SEC INSIDER

Vols look for QB as No. 3 Georgia rolls into town

Field Level Media

October 01, 2019 at 7:31 pm.

Quarterback play epitomizes the season so far for No. 3 Georgia and Tennessee, which meet Saturday night in Knoxville, Tenn.

Junior Jake Fromm has completed 75.6 percent of his passes (62 of 82) with six touchdowns and no interceptions for the Bulldogs (4-0, 1-0 SEC).

The Volunteers (1-3, 0-1) began the year behind redshirt junior Jarrett Guarantano (60 of 93, 753 yards, seven TDs, four interceptions), but he was replaced by freshman Brian Maurer during a 34-3 loss to Florida on Sept. 21.

Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt on Monday refused to say who would start against the Dawgs, but added Guarantano needed to protect the ball better.

“The biggest thing offensively is we got to take care of the football,” Pruitt said. “Going into the season, we said we need to take care of the football, we need to be opportunistic on defense and we need to stay healthy. We’ve not been able to do any of those three things.”

Georgia and Tennessee are coming off bye weeks. The Bulldogs defeated then-No. 7 Notre Dame 23-17 on Sept. 21.

Tennessee, averaging 26.0 points and 359.5 total yards, will take on a defense allowing just 10 points and 262.5 total yards, including 57.0 per game on the ground. The Bulldogs are one of two teams — Iowa is the other — that have not surrendered a rushing touchdown this season.

Tennessee redshirt senior wide receiver Jauan Jennings (19 catches, 281 yards, four TDs) will be a Bulldogs’ focus.

“He’s one of the most physical players, competitive players with competitive toughness I’ve ever seen,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “He repeatedly blocks people; he plays physical at the point of attack; he goes up and attacks the ball. He’s really hard to get on the ground — he’s so physical.”

Defensively, the Vols have surrendered 25.3 points and 339.8 yards (149.8 rushing) per game. They’ll be challenged to stop a Georgia offense that has a lot more than Fromm and is averaging 42.8 points and 508.8 total yards.

Georgia junior D’Andre Swift leads a rushing attack that is putting up 253.0 yards per game. He is averaging 7.9 yards per carry on 49 attempts, scoring three touchdowns behind the largest offensive line in team history. The Bulldogs’ linemen, led by junior left tackle Andrew Thomas, are 6-foot-5, 328.6 pounds on average.

Fromm, 11th nationally in passing efficiency, is 27-5 as a starter.

“He’s picked up where he left off,” Smart said. “He’s highly efficient, he makes good decisions with the ball, he protects the ball and he puts us in the right play a lot.”

The Bulldogs’ last visit to Knoxville, in 2017, resulted in a 41-0 road win — the first time Tennessee had been shut out since 1993.

Overall, the Georgia-Tennessee series dates to 1899 and is tied 23-23-2.

Pruitt was Georgia’s defensive coordinator from 2014-15, and Tennessee offensive coordinator Jim Chaney performed the same duties at Georgia in the past three seasons. Both head coaches are former Alabama assistants — and both downplayed the familiarity among their staffs.

“It’s gonna boil down to which guy blocks properly, which guy covers properly — there’s no secrets,” Smart said. “We know what they do, they know what we do, but that’s the case every week. That’s what the tape’s for.”