By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Alabama recently played the 2023 Golden Flake A-Day Game.

After 14 spring practices Alabama is taking the first steps to get back on top this season.

The roster and coaching staff was split via a draft earlier in the week as they competed for a celebratory steak dinner.

It ended up going to Team Crimson as they beat Team White, 30-21, in Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Defenses normally look good in scrimmages, and this was no exception. Malachi Moore finished with nine tackles, three tackles for loss and a pass breakup and he won the Dixie Howell Memorial Award (MVP of the A-Day Game).

Defensive lineman Tim Smith garnered the Dwight Stephenson Award (Most Valuable Lineman of the A-Day Game). In all, the Crimson defense had three interceptions, 10 tackles for loss and four pass breakups in the victory.

Freshman running back Justice Haynes played well. Haynes combined for 64 total yards and three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) to lead the Crimson squad.

Meanwhile, White’s Malik Benson led all receivers with five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown.

Bama must replace Heisman Trophy quarterback Bryce Young, who declared for the NFL Draft.

Redshirt sophomore Jalen Milroe was Young’s primary backup last year. The QB competition is between him and redshirt freshman Ty Simpson.

Milroe threw for two touchdowns and ran for one score, but he also competed barely higher than 50% of his passes (19 of 37). He also threw two picks.

Simpson, who rushed for 58 yards on six carries, was only 12-of-26 passing with no touchdowns and an interception.

“We’ve tried to build this program here with the guys that we recruit and the people in the program,” Saban said, “but we have had a few guys that have come in and made real impacts on the team, and if we see an opportunity to do that, we’re always looking for a way to make our team better.”

Saban said he was pleased with the two true freshman quarterbacks, Dylan Lonergan and Eli Holstein, who were the No. 5- and No. 6-rated pocket passers in the 2023 class, respectively.

“I’m pleased with the progress they’re making and I think they both have bright futures,” Saban said.

They are working on the quarterbacks’ ability to process the defense.

“Are they playing Cover 2, are they playing Cover 7, are they playing three-deep zone?” Saban said. “So that way you have a plan in your mind, ‘This is what I’m reading, this is where I’m going and this is the progression that I want to go through,’ and trust in that and believe that and not start drifting around in the pocket before you give up on what your read might be. Because I think we have pretty good skill guys. I think we have guys that can make plays.

“… I like both guys’ athleticism to be able to extend plays and get out of trouble and make plays with their feet, which they did a couple times today. But at the same time, I think we’ve got to work on going through progressions and develop confidence in the passing game so that we can distribute the ball to other people who can make plays more effectively and more efficiently.”

Saban did say he was happy with the team’s physicality.

The Crimson Tide will open next season at home against Middle Tennessee State on Sept. 2. The following week, they will host Texas.


Beck-oned Starter

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton are very much in the competition for QB1.

We hear that Vandagriff’s performance on G-Day was hurt by a few dropped balls. What fans saw, however, was clear.

Carson Beck is Georgia’s starting quarterback this upcoming season!

That does not mean Beck will finish the season there. Nor does it mean Beck has the clutch gene (a la Stetson Bennett) and will be the one to lead Georgia to a third consecutive national championship.

There are necessary caveats. Beck benefited from playing with the first-team offense, which meant he had top skill-position receivers on the offensive line.

What I saw was Beck getting the first five of those drives, producing 24 points while he threw for 211 yards.

Vandagriff went in during the second half, and started off throwing an interception, then leading two more zero-point drives.

Vandagriff seemed a bit tentative on decision-making, which you can afford when you can run.

A strong QB knows that often it is best to get the ball out. Vandagriff’s running ability is alluring; it’s tempting to give him the benefit of the doubt, roll him out there and watch the fun.

At this point, however, Vandagriff’s upside seems outweighed by Beck’s skill set. The downfield throwing ability, his arm, the decision-making; it all looks like it’s there for Beck, and Vandagriff appears more as a high risk-high reward stock option.

If there is legitimate concern about Beck, it’s whether he has matured enough from his first two seasons, when by his own admission he needed to mature.

On the field, he didn’t know the system well enough and did not work hard enough to know it. Off the field, he missed a few too many classes or study halls.

Saturday’s game was also an example of how Beck has matured as a quarterback. He wasn’t out there showing off his arm. He was excelling in touch and timing passes. He was calm and confident in the pocket.

That does not mean Beck will prove the right choice in games to come. The flaws that were there a few years ago might not have gone away.

At some point, coaches must go with what you see. None of the three quarterbacks has proved themselves in a real game. Often coaches don’t know what they have until the games begin.

