For those keeping count at home, the SEC’s top three tacklers will be on display Saturday night in Sanford Stadium when Georgia’s Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera and Kentucky’s Avery Williamson chase down ball-carriers.
The combatants can’t wait.
Or maybe not.
“I don’t care,” said Wilson . “I really don’t even look at my stats so I don’t know what they look like. Coach (Todd) Grantham and Coach O (Kirk Olivadotti) keep all of us on that track not to worry about our stats. Focus on your practice and the next game and everything after the season will take care of itself.”
Wilson leads the SEC with 110 tackles and fellow junior inside linebacker Herrera has 91. Williamson, a senior linebacker, is behind them with 88.
“Ramik’s going to stay in the lead and I’m going to try and stay right behind him,” Herrera said.
Wilson rang up the most tackles in an SEC game this season and the 10th most nationally when he had a career-high 18 tackles against Auburn last Saturday.
Williamson has four games of 10-plus tackles this season and was second in the SEC last year with 135 tackles.
“He’s right where he belongs at middle linebacker,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “A big, strong guy. A 6-1, 240 pounder. A very physical football player.”
Williamson is playing with a thumb injury that got a new cast this week.
“It’s a ligament,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said. “It’s not a torn ligament, but for some reason after this past weekend it swelled up very big. As a matter of fact, it was so much swelling in it on Sunday that they couldn’t put a cast on it until Monday when they got some of the swelling out of it.”
Interceptions elusive for Georgia, Kentucky
Interceptions have been few and far between for Georgia’s defense this season, but not as few as Kentucky.
The Bulldogs rank tied for 115th nationally with four, but the Wildcats are 123rd and last among FBS teams with just a single pick.
Richt said part of the problem for the Georgia defense is the Bulldogs playing so much man-to-man coverage.
“You get less picks, really, in man coverage than you do zone, I think,” Richt said. “When you’re playing man, a lot of times your back is to the quarterback, you’re tracking the guy you’re covering. …It’s tougher to get picks. You get more balls broken up.”
The other part of it, he said, is Georgia needs to get more pressure on the quarterback to force bad decisions.
Adding to the woes for Kentucky is that its lone interception comes from linebacker Josh Forrest, not a member of the secondary.
“We’ve got to get our hands on some balls,” Stoops said. “I think a lot goes into that: pressure up front, blitzes getting there, trying to get bad passes. I think leads help. It’s no mystery we’re struggling to score points, so it’s just like last week (in a 22-6 loss to Vanderbilt) the difference in the game was the turnovers. They were very smart with the ball and didn’t turn it over and don’t put themselves in that situation. I think most opponents know when we’re struggling to get the ball in the end zone that it would be very careless to throw the ball up and put it in bad situations.”
Senior group includes large walk-on contingent
Of the 28 seniors that will be honored prior to Saturday’s home finale, 18 came to Georgia as walk-ons.
Some of those walk-ons like safety Connor Norman, cornerback Blake Sailors, receiver Rhett McGowan and tailback Brandon Harton earned a scholarship during their time at Georgia.
“I’ve got a lot of respect for those guys,” Richt said. “I say it all the time but it’s so true. They do it because they love football, they love Georgia and they’re probably the easiest guys I ever get jobs for because employees are looking for guys that are unselfish, guys that work hard, guys that put team ahead of themselves. There’s so many attributes that these guys have.”
The players who arrived on scholarship who will be recognized: quarterback Aaron Murray, tight end Arthur Lynch, offensive linemen Chris Burnette, Dallas Lee and Kenarious Gates, receiver Rantavious Wooten, defensive lineman Garrison Smith, safety Marc Deas and linebackers T.J. Stripling and Chase Vasser.
The other walk-ons suiting up for the last time at home: quarterbacks Parker Welch and Greg Bingham, fullbacks Corey Campbell and Chris Young, snapper Wright Gazaway, safety Austin Herod, punter Ethan Jackson, defensive end Clinton Kirk, tight ends Hugh Williams, Greg Mulkey and Drew Wilson, tailback Alex Parsons and receivers Jamal Payette and Curtis Wyatt,
This and that
Smith has been invited to the East-West Shrine game, according to his Instagram account. The game is Jan. 18 in St. Petersburg, Fla. The Atlanta native has 51 tackles, six tackles for loss and four sacks.
Starting cornerback Shaq Wiggins practiced in a non-contact jersey on Wednesday. Georgia listed him as being limited due to a right knee sprain. Safety Tray Matthews again was limited with a sprained shoulder
Backup inside linebacker Reggie Carter isn’t quite ready to play Saturday as he works his way back from minor knee surgery. “He could, but he’s not getting enough work where we feel comfortable just from a rep standpoint,” Richt said of the freshman.