Grounded Draft?

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The 2024 NFL Draft is over now. Let’s take a look at the Atlanta Falcons.

Draft Picks:

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. (#8)

Clemson DT Ruke Orhorhoro (#35)

Washington OLB Bralen Trice (#74)

Oregon DE Brandon Dorlus (#109)

Notre Dame LB JD Bertrand (#143)

Alabama RB Jase McClellan (#186)

Illinois WR Casey Washington (#187)

Georgia DL Zion Logue (#197)

You may have heard by now that Atlanta drafted Michael Penix Jr. with the eighth pick.

He was outstanding last season at Washington. He led the Huskies to an undefeated season and a National Championship game appearance. He was the NCAA passing yards leader with 4,903 yards, 36 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and he completed 65.4% of his passes.

He won the Maxwell Award (2023), First-team All-American (2023) and AP Comeback Player of the Year (2022).

The biggest problem is that the Falcons signed Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million contract with $100 million guaranteed. It does not make any sense to draft another quarterback that high with the amount of money they invested in Cousins.

They appear to want to win now so they should have drafted a complementary piece that can help the team now. The biggest need was a pass rusher and Dallas Turner (Alabama) was available.

Penix has an injury history that some teams were nervous about. He tore his ACL in back-to-back seasons when he was at Indiana. I think he’s a great player but he will sit behind Cousins for at least two seasons.

“I love winning, and I’m a team guy,” Penix said during his introductory press conference. “That’s what I’m going to be in the locker room.”

“Kirk is an amazing guy. I actually watched the ‘Quarterback’ series with him. Seeing that he’s a man of faith, just like me, and he’s all about family – I really enjoyed that, to get a feel of what kind of guy he is. I’m super blessed to be in the room with him and to be able to work with him and learn from him and support him as he continues on his career.”

Orhorhoro was a reach in the second round. In his last two years at Clemson he had 16 tackles for loss and 9 sacks.

He’s an interior defensive lineman so he doesn’t add much to the pass rush. He was Third-team All-ACC last season. They should have picked a corner back or defensive end here.

Trice might help in the second level. In 2023 he had 49 total tackles, 11.5 TFL and 7 sacks.

Dorlus played at Oregon all 5 years. He started as a defensive tackle and finally made the switch to defensive end last season. He only had 6.5 TFL and 5 sacks in 2023.

Bertrand is interesting because he had a breakout season in 2021 and statically got worse after that. In 2021 he had 102 total tackles. He had 82 tackles in 2022 and 76 in 2023. He played in every game each season so I’m not sure what the issue is.

McClellan and Washington add depth at the skill positions.

Logue will help stop the run but he’s not a pass rusher. He has 1.5 sacks in his college career, which is five seasons.

Atlanta also needed a corner back and they did not draft one. They will need to address that in the undrafted free agent pool. They still have the same question marks on defense after the draft.

Draft grade: C-

Atlanta Hockey…Take 3?

By: Colin Lacy

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

October is a great time for sports fans in the state of Georgia.

On any given night, you could have the first pitch for another Atlanta Braves Postseason run, or tipoff for an early season Atlanta Hawks game. Maybe you’re heading to the Benz for an Atlanta United match.

When the weekends roll around, you might be “Between the Hedges,” filing into Bobby Dodd Stadium, or tailgating at Allen E. Paulson getting ready for boot meet ball for your college football Saturday.

Then get to Sunday afternoon to see Kirk Cousins (or maybe Michael Penix Jr….. That’s a whole other story) taking snaps for the Falcons. So, what is Georgia Sports missing? A Puck drop?

Back in March, Alpharetta Sports & Entertainment officially announced they requested the NHL Commissioner and Board of Governors to commence a new expansion process to bring an NHL franchise back to Atlanta.

Alpharetta Sports & Entertainment is fronted by former NHL player and current Turner Sports analyst Anson Carter.

Carter has been extremely outspoken about the NHL making the return to Atlanta for what would be the third time in a number of years and has had multiple conversations with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman about the possibility of expansion.

