Passing game moves to forefront of Georgia’s offense in 2022

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Historically (and recently), the Georgia Bulldogs have been known for their prowess in the run game, with seven running backs selected in the past eight NFL drafts, but this season they have relied more on their passing attack.

The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs have attempted 110 passes against 92 running plays.

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Across the board, Georgia has capable receivers for quarterback Stetson Bennett to rely on, from tight end Brock Bowers to receivers AD Mitchell and Ladd McConkey. It would be an understatement to say that the wealth has been spread around among the receiving corps, as 11 receivers have caught three or more passes through three games.

“We got a lot of weapons that can catch the ball, so why not air it out,” junior tight end Darnell Washington said. “But, we also got weapons that can carry the ball. So, balancing it out makes us more deadly.”

In addition to the Bulldogs’ receiving corps, they boast a dynamic running-back group – which features senior Kenny McIntosh and junior Kendall Milton – both exhibiting versatility on the ground.

“You have the back (McIntosh) who can catch right out the backfield and can also tote the ball,” Washington said. “Kenny’s not one-dimensional. You gotta hand him the ball.”

“Kendall is a bigger back, explosive back,” he continued. “That helps the team as well, like punching it in – fourth-and-1, third-and-short, goal line.”

As such, Georgia (3-0) has not shied away from utilizing its run game as a complement to its aerial attack, which is a plan the Bulldogs plan to continue as they head into their coming matchup against the Kent State Golden Flashes on Saturday (noon, SEC Network-Plus), according to senior receiver Kearis Jackson.

“With (Milton) having the opportunity to be the premier back for us (against Kent State), you gotta take full advantage of it,” Jackson said. “Guys like me on the perimeter, we’re gonna block for him because we like seeing our teammates succeed.”

A certain level of selflessness is necessary for an offense to hit on all cylinders each week. While the offense has been explosive, it has been, in no small part, because of the focus on blocking that the Bulldogs have enforced this season – including that of Washington.

“If everybody had the mindset of, ‘I want to be the face of the offense’ or ‘I want to be the face of the team,’ then the chances of that team being good is very little,” Washington said.

Washington attributes much of his improvements in blocking to the tough SEC-only schedule that the Bulldogs faced in 2020 and to his early battles with defensive ends Travon Walker and Azeez Ojulari.

“It for sure took time – comes with maturity; I just embrace my role,” Washington said. “I’m 6-foot-7, 280 (pounds). Can’t catch the ball forever.”

While many of the key players are experienced in Georgia’s avalanche of an offense, the younger guys are having an impact because of the mentorship of those experienced teammates, such as Jackson – whom the younger guys refer to as “Uncle Kee.”

Freshman receiver Dillon Bell, who scored his first career touchdown against Samford, and sophomore receiver Jackson Meeks are a couple of the players who have had the ability to lean on veteran experience as their roles increase in the offense.

“You’re never too young to go out there and play early,” Jackson said.

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Nevertheless, an offense always starts with the quarterback. Bennett has come out of the gates firing in 2022, launching himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation – something many never would have expected from him.

“I honestly feel like he’s trying to earn his respect,” Jackson said. “I mean, he led us to a national championship last year, and people still don’t respect him and this team.”

Jackson and the rest of the team aren’t focused on accolades – except completing a back-to-back national championship run.

“It’s not even about the highs,” Jackson said. “It’s about winning each and every day. Going out and trying to be 1-0 each week. That’s our mindset. We’re not worried about all the accolades that come with our performance.”

“I mean, if you play well, the accolades are gonna come,” Jackson added. “But, at the same time, we got one goal in this team, and that’s to go win another national championship.”