After the Bulldogs defeated the 7th-ranked Fighting Irish 23-17 on Saturday night before a record crowd of 93,246 in Sanford Stadium, Notre Dame’s Head Coach Brian Kelly met with the media and discussed the game. Coach Kelly remarked that the game against Georgia was one of the most physical he has ever coached.
“They’re a good football team, obviously. It was a physical game, both sides of the ball. You could hear it out there,” said Kelly. “It was probably one of the most physical games that I have coached, against any team that I have competed against. And that’s a lot of games that I’ve coached.”
Coach Kelly also stated that Georgia was one of the deepest team depth-wise that Notre Dame has faced and that the Dawgs just kept coming at the Fighting Irish “in waves.”
“They came back in waves. I think where they struggled a little bit was all of the injuries in the back end of their defense. Upfront, we’re trying to match and trying to figure out what’s going to come onto the field and it’s three down, it’s four down, it’s different personnel groupings, it’s more depth than we’ve seen in a long time.”
The Georgia team that Brian Kelly and Notre Dame faced is one that has taken Kirby Smart and his coaching staff four recruiting classes to build. It is a Bulldog team built and honed according to his coaching philosophy that involves physicality and wearing down the opponent.
Smart’s first recruiting class in 2016 was a very good one and ranked No. 6 in the country with three 5-stars in QB Jacob Eason, athlete Mecole Hardman and tight end Isaac Nauta. Of course, Eason is at Washington now, Hardman was drafted in the 2019 NFL draft by Kansas City, and Nauta is also in the NFL with the Lions. However, there are a number of seniors or redshirt juniors from that class on this year’s football team. On offense there is running back Brian Herrien, tight end Charlie Woerner, wide receiver and special teamer Tyler Simmons, and offensive linemen Ben Cleveland and Solomon Kindley. Then on the other side of the ball are four seniors on the d-line in Tyler Clark, Michail Carter, David Marshall, and Julian Rochester as well as senior cornerback Tyrique McGhee and senior safety J.R. Reed who transferred from Tulsa to UGA in 2016.
From the 2017 recruiting class, which was ranked No. 3 in the country and also was comprised of three 5-star prospects, there is also a group of juniors and redshirt sophomores who make up several starters on the 2019 Georgia football team. Those starters include Jake Fromm at quarterback, offensive tackles Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson, running back D’Andre Swift, safety Richard LeCounte III, athlete Mark Webb Jr. (who was recruited as a receiver but switched to defense and is a star in the STAR), defensive end Malik Herring, linebackers Walter Grant and Monty Rice, and cornerback Eric Stokes to name a few.
Those first two classes of Coach Smart’s form the core of this 2019 team and when you add in the talent from the No. 1 recruiting class of 2018 and the No. 2 recruiting class of 2019, I’ve never seen a deeper or more talented Georgia football team in the last 25 years than this one from the starters and the backups all the way to the guys on the scout team.
A number of fans and media expected the 3rd-ranked Bulldogs to blow out Notre Dame despite the Irish being ranked in the top-10. To give credit where credit is due, Notre Dame is a talented football team who played a great game in a hostile environment.
But for opposing teams to beat the Dawgs this year and going forward, they are going to have to overcome waves of physicality due to the depth and talent that Head Coach Kirby Smart and his staff have recruited to the University of Georgia and developed. When it comes to playing the Bulldogs in 2019, the question opponents have to face is; “Can we hang with Georgia for four quarters?” In the end, and although Notre Dame gave it their best shot, they were not able to do so.
The next team up to test the Dawgs’ depth and physicality and face that question are SEC East rivals, the Tennessee Volunteers, on October 5th up in Knoxville.