The potential ownership group has planned construction of 18,000-seat arena around North Point Mall in Alpharetta and plans expand the surrounding area into a commercial mini-metropolis much like the Battery Atlanta is around Truist Park.

The location has been one of the main selling points to the NHL as to why the two previous franchises didn’t succeed in the metro-Atlanta area.

Carter and the other potential owners believe that headquartering the franchise in Alpharetta helps solve the issues that stood most recently at Philips Arena (now State Farm Arena). This is the same idea that the Braves are now thriving with in Cobb County and developing the Battery and surrounding area.

Atlanta hockey has seen two previous renditions with the Atlanta Flames from 1972-1980 before being re-located to Calgary.

Take two saw the Atlanta Thrashers call (then) Philips Arena home from 1999-2011 before being moved to Winnipeg to become the Winnipeg Jets.

The NHL has only added four expansion teams since the Atlanta Thrashers were created in 1999. The next season in 2000, the NHL expanded to thirty teams with the addition of the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Minnesota Wild.

It would be 16 years before the next new NHL franchise. The league would add one more team to get to thirty-one total teams with the 2016 expansion franchise of the Vegas Golden Knights.

The Knights proved to be a success with the Stanley Cup Championship coming in their first year of existence (2017-18 season).

Most recently the NHL became a 32-team outfit with the addition of the Seattle Kraken beginning in the 2021-22 season.

Although the NHL has said that currently they have no plans for expansion, there are many that are optimistic that the Atlanta area would be on the top of the list to get an expansion franchise.

The construction of the new arena around North Point is expected to be ready for potential play for the 2027-28 season, and now it’s just a waiting game.

Personally, I would love to dust off the old Atlanta Thrashers sweater, and head back to “Blueland”!

 

With The 8th Pick The Atlanta Falcons Select…

By: Jeb Watkins

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

And with the 8th overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft the Atlanta Falcons select.. Michael Penix Jr?

What in the world are the Atlanta falcons thinking?

In all honesty I had forgotten what time the draft was taking place Thursday night, with the falcons being my NFL team, I knew they would play it smart and either take Dallas Turner or trade down to stockpile more picks.

That’s what all the experts, analysts and mock drafts had told me to expect too.

I don’t believe I even saw a click bait post about the falcons taking a quarterback.

Which means even in the wildest dreams of the internet nobodies, no one thought the falcons could fumble the number 8 pick this badly.

They just signed Kirk Cousins to a 4-year deal and are paying him somewhere north of 40 million a year, so barring injury he’s the starter for at least the next two years.

I assume with such a high pick Penix was drafted to be Cousin’s successor and Captain Kirk is going to be 36 years old come August.

He also just had surgery to repair his achilles back in November but even so Penix Jr has been prone to injury since his freshman year of college and will be 28 in 4 years, which isn’t exactly young by NFL standards.

By then the Falcons will likely have to decide whether or not to pick up his 5th year option or let him go.

I wonder how much playing time Penix will get in those 4 years?

I feel a bit of sympathy for Penix. He’s a tough competitor and a hard worker. Let’s not forget he battled back from 2 ACL tears in his right knee in 2018 and 2019. Then 2 more injuries in 2020 and 21 to his non-throwing shoulder.

After all that he still led an underdog Washington Huskies team to a CFP playoff win and national title berth coming up short against a tough Michigan Wolverines team.

He deserves to be a high draft pick, but not by a team who just signed a veteran QB for the next four years and wants him to sit out during his most of his prime years in the league.

I feel like Penix doesn’t have much of a ceiling and that he likely won’t have time to improve much with the falcons before he starts to decline.

I think he needs to be on a team that wants him to start sooner rather than later so he can hopefully develop his game to have some success before father time kicks in and trust me after four injuries in four years it won’t be long.

Anyway, whether the falcons are blowing 28-3 Super Bowl leads, trying to trade for Deshawn Watson just to lose Matt Ryan, hiring an unproven Arthur smith, or drafting Desmond Ridder to be the starting QB, it is safe to say this pick shouldn’t have surprised fans.

