KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee’s certainly not the only program battling injuries, and the Georgia football team is evidence of that.
The Bulldogs enter Saturday’s pivotal home game with the Vols possibly missing one of the top tailbacks in the nation in the form of Nick Chubb.
Chubb is considered 50-50 for the game, just as Tennessee isn’t sure what it will be getting out of its top tackler from a year ago, Jalen Reeves-Maybin.
Here’s a position-by-position comparison of the 25th-ranked Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 SEC) and the No. 11-ranked Vols (4-0, 1-0) entering into Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. clash at Sanford Stadium (TV: CBS).
Georgia: Jacob Eason has a big arm, and that’s why he’s playing as a true freshman. He’s still learning to read defenses and manage the offense in flawless fashion. Eason’s big arm, however, has not yet translated to success throwing deep. Not much mobility or pocket presence has led to the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder getting sacked three times a game, on average.
Tennessee: Josh Dobbs returns to his home state for his first and only appearance in Sanford Stadium. Dobbs was not offered a scholarship by the Bulldogs, and there’s a good chance he’ll look to prove that a mistake. A true dual-threat, Dobbs is coming off arguably his best game in orange and white.
Georgia: Chubb is questionable, but Sony Michel is most versatile and could prove a tough matchup. Michel, a former 5-star signee, had 145 yards vs. UT last season. Brendan Douglas is more a short-yardage back, but Brian Herrien, is a speed guy who led Georgia in rushing against Ole Miss. Elijah Holyfield is a powerful back who has been dealing with an ankle injury.
Tennessee: Jalen Hurd has yet to have a statement game, and Alvin Kamara has not made as much impact coming out of the backfield as anticipated. John Kelly has not gotten as many carries as he might have hoped for. The Vols’ shotgun formation has proven difficult to run out of for Hurd, and UT has struggled in short-yardage situations.
Georgia: Isaiah McKenzie, 5-8, 175, is the No. 1 target. He’s an explosive slot receiver who can do a lot after the catch and make yards off jet sweeps. Terry Godwin is another smallish wideout, 5-11, 185. Reggie Davis had the big drop against UT last year, so he’ll be looking to make up for that between The Hedges.
Tennessee: Jauan Jennings had a remarkable performance against Florida where he showed his play-making ability, and Josh Malone looks to become just the second UT receiver in history to open a season with TD catches in five games (Corey Fleming, 1993). Tyler Byrd continues to emerge, taking snaps from redshirt junior Josh Smith.
Georgia: Center Senior Brandon Kublanow (6-3, 293) and right tackle Greg Pyke (6-6, 325) are the two top offensive linemen, but Pyke is better when he’s playing guard. The Bulldogs have been counting on Tyler Catalina, a 6-6, 325-pound graduate transfer from Rhode Island, at left tackle. Left guard Isaiah Wynn is smaller at 285 pounds, but he’s capable of moving out to tackle.
Tennessee: The Vols are getting back up to speed. Chance Hall’s return against Florida factoring in. Hall and Jack Jones solidify the right side of the line. Coleman Thomas has healed up some from the double-sprained ankles that had been holding him back. Brett Kendrick and Jashon Robertson have looked decent on the left side of the line.
Georgia: A talented but young group, nose guard John Atkins (6-4, 315) is the only upperclassmen. Lots of rotation here, but sophomore defensive tackle Trenton Thompson is a rising star, a former No. 1 national recruit. Sophomore DaQuqan Hawkins-Muck is the other starting end.
Tennessee: Derek Barnett’s two sacks in the second-half against Florida helped change the tone, and Danny OBrien and Kendal Vickers have been solid at defensive tackle all season. Vols are waiting for Jonathan Kongbo to make an impact.
Georgia: A new corps from a year ago, but junior Lorenzo Carter was a 5-star recruit who only needs more reps to get better. Junior middle linebacker Reggie Carter is coming off a shoulder injury and looks good, and “jack” linebacker Davin Bellamy (6-5, 240) has also exhibited great talent.
Tennessee: The Vols appear to be down both starters, as Jalen Reeves-Maybin would be limited it he plays and Darrin Kirkland remains sidelined. Colton Jumper has filled in admirably at the “mike,” and Cortex McDowell stepped up in the absence of Reeves-Maybin. Dillon Bates and Elliott Berry could see time this week.
Georgia: After leading the nation in pass defense last season, but they haven’t looked as good this year. The Bulldogs have shorter cornerbacks in Malkom Parrish (5-10, 185) and Juwuan Briscoe (5-11, 192). Free safety Dominick Sanders led SEC in interceptions last year and is an all-league candidate.
Tennessee: Todd Kelly Jr. is coming off the best performance of his career, and Micah Abernathy teams with him for a formidable safety combination. True freshman Baylen Buchanan will get his first career start at corner, where he’s played steady, while Emmanuel Moseley is in step-up mode with Cam Sutton out.
Georgia: McKenzie is an All-American candidate returning punts, but beyond him, the Bulldogs are struggling otherwise. William Ham missed field goals of 23 and 38 yards against Missouri, and Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 36-yarder against Ole Miss, so the Bulldogs are 3-of-8 in field goal attempts. Punter Marshall Long is averaging 39.6 yards.
Tennessee: Punter Trevor Daniel is having an All-SEC year averaging 43.9 per punt and 11 kicks placed inside opponents’ 20-yard line. Kicker Aaron Medley is 4-of-6 on the year, but 0-for-2 beyond 40. Evan Berry is averaging 34.3 on his three kick returns, while Kamara averages 6.6 on punt returns.