Players To Watch: Georgia Bulldogs
It’s bowling season for the Nittany Lions in Jacksonville, Florida and pulling into the lanes next them for a TaxSlayer Bowl showdown is the Georgia Bulldogs. The Dawgs had yet again another solid season and with a postseason win they could find them with their fourth double-digit win total in the past five years. Despite their record, they failed to win the SEC East thanks to an abysmal October which Georgia went 1-3. The Bulldogs enter familiar Jacksonville territory with a shell of a team; an interim head coach, skeleton coaching staff and several players unavailable to play. Trying to start a new chapter, the Dawgs will look for the following players to take over and write a storybook ending to a daunting season.
No. 26 Malcolm Mitchell, WR
Season Stats: 53 rec, 751 yards, 4 TDs, 14.2 avg rec, 62.5 per game
The Bulldogs have several weapons spread across their offense, but the one that stands out is star wideout Malcolm Mitchell. After battling nagging injuries throughout his career, the senior finished up his college career by leading the team in receiving yardage, doubling the next highest receiver’s total. When quarterbacks Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey struggled, it was Mitchell who kept the passing game afloat by catching balls and making plays. He may not be the biggest receiver at only 6’0” nor the fastest guy on the field, but he will have his hands heavily involved in the offense and can do damage in quantity.
No. 84 Leonard Floyd, OLB
Season Stats: 68 total tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks
Standing 6’4” and 231 pounds, this junior will be looking to cause pressure on Christian Hackenberg and company all game. Along with a solid cast in the linebacker core and defensive line, Floyd should have no trouble using his athleticism and speed off the edge to cause havoc on the Penn State offensive line that has struggled all season. Along with teammate Jordan Jenkins, the two have tallied 21 total tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. The Dawgs’ defensive line will be a challenge for the Lions all game and Floyd will be at the forefront of the constant pressure on the Penn State pass game.
No. 1 Sony Michel, RB
Season Stats: 199 carries, 1,076 rush yards, 7 rush TDs, 5.4 ypc, 89.7 ypg
With names of the past like Herschel Walker, Garrison Hearst, Knowshon Moreno and more recently Todd Gurley, Georgia has a strong case for the title of Running Back U. Even now, Georgia has a plethora of five-star backs, but the team has found their abundance dwindle down due to injuries. With an adopted next-man-up mentality, the Dawgs turned to Sony Michel to carry the workload of the season and the sophomore stepped up to the challenge. The sophomore chalked up a 1,000 yard season in just six starts along with 10 total scores. Michel is a complete back that can stop on a dime but also break through the line, and has the ability to run right around or through defenders in the open field. If the Penn State defense has a hard time wrapping him up at the line, Michel could put on a show and dazzle in the second level.
No. 16 Isaiah McKenzie, WR & No. 81 Reggie Davis, WR
Season Stats: McKenzie: PUNT – 15 returns, 181 yards, 2 TDs / Davis: PUNT – 8 returns, 110 yards, 1 TD KICK – 17 returns, 394 yards
This dynamic duo of returners have the most potential to change the game in the blink of an eye. Together, the two have taken three punt returns to the house and average 12.65 yards on punts and 20.76 yards on kickoffs. These return men have blistering speed and the agility to shake the Nittany Lions out of their black shoes. The Lions have already given up a handful of return touchdowns on the year, and that is just when the ball actually makes its way to the returners, for the team sent one of every 12 kickoffs out of bounds during the season. Expect to see several long returns if Penn State is not on top of their game.
Ryan Berti is a sophomore majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter:@RBirdman7