Georgia does have three good options. This is not 2015 when the team finished spring not sure the right guy was on campus and went out and imported its eventual starter.

This year is a classic, pre-portal-era quarterback situation where three veterans who waited their turn and developed are being considered.

Georgia, of all the luxuries it has these days, enjoys being able to pick a quarterback who has waited and developed.

And after the Spring Game, it seems pretty clear which one has developed the most.


By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The Georgia Bulldogs played their annual G-day Spring Game earlier in the month.

The Red team beat the Black team by a score of 31-26. Arian Smith scored two touchdowns, one rushing and one receiving. Carson Beck got the start at quarterback and certainly looked like a starting quarterback as he finished 13-18 for 211 yards and a touchdown on the day.

Great weather was on hand. “Boom” was introduced as the new mascot. One side of the stadium was filled. The home side was closed due to off season upgrades to Sanford Stadium that are under construction.

The 2022 National Champions got their rings. Overall, it was just an enjoyable day for football in Athens, Georgia.

G-Day Thoughts:

1.This is Carson Beck’s team in 2023. He is going to be the man and showed off a rocket arm and carried himself like a seasoned QB.

His body language is confident. This guy has waited his turn and has won the starting QB job for the University of Georgia.

2.Gunner Stockton looked better than Brock Vandagriff. This will be an interesting battle to follow in the fall camp if one does not transfer out before April 30th when the portal closes.

3.The Tight End group is phenomenal. Brock Bowers is picking up right where he left off.

Oscar Delp and Lawson Luckie make this the top group in the country at their position.

Could a TE win the Heisman?

4.Roderick Robinson is going to be a beast at RB. Another in the extensive line of great running backs at UGA. He is big at 235 pounds and is fast.

5.The WR group is deep and talented. No Rara Thomas but he is serving some internal discipline, if you read between the lines and will be ready this fall.

6.The offensive line will compete against anyone at anytime and will dominate. Starting unit could be the best in the country.

7.Special teams looked ok. Count me as officially worried about the FG kicker position.

8.Fifty-seven total points combined in a spring game tells me the offense will be purring under Mike Bobo.

Bobo was never a problem at UGA before. His offenses always produce. In those days UGA could not stop a dripping faucet on defense. Kirby has cured that.

9.The first-year defenders are as talented of a group that UGA has ever recruited in one class. The UGA defense will be dominant this fall once again.

10.The schedule suits Carson Beck perfectly this fall. Four straight home games before a road trip against Auburn on September 23rd.

11.Bear Alexander hit the portal. This may hurt on the defensive line. Christen Miller, Jordan Hall, and Jamaal Jarrett looked good on the defensive line which explains some of the rumors on why Bear was looking elsewhere.

12.Kirby stated before the game that he wanted to sling the football all over the field to see where the QB’s were in their development.

UGA has a couple of RB’s injured and they know they can run the football behind that offensive line. Their plan was to work on the passing game and that is what went down.

13.Bullet point thirteen is in honor of Stetson Bennett, who will be the only QB drafted in the 2023 NFL Draft who was a starting QB for a national championship football team.

In fact, he did it on back-to-back occasions. No other QB in the upcoming draft brings those intangibles to the table.

UGA should compete for a third straight national title this fall. Times are good in the Classic City!

Spring Buzz

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Georgia Tech played their 2023 Spring Game on April 15.

This was the first spring game for head coach Brent Key. He took over as interim head coach last season after Geoff Collins was fired.

The Yellow Jackets started the 2022 season 1 – 3. Key went 4 – 4, which led to Tech removing the interim tag.

The program has been in disarray since Paul Johnson retired after the 2018 season. That was also the last time they played in a bowl game.

They look to get back on track in 2023. Let’s take a look at the White and Gold Spring Game.

The White and Gold teams were divided with offensive and defensive players on each team, rather than one team with all offense and another with all defensive players. It gave the players a chance to play in a different format than they had in practice.

Key was looking for the players to focus all their energy on themselves and to execute the plays. “I thought we did a good job of that,” Key said.

Freshman quarterback Zach Pyron was the first quarterback on the field. He operated out of the shotgun for much of the drive. There were a lot of two tight end sets and UGA transfer Brett Seither was splitting out wide often.

Pyron got the team down to the eight-yard line and running back Dontae Smith carried it in to give ‘Team Wreck’Em’ an early lead.

After that, Texas A&M transfer Haynes King took the field as QB for ‘Team Swarm’. He is a former four-star recruit and he showed flashes of that. He led the team down to the goal line but the defense stepped up and forced a 4th and goal. King hit Avery Boyd for a touchdown and tied the game.

