Kirby Smart claims he still has nightmares over what former Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel did to his Alabama defenses.
In 2012 and 2013, Manziel lit the Crimson Tide up. In a 29-24 win, which came during his Heisman winning season in 2012, Manziel went off for 253 yards and two touchdowns, and also totaled 92 rushing yards.
A year later in a 49-42 Alabama win, Manziel almost single-handedly pulled the game out for the Aggies. With a ton of Johnny Football type of plays, he finished with a passing stat line of 464 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions, to go with 98 rushing yards.
Smart now has the same concern he had with Manziel over the quarterback his Georgia defense will face Saturday.
Having seen Mississippi quarterback Chad Kelly in person previously, which Smart did in Alabama's lone loss of the 2015 season, there are certain similarities that give plenty reason for concern.
“I really think, in my time in the SEC — even the embarrassment that Johnny Manziel put me through and put us through at the University of Alabama, throwing the ball — this guy’s got it all,” Smart said. “He can make all the throws from the pocket. He can run the ball. He can run bubbles. And he’s got moxie. He’s got a moxie about him where he’ll stand in there and take a shot. He’s not afraid.’’
Smart wouldn't say whether Manziel or Kelly is better, but made the rare comparison to highlight the athleticism Kelly brings to the table.
Kelly, a first-team All-SEC preseason selection, has one of the best arms in not only the conference but in the country. He also offers a running threat, with his 6-foot-2 and 224-pound frame making it difficult to bring him down.
Based on the first three games of 2016, it's likely Georgia won't face a better quarterback on its schedule.
“Whenever you got someone who can do both, throw the ball accurately and run the ball, it’s always going to be a challenge,” defensive back Maurice Smith said. “He can throw the deep ball, he can throw in between tight coverages. He can also make plays scrambling and then throwing it deep. You have to really work on scrambling drills in practice.”
Like Missouri, the Bulldogs are expecting the Rebels to hurry up to the line of scrimmage and run as many plays as possible.
Georgia will try to play better coverage against Mississippi in the first half after surrendering 322 of Missouri quarterback Drew Lock's 376 yards in the opening two quarters.
Part of that will be so Georgia's pass rushers have better opportunities to get to Kelly and disrupt what he can do in the backfield.
If Georgia gives Kelly time to throw, it could be a dangerous situation, considering what he did a year ago against a Smart-coached defense.
“He can stand in the pocket and you feel like the guy’s Dan Marino at times throwing it through there,” Smart said. “The next thing you know, he’s running around, making a back-shoulder throw, winging it and taking off running down the middle. He really does it all.”