When Kirby Smart called fourth-ranked Georgia’s linebacker group a “wounded warrior” unit, he wasn’t exaggerating.
Smart said the group will approach No. 1 Alabama the same as each other game, by committee, and do so with a lot of banged up bodies. Getting Monty Rice back would certainly help — the sophomore missed the last two games but is still second on the team in tackles (59) — but there’s still no confirmation that Rice is 100 percent.
Given that Rice did not practice at all last week, he probably won’t be.
“It’ll be by committee,” Smart said. “Monty has been out two games, we’ve had to play other guys. Channing (Tindall) played some, Quay (Walker) is beginning to step up and play. Natrez (Patrick) has been dinged up, and he keeps pushing through. ... We’ll lean on the guys we’ve got.”
The Bulldogs will likely need all the bodies they can get, in order to slow down the Crimson Tide’s historically-efficient offense.
Alabama runs primarily out of the shotgun, with heavy doses of three-and-four receiver sets. And it works. Tua Tagovailoa, the Crimson Tide’s Heisman candidate at quarterback, has thrown for 3,189 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2018, compared to just two interceptions.
That’s efficient, and Georgia’s players know it’ll take their best performance of the year in order to win in Atlanta.
“It’s a dominant offense,” said Bulldogs linebacker Juwan Taylor. “They have the most explosive receiver corps we’ve faced all year. (Tagovailoa) can move good in the pocket and extend plays, so we’ve got to contain him.”
Taylor and Tae Crowder will likely see more snaps Saturday, with Rice still healing up and Robert Beal still sidelined. Smart said Rice was able to run and cut some during practice Tuesday, and hopes Rice is able to do more as the week progresses.
Smart’s “wounded warriors” comment could probably apply to the Bulldog defensive line, too.
Defensive end David Marshall remains out, but the Bulldogs might get an extra body back just in time for Saturday. Smart said defensive tackle DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle practiced for the “first time in a long time” Tuesday, and said the senior “may be back” for the SEC Championship.
Hawkins-Muckle’s potential return, while still a long shot, couldn’t come against a better opponent. Or at a better time.
While the Crimson Tide do spread the ball around out of the shotgun, they’re still Alabama, and they’re still going to run the ball. Crimson Tide running backs Damien Harris and Najee Harris have combined to rush for 1,383 yards and 11 touchdowns. Fellow running back Josh Jacobs has nine rushing touchdowns on the year.
“We just (have to) execute,” Taylor said. “You’ve got to be confident, you can’t go into a game nervous. We prepare the right way, so there shouldn’t be anyone scared or anything. We’re here. We’re confident, we know our place.”