J.R. Reed said Gus Malzahn’s offense at Auburn gives him headaches.
The senior safety has played Auburn three times and recorded 11 tackles — his single-game career high — in Georgia’s 40-17 loss in 2017, the last time the Bulldogs played in Jordan-Hare Stadium. Since that game, Georgia has defeated the Tigers twice.
“You’ve got to do everything right [against Auburn],” Reed said. “One mistake can lead to a big play.”
Georgia’s defense is on fire statistically, leading the SEC in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and red zone defense. But Reed and the Bulldogs say they can’t afford to overlook the challenges Auburn’s offense will present.
Auburn runs a fast-paced offense that relies on freshman quarterback Bo Nix. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart credits Malzahn’s ability to change up his offensive scheme and create big plays.
“It’s very different,” Smart said. “[Malzahn] has the ability to get on the perimeter with every play but also pound you and grind you.”
Three of the Tigers’ football players also run on the track and field team, and sophomore wide receiver Anthony Schwartz will likely be a central focus for Reed and the Georgia secondary.
Smart knows Auburn likes to put Schwartz in different locations. He said the key will be constant awareness of Schwartz’s position.
“Nobody in the country is as fast as that guy,” Smart said. “Nobody’s going to be able to match up with him and just run with him. … Good thing we’re not in a track race against him. We have to play football against him.”
Reed stressed the importance of winning first and second down against the high-powered Tiger offense to slow down the game’s pace and force third-and-long scenarios.
Georgia’s defense wins the third down battle statistically. Auburn has converted 44.5% on third down this season, good for fourth in the SEC. The Bulldogs have held their opponents to 29.6% on third down, which places them first in the conference.
Still, Reed, a seasoned veteran against the Tigers, stressed the importance of getting younger players in the film room this week to prepare for Malzahn’s dynamic offense.
“It’s something that you don’t see,” Reed said. “It’s something they don’t play in the NFL. You don’t see people doing it anywhere in the league besides at Auburn.”