211030_kes_secondhalf_017.jpg

Georgia defensive back Latavious Brini (36) tackles the Florida ball carrier. The University of Georgia Bulldogs beat the Florida Gators 34-7 on Oct. 30, 2021, in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo/ Kathryn Skeean, kskeean@randb.com)

Georgia and Georgia Tech will face off in college football’s rivalry week. Here is a look at how the teams’ secondaries line up:

Finishing the job

In last week’s game against Charleston Southern, the Bulldogs allowed a total of a total of 58 passing yards on 14 completions, and the secondary contributed significantly to the 49-point victory. The Buccaneers’ leading receiver during the game finished with 30 yards, 28 of which came on one play.

The secondary’s usual members began the game and set the tone for the rest of the afternoon. Kelee Ringo and Derion Kendrick manned the starting corner positions and combined for two tackles. Lewis Cine, Latavious Brini, Javon Bullard and Dan Jackson were also among the familiar faces to see early playing time.

But as a unit, the defense’s dominance and the size of the Bulldog lead allowed for a shift change at multiple position groups.

Beginning in the second quarter and into the second half, head coach Kirby Smart and secondary coach Jahmile Addae transferred increasingly more secondary snaps to younger players and walk-ons.

Highly-touted cornerbacks Kamari Lassiter and Lovasea Carroll played the majority of the second half. Together, the freshmen accrued seven tackles. Before last week, Lassiter saw the field in only four games, and Carroll had yet to record a snap.

Other freshmen that competed in the secondary during the second half were Jehlen Cannady and David Daniel, Cannady recorded two tackles in his first action of the fall, as did Daniel who played in his third game of the year. Notably, Daniel got consistent work at the corner position following a preseason where much of his reps were dedicated at safety.

Aptly, senior William Poole finished his senior day with two tackles and one pass defense in his final game at Sanford Stadium. To this point Poole has 15 tackles in three seasons with the Bulldogs.

After 11 wins, Georgia’s final push for an undefeated regular season lies against a Tech offense ranked 73rd in the FBS in yards-per-play, but have scored 30 or more points in six games. The Yellow Jackets also rank ninth in the ACC in average passing yards per game.

Jackets’ permeable secondary

Although the Yellow Jackets may not resemble formidable Georgia Tech teams of old, Georgia faces a program with interest in spoiling the Bulldogs’ perfect campaign. Through its first 11 games, Tech has allowed more than 20 points in nine of those games.

As a crew, the Yellow Jackets’ secondary ranks 13th in their conference in overall passing defense, allowing an average of 274 passing yards per game at just over a 65% completion clip.

Furthermore, Georgia Tech has snagged only three interceptions and has allowed 24 passing touchdowns this season. In contrast, Georgia’s 12 picks lead the SEC, as does its 159 passing yards allowed per game.

The Jacket secondary is led by junior Juanyeh Thomas and his 76 total tackles, third-highest on the team. Thomas also accounts for one of Tech’s three interceptions and has a team-high five pass break-ups. Other stand-out defensive backs include senior Tariq Carpenter and freshman Wesley Walker, who are fifth and sixth, respectively, in total tackles on the team.

The Yellow Jackets are tasked with stopping a Bulldog passing core that tallied 255 passing yards and four passing touchdowns against the Buccaneers. Late additions of Dominick Blaylock and Justin Robinson give an already adept receiving core more attacking options.

Lucky for the Yellow Jackets, George Pickens is still ruled out with a knee injury. Despite that, Thomas and Carpenter will have to have career days to silence a rolling Bulldog offense.