It would make way too much sense for the falcons to get an edge rusher who can bolster their team sack numbers and lead their defense, which they desperately need. We are talking about a defense that ranked 21st in sacks and 27th in interceptions last year.

Quarterbacks have all day to throw against the falcons and the sad thing is Atlanta has the secondary personnel to produce more interceptions if they just had someone to consistently put pressure on the quarterback.

The only scenario I can envision where this pick ends up smelling like a rose for Atlanta, is if Cousins goes down in his first year or two and Penix Jr comes in and has success.

That’s not too far-fetched considering Kirk’s age and the talent the Falcons have on the offensive side of the ball.

However, this pick is probably a costly insurance policy and leads to a GM being on a hot seat.

Retired

By: Teddy Bishop

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Matt Ryan, who played quarterback for 15 years in the NFL—14 of them with the Atlanta Falcons—recently retired.

Ryan was drafted out of Boston College in 2008 (third overall pick)—just a year after Falcons All-pro QB Michael Vick was sent to prison on charges of sponsoring dog-fighting.

He endeared himself to Falcons fans immediately by leading the team to the playoffs, while being named 2008 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Overall, the Falcons made the playoffs six times with Ryan at quarterback, a franchise record.

He led Atlanta to the NFC championship game against San Francisco following the 2012 season, but the Falcons blew the lead in that game, losing 28-24.

The most infamous playoff game, however, was Super Bowl LI, following the 2016 season. Atlanta blew a 28-3 halftime time against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, eventually losing 34-28.  (The Underworld Powers-That-Be were already adjusting thermostats in case it froze over.)

The only other quarterback to take the Falcons to the Super Bowl (XXXIII) is Chris Chandler, following the 1998 season. The Falcons lost, 34-19, to future Hall-of-Famer John Elway and the Denver Broncos.

Still, Ryan is the winningest quarterback in Falcons history, leading the Birds to 120 regular-season victories in his 14 seasons in Atlanta.

He also has the highest quarterback rating—94.2—in Atlanta history, completing 5,479 passes out of 8,354 attempts, a 65.6% completion rate.

Ryan threw for over 62,000 yards in his career, including 73 times for over 300 yards, franchise records. He threw 367 touchdown passes as an Atlanta Falcon, also a franchise record. Including the playoffs, Ryan played in 232 Falcon games, also a record for an Atlanta quarterback.

In addition to 2008 Offensive Player of the Year, Ryan was named the NFL Most Valuable Player for the 2016 season. He was also selected to the Pro Bowl four times.

The Falcons made the playoffs the year after Super Bowl LI’s debacle, but have had some rough times since.

Ryan was traded to the Indianapolis Colts following the 2021 season for a third-round pick.

The Colts released Ryan after the 2022 season.

With no offers on the table for 2023, Ryan worked as a broadcaster for CBS, and finally, officially, decided to call it a day.

Ryan signed a one-day contract with Atlanta so that he could retire as a Falcon, and issued a statement thanking Falcons fans for their support. “I’m honored to retire as a Falcon,” he said on social media.  “Through the highs and lows, I always felt your energy and passion.”

Matt and his wife Sarah have been married 13 years and still live in the Atlanta area, where they are very active in community work. They have three children.

Enjoy your retirement, Matt Ryan. You’ve earned it.

Storm Brewing

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Miami Hurricanes’ QB room leveled up in overall talent and went from three scholarship QBs last year to a much favorable situation this time around.

Heck, you could argue that Emory Williams and Jacurri Brown (transferred out this spring) were the best two QBs on the roster at the end of last year amid Tyler Van Dyke’s issues, and they spent this spring as the third- and fourth-teamers.

The turnover woes of Van Dyke are now Wisconsin’s problem, right? A pair of hot-handed transfers radically altered the dynamic of Miami.

