Bulldogs Beat

Georgia fans ready to invade Vanderbilt Stadium for primetime season opener

Georgia fans like making trips to road games, but a trip to Vanderbilt amplifies interest. Each time the Bulldogs take the field in Nashville, most of the stadium is decked in red-and-black and a Sanford Stadium-like atmosphere unfolds.

Maybe it’s the short proximity between the two schools. Or the popular attraction of spending a weekend in a bigger city — not too common amongst the SEC. Whatever the reasoning may be, an invasion is set Georgia for Saturday’s season opener (7:30 p.m., ESPN) and a road game won’t seem like much of one.

“Our fans do a wonderful job traveling,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “It will be a tough ticket to get, and it should be that way.”

The ultimate barometer of attendance might be the number of cell-phone flashlights that glow at the start of the fourth quarter. But some third-party ticket sites have already gotten a head start. VividSeats.com projects 69% of attendees will be Georgia fans per its FanForecast metric, and its cheapest ticket runs for $205 (not including fees). TickPick.com has its cheapest seat at $250, and projects Georgia’s game to be the most-expensive buy of opening weekend.

Georgia student tickets for Saturday’s contest also cost upwards of $100.

“I expect Georgia fans to travel well all the time,” senior safety J.R. Reed said. “They’ll bring a lot of people to the house.”

For its season opener, Vanderbilt’s fan base could be outnumbered. That’ll be more of the same for when Georgia comes to town.

“It’s almost a laid-back environment until Georgia fans get excited,” said Reggie Pope, who is attending with an end zone ticket worth $180. “It’ll be pretty much a home game, and probably 70 percent red and black.”

Here are some other points to watch for as Georgia opens 2019.

HERRIEN BECOMING A KEY PIECE IN RB ROTATION

Brian Herrien came to Georgia in 2016 after nearly being an afterthought. He wasn’t recruited to much of a high level, and declared his intentions after National Signing Day due to some academic concerns. Once on campus, not many saw a smaller Herrien factoring into the Bulldogs’ running back rotation amidst a loaded field.

He saw early action, in fact, getting some snaps as a freshman and progressively working his name toward prominence. Herrien has been discussed rather frequently since, but never as a potential feature piece alongside the likes of D’Andre Swift and others. In his swan song, Herrien might have a chance to alter that narrative.

“I know he plays the game in a violent way when it comes to contact,” Smart said, after giving Herrien the “really good athlete” moniker. “He doesn’t shy away from contact. He seeks people out and he’s really elusive and he’s got great hands.”

Herrien, at 6-foot, 210 pounds, recorded 295 rushing yards and three touchdowns last season. There was chatter about Herrien potentially leaving the program as a graduate transfer candidate, but he remains a Bulldog and could be a factor.

IS DJ DANIEL A POTENTIAL STARTER AT CORNER?

Based on how Georgia plays defense, starting lineups have become irrelevant. It’s the same case around college football as teams focus on rotations and play different groups based on matchups.

But a start still goes on a player’s stat sheet, and a group of starters probably plays the most together.

At cornerback, early assumptions might’ve been that sophomore Tyson Campbell would line up across Eric Stokes during the first series. DJ Daniel, a junior college product out of Georgia Military College, could rebuke those thoughts. Daniel has seen time with the first-team defense, but Ameer Speed and Tyrique Stevenson have also rotated at the position.

Nevertheless, a starting nod for the Griffin native in his first game as a Bulldog could have significance.

“He’s going to fight for everything he’s got,” Stokes said. “I personally respect DJ because he comes in and does what he’s supposed to do. I know on my other side, he’s going to give everything that he’s got.”

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