Georgia is seeking a pass rush.
Amidst all of the strengths the Bulldogs have shown, their pursuit of the quarterback has to be considered a deficiency. Through two games, Georgia has recorded one sack — tied for the worst mark in the country. Three teams in the SEC have nine sacks.
Georgia is now without outside linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy, both of whom have begun NFL careers, and the drop-off thus far in very noticeable Georgia totaled 34 sacks (tied for 27th) in 2017.
“We didn’t get enough pressures (against South Carolina),” Georgia outside linebacker Jonathan Ledbetter said. “We definitely have to work on affecting the quarterback in a more-effective way.”
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South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley faced pressure at times from Georgia outside linebacker D’Andre Walker, but had ample time to throw on certain occasions.
The run defense was stout for Georgia, which only allowed 54 yards to the Gamecocks.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart doesn’t shy away from improvement in the pass rush, regarding it as “insufficient,” but he says it’s a give-or-take situation.
“(Stopping the run) probably takes a little bit away from the pass rush, to be honest with you,” Smart said. “I think it’s really important for these guys not to give the quarterback a lot of time to sit back there because he’s really good at it.”
Middle Tennessee, Georgia’s next opponent, possesses a spread-style offense predicated on the passing game from quarterback Brent Stockstill. It will serve as a primer for Georgia’s next SEC test against yet another spread offense in Missouri and quarterback Drew Lock.
Georgia defensive tackle Julian Rochester sees similarities between the two schemes.
Stockstill has recorded 574 passing yards and six touchdowns in games against Vanderbilt and UT-Martin. The challenge of being the two-way lineman now gets tested.
“We have to be able to turn it on with teams that throw the ball,” Rochester said. “This is a great opportunity to get better and show our pass rush ability.”
Added Smart: “You have to be careful how many times you overdo the rush because they have an incredible screen game, and the quarterback is a very good decision-maker. He knows where he’s going with the ball.”
Stockstill, a fifth-year senior, is having the best start to his career with only one interception and 407 yards in the Blue Raiders’ first win of the season. Georgia linebacker Juwan Taylor said the Bulldogs will implement extra practice work on pass rush in preparation for a deep passing attack.
This will be Stockstill’s sixth opportunity in three seasons against an SEC program, and his best performance was a 399-yard showing against Vanderbilt as a sophomore. As for Georgia, Stockstill regards its defense as one of “the best in the country.”
Nevertheless, his pass attempts will be frequent and Georgia has its opportunity to hone in on a weakness.
“We have to play perfect,” Stockstill said. “It’s not really an exaggeration.”