When an opposing coach compliments Kentucky’s punter, it’s typically a back-handed compliment. Kirby Smart was not taking a page from the Steve Spurrier book of barbs when discussing Saturday’s matchup with Kentucky.
The Georgia head coach began his weekly press conference by praising the Wildcats’ physical defense that ranks second in the SEC in points allowed per game.
“Coach Stoops has done a tremendous job with their program. They play with great physical toughness across the offensive and defensive lines. They are really big and stout. I thought they did a really good job against us last year in terms of their defense, and their defense is one of the best in our conference. They’ve done an excellent job of preparing for teams,” Smart said.
“We’ve got a lot of respect for them in the kicking game — one of the best punters in the country that’s able to flip the field and do a lot with that.”
The respect for Duffy is deserved. Last year’s Ray Guy Award winner is averaging 46.9 yards per punt, good enough to rank third nationally among punters with at least ten attempts. If Kentucky’s offense does not improve in a hurry, we may see too much Duffy on Saturday.
Georgia’s defense ranks first or second in the conference in every major defensive statistical category, except pass defense (thanks to the Alabama offense). Kentucky does not have the same caliber of weapons as the Crimson Tide, nor do they currently have a starting quarterback. Terry Wilson OR Joey Gatewood have been listed as the starters for Saturday’s game. Whoever trots onto the field for the Wildcats will not dramatically impact the defensive strategy for Georgia.
“They both have a running element. They really fit the style of offense that Eddie [Gran] has been using for a while—really well in terms of what they want to do and how they dictate the run-game to you,” said Smart.
“When you look across the last couple of years, if you ask anybody across our league, not statistically, not looking in terms of what you guys would at in terms of numbers, their physicality up front has been very evident. When you go back and watch our last couple of games against them, just us individually, their offensive line is extremely physical and we haven’t tackled well. I don’t know if you give them credit for that, the athletes they’ve had, whether it was Lynn Bowden or Terry [Wilson Jr.] the year before or just the fact they block you and get a lot of one-on-one tackles.
“They have done a really good job in terms of being physical at the line of scrimmage. Both of those quarterbacks present issues in terms of contain, how you play people outside when you are playing against them. They’ve always done a good job of that.”