Pyron finished the game 11 for 16, 153 yards and one touchdown.

King was 4-11 for 94 yards on Team Swarm, 9-11 185 yards and two touchdowns on Team Wreck’Em. Zach Gibson was 5 for 7 with 64 yards.

Junior running back Trey Cooley led all rushers with 59 yards on eight carries. Jamie Felix had seven carries for 29 yards, Smith had five carries for 27 yards, Evan Dickens had six carries for 24 yards.

Malik Rutherford led all receivers with seven catches for 154 yards. D.J. Moore had four catches for 92 yards, Boyd had two catches for 66 yards, Dylan Leonard had four catches for 43 yards, and Christian Leary finished with three catches for 35 yards.

Both Sirad Bryant and Ahmari Harvey finished with six tackles.

Team Wreck ‘Em won the game 42 – 24.

Were there good things in the scrimmage? Key answered that by saying, “yeah there were good things, and we made some plays on both sides of the football.” Key laughingly noted that there were calls that the referees could have made that they missed. “No penalties, that’s huge,” Key said with a smile. “I don’t know how that happened today.”

The offense looked good in the scrimmage. Only time will tell if that will be the case when they play other teams. The season kicks off Friday, September 1st against Louisville.

From Where I’m Sitting

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

I pretty much think about football year-round these days.

Yes, it is early in the 2023 baseball season, and basketball playoffs are starting our greatest game in this country is football, and in this part of the world it is SEC Football in the greatest conference ever created.

I have been to many SEC football stadiums over the years and here are my rankings from 14 to1 in the most intimidating scale.

14.Vanderbilt: FirstBank Stadium is the only stadium in the SEC where the visiting team is the home team on Saturdays in the fall.

It is formerly known as Dudley Field. Vandy has struggled in football for so long that I don’t know when the trend will change. Vandy fans just don’t turn out for home games.

13.Kroger Field/Kentucky: My saying is that in college football if you have a stadium named after a corporation then you don’t have much of a home field advantage. The Wildcats home field is named after a grocery store. Go figure.

12.Faurot Field/Missouri: Can someone explain to me again why Missouri is in the SEC?

Can have some juice at times for night games but not a hard place to win at.

11.Davis-Wade Stadium/Mississippi State: Without the cowbells this place is just above Vanderbilt.

MSU is a historic bottom-feeder in the conference with a stadium that seats around 60k.

10.Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium/Arkansas: I can only remember the place being loud only once and that is when Texas played there in 2021. Other than that, it always looks half full on the TV most of the time.

9.Vaught-Hemingway Stadium/Ole Miss: Ole Miss is a tough place to visit these days with Lane Kiffin running the show.

It is one of the smaller stadiums in the conference capacity wise, but holds its own on big game days.

8.Williams-Brice Stadium/South Carolina: When the Chickens are good this place rocks, just ask Tennessee last fall when their playoff hopes were crushed at South Carolina.

They have a loyal loud fanbase, but when things go bad at home, they will find their car keys and get gone as quick as anyone.

7.Kyle Field/Texas A&M: Bigger is not always better. Yes, Kyle Field holds over 100K, and it has its moments. It is the least intimidating big stadium in the country.

6.Neyland Stadium/Tennessee: Neyland has its moments… like Alabama in 2022, but over the past decade it just hasn’t had much bite at all. Another historic 100K venue that was built in 1921. Could start rising again on this list soon.

5.Sanford Stadium/Georgia: I had season tickets in the 1990’s.

Sanford has its moments like Auburn 2007, LSU 2013, and Tennessee in 2022. It has become more intimidating during the Kirby tenure but still has too many wine and cheese fans that attend for the social aspects of posting a social media picture, etc. rather than being hard core college football fans.

4.Ben Hill Griffin Stadium/Florida: When the Gators are good The Swamp is a hostile environment that is very intimidating.

All of you Georgia fans that say move the game UGA/UF out of Jacksonville to home and home better be careful on what you wish for. You have been warned.

3.Bryant-Denny Stadium/Alabama: Alabama is always going to be a tough place to play. Always has been and always will be. History, national titles, and a 100K seat stadium make it so.

2.Tiger Stadium/LSU: You do not want to roll in here at night. Period end of story. Well documented on how tough this environment is.

1.Jordan-Hare Stadium/Auburn: Ask Nick Saban if he likes playing at Auburn?

Ask any coach in the SEC if they like playing at Jordan-Hare, even if Auburn is bad?