Washington State star Cam Ward, who some projected as a third round NFL pick had he gone pro, showcased his ability this spring and very much looks like the real deal. Albany’s Reese Poffenbarger also came on and looks like he can do some good things, although he will be behind Ward and will compete to start next year.

Ward showcased his talent in the Spring Game with 324 passing yards, three TDs with no turnovers, making good decisions and completing balls from different arm angles.

As a refresher, the 6-2, 221-pounder was No. 4 in passing yards in college football last year, finishing hitting on 66.7 percent of his throws for 3,732 yards (311.0 yards per game) with 25 TDs and seven INTs (adding eight rushing scores). His arm talent is unquestioned, and he’s also mobile.

Per Pro Football Focus, Ward graded out at a stellar 80.7 percent this past season (59.9 percent in 2022 and then 66.9 percent and 67.0 percent his prior two years at Incarnate Word). He was particularly deadly on deep throws last season with an elite 92.7 grade on throws of 20+ yards (he was 23-57 for 725 yards with 10 TDs and two INTs on those passes).

As for Poffenbarger? The 6-0 dual threat hit on 58.7 percent of his passes in 2023 for an FCS-best 3,603 passing yards along with 36 TDs and 13 INTs.

He also ran for five more scores with 187 rush yards. Two years ago, he completed 61.5 percent of his throws for 2,999 yards with 24 TDs and four INTs, adding 128 rush yards and two more scores. He graded out at a stellar 84.9 percent last year per PFF, including an elite 91.3 percent on throw of 20+ yards (35-103, 1,321 yards, 21 TDs, six INTs).

Williams, on the other hand, was No. 3 on the depth chart much of the spring and he got experience with two starts as a true freshman. The first was against Clemson when Tyler Van Dyke was injured and the second against Florida State after Van Dyke was benched.

In the win vs. the Tigers you saw a poised Williams who wasn’t asked to do too much – he threw mainly short passes and was 24-33 for 151 yards with a TD and interception.

The sky’s the limit for this Miami offense that, in the last two years, averaged 23.6 and 31.5 points and 367.1 and 431.2 yards, respectively.

Whispers around Greentree are that this can be an offense that averages 40 points a game under Ward’s leadership.

For reference, Miami hasn’t averaged 39 or more points since 2002, and only seven teams in the nation averaged that many points last season. A lot will rest on QB#1’s  shoulder.

With Xavier Restrepo and Jacolby George the top two returning receivers (and UM chasing more talent in the second portal window), TE Elijah Arroyo back, freshman H-back Elija Lofton looking like the real deal and the team looking to add a difference-making RB (likely Oregon State’s Damien Martinez) in the second portal window, there’s all kinds of room for optimism.

The O line has already addressed its needs with Indiana veteran center Zach Carpenter joined by three returning starters and very good young depth.

Perhaps the only caveat here is Ward’s fumbling issues (46 in the last four years). But with this setup, it’s hard to see a world in which Cam Ward and this offense aren’t very, very successful.

Living Legend

By: Joe Delaney

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It’s spring time! And while the Glynn Academy Red Terrors rack up win after win on the courts, the pitch, and the track. Let’s take a look at the numero uno Head man of the Glynn Academy football program. That’s Rocky Hidalgo.

Rocky came to Glynn in 2014. He inherited a program that while being competitive was also very tired.

Rob Ridings’ 10-year reign from 2004 to 2013 had stabilized the program. But the ‘my way or the highway’ regiment grew old to many. That included fans, boosters, coaches, players, and the administration.

By 2013 the writing was on the wall and ole Rob hit the road. The good thing about this was that the Glynn people had time to really look around and get a great, young, qualified coach. And that’s exactly what they did.

Enter one mister Rocky Hidalgo from Walton High School in Marietta.

Over a 5 year stretch from 2009 to 2013 Walton had won 40 games while losing only 18. This was also in the uber competitive North Atlanta area.

Could he bring his magic to a Glynn program that desperately needed leadership? Well, the proof is in the pudding. Glynn got the right guy.

