Kirby Smart is preparing for his sixth time facing Nick Saban, and third time in an SEC Championship matchup.
He has yet to defeat a Saban-coached Alabama team for a Southeastern Conference title. Smart is 1-4 against Saban with his victory coming in the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship Game. He has the Georgia Bulldogs undefeated heading into Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga. Alabama and Georgia will square off on Saturday via CBS at 2 p.m. CT.
The Bulldogs are a 4-point favorite; however, Smart has his eyes on an elite pass rusher for the Crimson Tide.
Carson Beck, Georgia’s starting quarterback, has to be aware of Dallas Turner. The junior outside linebacker for Alabama is an outstanding sack specialist. He is one of the nation’s leaders in sacks (eight), tackles for loss (12.5), and quarterback hurries (13) through 12 regular season games. Turner could be a top 10 NFL Draft pick next year if he declares to turn pro after the season.
Coach Smart spoke to reporters on Sunday about how the Bulldogs plan to neutralize Turner.
“Well, I mean, you put a plan together,” Smart said.
“The best you can do is not put yourself in bad down-and-distance situations to try to stay ahead of the sticks. You got to stay on schedule and stay ahead of the sticks. He’s got speed, talent, ability. He’s improved so much throughout his career. We’ve seen him grow, study under Will. He’s gotten bigger to me, much more impactful on the run game. Every-down player. Still elite on the pass-rush side of things. You can’t really mimic that. You do the best you can to simulate it and you work technique and you put a game plan together. At the end of the day, you got to have skilled people that can block those kind of guys. They’re hard to block.”
Turner’s dominance has happened because of Chris Braswell’s development.
Braswell, a senior, came in Alabama’s 2020 recruiting class with Will Anderson Jr. He was touted as a higher prospect than Anderson, but Braswell needed to get stronger and wait his turn. His patience produced an incredible season for him with eight sacks (tied for the team lead), 10.5 tackles for loss, three forced fumbles, five quarterback hurries, a pass breakup, and a blocked field goal. The attention Turner gets from opposing offenses allows Braswell to feast on quarterbacks and running backs.
He could have a marquee SEC Championship outing, especially if all of Georgia’s focus is on Turner.
It will be a long day for Beck if Turner and Braswell get loose on him.
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