Georgia football’s power bill might go up to start December. The practice-field lights are shining longer this week.
With Lawrence Cager out for the SEC championship game with an ankle injury and George Pickens suspended for the first half after fighting in the Georgia Tech game, senior Tyler Simmons is leading a charge to make sure the depleted receiving corps doesn’t miss a beat.
Simmons, along with any other pass catchers who want to join, will stay late and take extra reps with quarterback Jake Fromm to create a rhythmic precision in a Georgia passing game that hasn’t flourished this season.
“I feel like [our connection] is getting better,” Simmons said. “Down two receivers … definitely leaves a chance for other receivers to step up and make some plays.”
The injured Cager is the only Bulldog receiver to crack the SEC’s top 15 in receiving yards per game. And Pickens is the only one in the SEC’s top 15 for receiving touchdowns.
But Simmons has experience. The buzz of the SEC championship game won’t faze him — it’s his third trip to the conference title game. Although he has never had more than four catches or 81 receiving yards in a game, Simmons led the Bulldogs against Georgia Tech on Nov. 30 with three catches for 52 receiving yards and one touchdown.
That still won’t cut it against LSU. But head coach Kirby Smart is confident in his receiver rotation. Simmons mentioned Matt Landers and Kearis Jackson as players poised for breakout performances. Freshman Dominick Blaylock is second on the team with five touchdown catches. Smart is challenging them to prove they are ready for the big stage.
“You’re going to get one-on-one opportunities when you play in our offense because of the run game,” Smart said. “So you have to win your 50-50 opportunities. You have to take advantage of it.”
Fromm averages 198.8 passing yards per game, seventh in the SEC. His numbers are partly skewed by a run-first offensive scheme, but inconsistency explains the rest. A consistent target has yet to emerge. Simmons is ready to put himself and the youngsters around him to the test.
“It’s up to me to put myself on a higher pedestal and try to bring those young guys with me,” Simmons said.
The receivers have been part of an offense which has sometimes failed at creating excitement and explosive plays, two hallmarks of LSU’s offense. Georgia is ready to do the same.
“We have a lot of plays we have yet to run,” Simmons said. “But it’s time now to put them on the field and show what we’ve been putting in on the practice field all year.”