As Rocky enters his second decade on the southside, Glynn has become a solid winning program. No, they haven’t won state…yet.

But they’ve come about as close as you can, losing in a great State Championship game in only his second year. Glynn fell to Allatoona 10-6  at the Georgia Dome. Add in a final four appearance in 2017 with a 4-point loss to eventual state champion Lee County and you get the idea. Glynn Academy football is in good hands.

To understand how positive this coach and staff have been. Take this into consideration. Rocky Hidalgo has won 81 games in 10 years at Glynn. He won 40 games in 5 years at Walton. As it sits right now, he is the second winningest coach in Red Terror history, which goes back to before World War 1.

He trails only the great C.M. Page who won 108 games over an 18-year span in the 40’s and 50’s. Add in Rockys’ 4 region championships in 10 years. Wow.

The results have come with some great players who have been committed to the program and the school. Rocky couldn’t win all those games and go deep into the playoffs without guys like Peyton Parker, David Prince, Greg Peacock, DeeJay Dallas, Garrison Heard, Kendall Cross, Randon Jernigan, Jack Podlesney, and on and on. Guys that were all dedicated to the program and committed to a winning tradition built by Coach Rocky Hidalgo.

Oh, and Glynn’s record against Brunswick during Rockys time with the Terrors is 7-3. Just wanted to be clear on that!

With the Terrors coming off of an 8-3 campaign in 2023, look for great things as the Red Terrors head into 2024 under the Rock!

Spring Noles

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Florida State had their annual Garnet and Gold Spring Showcase over the weekend. They had 18,061 fans in attendance.

Doak Campbell Stadium is undergoing renovations so one-half of the stadium did not have bleachers.

They had four guest coaches from the 1999 National Championship Team as guest coaches. Those players were wide receiver Peter Warrick, defensive lineman and current State Senator Corey Simon, running back Travis Minor and linebacker Tommy Polley.

“We’ll roll through some modified timing and the main part of the scoring will be the grand finale,” FSU head coach Mike Norvell said. “We’re excited to get some of the past players from the 1999 team that was really special.”

The FSU quarterbacks debuted a new turquoise jersey to represent Seminole Heritage.

Last season the Seminoles finished the season 13 – 0. They were snubbed from the College Football Playoff and had to ‘settle’ for the Orange Bowl. They had several injuries and players opt-out of playing the game. We all know they were demolished by Georgia, 63 – 3.

Georgia was the opposite and had their key players buy-in and play. I think this says a lot about the culture of the two programs.

Norvell is entering his fifth season in Tallahassee. His record has improved every year. In 2024, he is hoping his team can have the same success as last year but have postseason success.

FSU had the #4 transfer portal recruiting class, so a new group of talented players is on campus. The class is headlined by former five-star QB DJ Uiagalelei. Uiagalelei played at Clemson and Oregon State. He has not lived up to his recruiting ranking thus far and he is trying to finally reach that potential at Florida State.

Last season at Oregon State, he passed for 2,638 yards, 21 touchdowns, 7 interceptions and he completed 57% of his passes. He’s listed as 6’4 and 252 pounds.

They have five incoming Alabama players: linebacker Shawn Murphy, running back Roydell Williams, corner Earl Little II, offensive lineman Terrence Ferguson and receiver Malik Benson.

The other notable transfers are edge rusher Marvin Jones Jr. (Georgia), wide receiver Jalen Brown (LSU), defensive lineman Sione Lolohea (Oregon State) and defensive lineman Tomiwa Durojaiye (West Virginia).

The showcase does not follow a traditional spring game format. The defense started strong, with Marvin Jones Jr. getting a tackle for loss, followed by a half-sack from Jones, joined by defensive lineman Byron Turner Jr.

DJ was an unofficial 13 of 29 passing for 184 yards (including situational work before the scrimmage).

“Wasn’t obviously the cleanest day,” Uiagalelei said.

He got off to a shaky start but he improved. His first pass in the red zone was behind his receiver. He missed on five of his next seven passes. He also had a few passes dropped by his receivers.

