Under-the-radar players who could determine outcome of SEC championship game

SEC championship game under-radar players

CBS play-by-play announcer Brad Nessler and analyst Gary Danielson had a teleconference to discuss the SEC championship game.

They were asked to identify key players outside of the “marquee” ones (Jarrett Stidham, Kerryon Johnson, Jake Fromm and Nick Chubb). Here’s who they identified.

Auburn OLB/DE Jeff Holland

First meeting: Five tackles, sack, three quarterback hurries.
Season stats: 41 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, nine sacks, 22 quarterback hurries, four forced fumbles.
Nessler: “Jalen Hurts could never get comfortable. Jake Fromm could never get comfortable because No. 4 was on their rear end the whole game and he’s a disruptor. If he has four quarterback pressures and three sacks, something like that, Georgia’s offense is going to be in trouble.”
Danielson: “So the less you call him, the better news it is for Georgia?”
Nessler: “Less I say Jeff Holland, the better for Georgia.”

RELATED: Even if Kerryon Johnson isn’t 100 percent, Auburn can win SEC championship game

Georgia WR Mecole Hardman

First meeting: One catch, 11 yards; Eight total returns, 185 yards (142 on five kickoffs). He muffed a punt that Auburn recovered, and that led to a short touchdown drive to put the Tigers up 23-7 in the second half.
Season stats: 8 catches, 256 yards, 3 TDs. Five rushes, 47 yards, TD. 15 kick returns, 410 yards, 19 punt returns, 213 yards.
Nessler: “I think he’s become a big weapon as both a return man and as a receiver and as a runner for that matter. … I wouldn’t be shocked with Auburn’s lack of coverage on kicks and punts if he doesn’t bust one or if he’s not a big factor.”

RELATED: Where each SEC team should’ve finished, relative to its recruiting rankings

Auburn WR Darius Slayton

First meeting: Two catches, 43 yards, TD (a 42-yarder that gave Auburn a 16-7 lead in the first half).
Season stats: 22 catches, 560 yards, TDs.
Danielson: “We know what we got in Ryan Davis, but Slayton can change the game very quickly if Georgia is not careful. Couple of big plays. I’ve had two (SEC title games with Gus Malzahn). He’s very aggressive early in the game trying to produce big plays, and Slayton is a home-run threat at any time.”

Georgia TEs Jeb Blazevich, Isaac Nauta, Charlie Woerner

First meeting: Woerner had two catches for 5 yards
Season stats: Nauta (8 catches, 112 yards, TD). Woerner (6 catches, 79 yards). Blazevich (2 catches, 19 yards).
Danielson: “They’ve got to help not only in chipping the tackles, but also getting them against the linebackers for Auburn and forcing them to cover. They’re going to play bump-and-run to the outside, but I think they need to affect those safeties and linebackers with their tight end a little bit more and take some of the pressure off of the pass rush and the quarterback to give him little, easy throws.”

RELATED: Ranking Georgia’s all-time best RBs: Where do Nick Chubb and Sony Michel rank?

(Duane Rankin is an award-winning columnist/videographer for the Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser whose work can also be found in USA TODAY. You can follow him on Twitter @DuaneRankin)

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