No. 1 Georgia amps up for South Carolina

All-SEC wide receiver Ladd McConkey could make his 2023 debut for the Bulldogs on Saturday when No. 1 Georgia gets another opportunity to shake up Spencer Rattler and South Carolina.

McConkey missed the first two games for the Bulldogs (2-0) dealing with a back injury. He led the team with 58 catches and caught seven TD passes in 2022.

“We’re trying everything we can to get him back,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said.

Georgia has been just fine without him thanks to a stout defense and enviable depth across most skill positions. That defense is all too familiar to division foe South Carolina (1-1).

Rattler was 13-of-25 passing for 118 yards and two interceptions in a 48-7 loss to the Bulldogs last season. This week he preps for a rematch with the Bulldogs while celebrating his SEC Offensive Player of the Week performance — 25 of 27 with 345 yards, three passing touchdowns, TD run against Furman.

“He’s got elite arm talent, I can tell you that,” Smart said. “The throws he’s made, touch throws, deep, vertical, back shoulder throws. He had a throw against Clemson on third and 10 that was a rope. So, he’s very illusive, very accurate with the ball, hard to finish on. There’s a lot of people that miss tackles on him when they try to get him down. Tremendous player.”

North Carolina sacked Rattler nine times in the opener, but the Gamecocks allowed only one sack last week in an easy 47-21 win over Furman.

Georgia won’t look too deep into the 2022 film.

South Carolina has a new offense, and playcaller, with Dowell Loggains as coordinator. And Georgia lost several starters to the NFL off of the record-setting national title crew of a year ago.

Smart knows the style of the South Carolina system all too well. Gamecocks head coach Shane Beamer was special teams coach and tight ends coach for Smart at Georgia for two seasons. He’s 0-2 as Gamecocks coach against Smart and the Bulldogs.

McConkey might not be ready to roll, but Georgia does expect 2022 leading rusher Daijun Edwards to play Saturday. He had 769 yards and seven TDs last season.

Beamer plans to remind his team the difference between being a favorite and not being favored. As 24.5-point favorites in 2019, No. 3 Georgia left South Carolina with its first loss of the season in triple-overtime.

“I mean, they’re going to be hearing all week about ‘Georgia, Georgia, Georgia,'” Beamer said in a radio interview on Monday about players knowing they’re 24-point underdogs this week. “We just need to make sure that from our standpoint, we do what we have to do on our end to allow us to go play our very best on Saturday and that’s what we need to focus on.”

Among the emerging playmakers for the Gamecocks, Xavier Legette caught a TD pass and led the team with 118 yards on six receptions against Furman.

–Field Level Media