He did complete a long pass to Malik Benson. The next play was a 35-yard touchdown run by Roydell Williams. Benson would later leave the contest on a cart with what appeared to be a lower leg injury.

Tight end Jackson West caught a few passes from Uiagalelei that moved the chains.

The defense played very well. Players like Cai Bates and Azareye’h Thomas broke up passes. The defensive front also created pressure.

Redshirt freshman Brock Glenn and freshman Luke Kromenhoek out with minor injuries, freshman Trever Jackson took snaps behind Uiagalelei. He showed poise with a few nice passes, including a 10-yard pass to freshman tight end Landen Thomas.

I’m sure the offense will look like a more cohesive unit in the Fall.

 

Who Is On First?

By: Jeb Watkins

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Who is Charlie Condon?

Maybe you’ve heard the name. He’s at the top of almost every MLB mock draft, and is currently leading the NCAA in batting average(.482) HR’s(26) and Slugging(1.109).

He is only two homers shy of breaking the University of Georgia’s single season and career home run record, which for the moment is held by former MLB player Gordon Beckham set back in 2006 and 2008.

Condon, a native of Atlanta, didn’t generate a lot of attention coming out of Walker high school in Marietta Georgia, due to his size at the time but he managed to land a preferred walk on spot with the Dawgs 2021 class.

A year and several pounds of muscle later, Charlie Condon began his redshirt freshman season. In that 2023 season he won his team’s triple crown with his .386 average 26 homers with 67 runs batted in.

He also racked up a ton of hardware last season being named National freshman hitter of the year, freshman all American, and SEC freshman of the year and even set a new SEC freshman home run record.

This guy is a natural hitter, a team leader, and versatile in the field.

Condon is listed as a 1st baseman but he can also play 3rd and in the outfield. I’m not sure if there is anything this guy can’t do.

I expect every bottom dwelling team in the MLB is just itching to draft this kid and why not?

He has powered himself and his team to success. The Diamond Dawgs are currently ranked 24th in the nation with a record of 27-9 and have about 15 games left in the regular season. They still have the SEC tournament starting on May 21st, which should be a great chance to catch Condon’s skill set in action.

Reckless Driving

By: Colin Lacy

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The off-season for two consecutive seasons has been filled with much of the same that everyone around the country in today’s college football.

Transfer portal additions/subtractions, NIL meetings, spring football, but one thing that has been more prevalent than any team across the college football landscape in the public eye has been the off-field issues and more specifically run-ins with law enforcement on traffic related issues at the University of Georgia.

Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart has been under scrutiny especially the last two years because dozens of citations and arrests due to speeding, reckless driving, DUI, and other serious traffic offenses.

The latest of these came in late March when star transfer running back Trevor Etienne was arrested on four misdemeanor charges including DUI and reckless driving.

Etienne transferred to Athens after spending two seasons at SEC rival Florida. In his two campaigns with the Gators, Etienne rushed for 1,472 yards and scored 15 total touchdowns and was expected to be a key piece along with quarterback Graham Mertz before Etienne entered the transfer portal.

The addition of Etienne to the running back room for the Bulldogs made perfect sense after Georgia lost their top two rushers from a year ago as Daijun Edwards and Kendall Milton take their talents to the NFL.

According to the UGA Athletic Department policy, Etienne will at minimum miss 10% of the 2024 season (equates to at least one game), if found guilty of the DUI charge.

Etienne was also charged with speeding and reckless driving for traveling between 80 to 90-mph in a 50-mph zone while also crossing the double yellow line to pass cars on two occasions.

Head Coach Kirby Smart has only commented that the team and athletic department will let the legal actions run its course before officially announcing if there will be or the length of the suspension of Etienne.

While Georgia has been hammered by the media and outside noise, most don’t focus on the steps that Athletic Director Josh Brooks and others in the athletic department have done to help aid the situation.

