks and forced fumbles. Josh Allen is indeed a force on the outside for the Kentucky defense and is capable, with his quickness and power, of continually disrupting the Georgia attack on Saturday. Thus, the Bulldog offense must have an answer for UK’s No. 41.
A Phil Steele All-SEC first team selection last season and named to the Jim Thorpe Preseason Watch List in 2018, Edwards has led all SEC defensive backs in tackles each of the last two seasons. With outstanding speed and ball-hawking ability this 6-0, 201-pound senior safety, along with Allen, is a ringleader in the Cats’ defense and the Georgia offense will have to know Edwards’ whereabouts at all times Saturday at UK’s Kroger Field, formerly Commonwealth Stadium.









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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.