In an interview with ESPN, Sophomore offensive lineman Earnest Greene III said there have been numerous programs put into place ranging from conversations with local police officers, AD Josh Brooks, and Head Coach Kirby Smart about the dangers of drinking and driving.

Greene also said, “it’s on us” and went on to say that Smart has stressed the importance of the players taking ownership of the team and policing themselves.

Like most situations in college sports nowadays, there seems to be two drastically different sides, then the truth falls somewhere in the middle.

On one side, it seems like there is an inordinate number of arrests for speeding, DUI, and other serious traffic violations within the Georgia Football program.

On the other hand, there is only so much Josh Brooks and Kirby Smart can do to control 18–25-year-olds, also the Athens local law enforcement has earned the reputation of being somewhat stricter than most college towns.

Again, my two cents, I think it falls in the middle. Is there an issue for Georgia Football with the behaviors of SOME student-athletes? Sure, I don’t know that anyone would dispute that.

But I also think it easily gets overblown for a couple of reasons. Yes, there have been somewhere between 14-18 players involved in an incident like this, but I don’t think it’s unique to Georgia.

The Bulldogs are just the ones that are 1. Published about, and 2. Talked about because of the rise of Georgia Football.

So, and this coming from someone that’s not a die-hard Georgia fan, sure there is an issue that needs to be addressed and is being addressed by the athletic department and Georgia Football, but it also gets blown out of proportion due to a number of factors around Athens.

New Swashbuckler?

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NFL Draft is almost here. Let’s examine who the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are most likely to draft in the first two rounds.

In 2023, they exceeded expectations by going 9 – 8 and winning the NFC South. They beat Philly in the Wild Card playoff game, 32-9. They lost in the Divisional Round to Detroit, 31-23.

They had three Pro Bowlers; quarterback Baker Mayfield, wide receiver Mike Evans and tackle Tristan Wirfs.

Tampa’s biggest team needs are pass rusher, inside offensive lineman, corner back, safety and linebacker.

Several different publications have suggested that the Bucs should consider trading up in the draft. General manager Jason Licht is not known for doing that.

“I would say right now, I like the thought of the way I really have a lot of trust in my staff – both the coaching staff and the scouting staff – and how we’ve been operating,” Licht said. “Those picks seem pretty important to me right now.”

They have the 26th pick in the first round. They could select Oregon center Jackson Powers-Johnson if he is still available. He is the best center in the draft. They also need to replace Ryan Jensen. He injured his knee in August 2023 and missed the entire season. He announced his retirement in February 2024.

Powers-Johnson is 6’3 and 320 pounds so he has the required measurable for the position. He won the Rimington Trophy (2023), which is awarded to the best center in college football. He was also a Unanimous All-American and First-team All-Pac-12 in 2023.

He played in the Senior Bowl and he was dominant in practice against top competition. He played in two practices but he stood out playing guard and center. In 1-on-1s, he displayed his athleticism, violent hands and physicality.

Dallas and Green Bay are picking right before Tampa Bay so it is very possible that one of them will pick Powers-Johnson.

Penn State defensive end Chop Robinson might be the player picked in that case. He started his career at Maryland as a linebacker before transferring to Penn State before his sophomore season. Robinson is listed as 6’3 and 240 pounds.

Last season he played in 10 games and had 7.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks. In 2022, he had 10 TFL and 5.5 sacks. He was named First-team All-Big Ten in 2023.

The Buccaneers also have the 57th pick in the second round. A player that may still be on the board and a good pick would be defensive end Bralen Trice (Washington).

Trice is 6’4 and 260 pounds. He had 11.5 TFL and 7 sacks in 2023. In 2022 he had 12 TFL and 9 sacks. He was First-team All-Pac-12 in 2022 and 2023.

If he is not available guard Cooper Beebe (Kansas State) would also be a good fit. The 6’4, 335 lb. guard had a decorated career for the Wildcats. He was a Unanimous All-American (2023), First-team All-American (2022), Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year (2022, 2023) and First-team All-Big 12 (2021-23).