When Auburn is rolling this is the most intimidating place in the SEC to play. Jordan-Hare is loud and the fans are loyal and show up to yell rather than sip wine and take photos.

Hugh Freeze is about to remind us on how intimidating Jordan-Hare is over the next decade.

Death Sting

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

It is too early in the season to think Tampa Bay Rays cheat-coding this month is sustainable in the long run, but it’s still fun to have this many surprises in one baseball season. Good teams are bad, bad teams are good.

Quick — which team has the top OPS in baseball? That would be the Rays (.967). An undefeated start has been one of the best early storylines in today’s baseball.

In typical Rays fashion, they’re doing it up and down the lineup, with not a single player in the top 10 in individual OPS as of Sunday afternoon (Wander Franco, through nine games, was 11th with 1.157).

The Rays’ early strength of schedule, which has included the Tigers, Nationals and A’s, a trio of teams not expected to contend. Still, Tampa Bay hasn’t just beaten inferior opponents, they’ve pummeled them.

The Rays have won most games by four or more runs and have outscored opponents massively. Their run differential is the largest in the modern era to start a season.

The Rays lead the majors in home runs and runs scored and rank second with a .289 batting average.

Earlier this year, an article ranked the top 10 rotations in baseball. Tampa Bay wasn’t even in the top five. This lineup may have been overlooked by baseball pundits (the Rays are used to it).

Consider this a gross oversight; one that didn’t escape people in the organization. Tampa Bay has put together a starting pitching group that has the potential to be historically good. Heading into Sunday’s games, Rays starters ranked second in ERA, fourth in walks and fifth in strikeouts.

The inferior competition is a major reason the Rays lead the majors with a rotation ERA under 2.00. The Rays believe their pitchers’ execution has been almost flawless. That is true not just of their starters but also their relievers, who rank third in the majors in opponents’ OPS.

They trailed only the Dodgers in pitches per inning at 14.31, and still figure to get better with starter Tyler Glasnow (oblique) expected to return in mid-May.

Glasnow could give the Rays a third top-of-the-rotation arm along with Shane McClanahan and Jeff Springs.

On the other hand, Drew Rasmussen held the A’s to one hit and struck out eight over seven innings Sunday, also Zach Eflin has been terrific on the mound, making two great additions.

The only area of the team that hasn’t been seriously tested is the bullpen. That’s the way it goes when you’ve been tied or had the lead in 93.9 percent of the innings you’ve played.

The Rays are the only unbeaten team in the majors; they’re also the only team without a save.

Their undefeated mark is the best start in the wild-card era. The 1982 Braves and the 1987 Brewers both won 13 straight to start a season.

The 1916 New York Giants won 26 in a row, which is the MLB record for longest winning streak.

Unfair Wildness

By: Steve Norris

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

I’m still not over it.

It was October 12th, 1997. The Atlanta Braves were in Miami, Florida for Game 5 of the National League Championship Series and looking to take a 3-2 series lead back to Atlanta with Greg Maddux on the mound.

Maddux had already lost Game 1 at home to Kevin Brown, so Atlanta needed their ace to get revenge on Brown.

However, just before the game, Brown was scratched due to illness and replaced with Livan Hernandez.

What followed is arguably the most controversial game in Braves history. The late Eric Gregg umpired that game and decided for some reason to widen his already wide strike zone, especially to left-handed batters.

This hurt the Braves far more as they had six left-handed batters to the Marlins three. Hernandez was the benefactor and outdueled Maddux 2-1, ending the game on a strikeout of Fred McGriff, where the third strike was at least a foot outside.

If you don’t believe me, do a search for it on YouTube. You’ll be shocked how awful that strike zone was that day.

The Braves would surrender the series to Brown at home two days later 7-4, in yet another first inning implosion by Glavine, while the Marlins would go on to upset the favored Cleveland Indians for the World Series title.

It was a devastating loss for Braves fans, especially after their World Series collapse to the Yankees the previous year.

The fact is, that loss to the Marlins should have never happened in the first place. The Marlins had no business being in the playoffs. They finished 9 games behind the Braves who had won 101 games during the regular season. But thanks to the silliness of the Wild Card, they not only got a chance to beat the Braves, but they were also able to earn the home field advantage by winning just one of the first two games in Atlanta in the NLCS.

Fast forward to last year’s playoffs and the same thing happened to the Braves against the Phillies, except this time it was worse. The hated Phillies finished 14 games…yes…FOURTEEN GAMES behind the Braves.

Yet, when they faced off in the National League Division Series, they were given the opportunity to win one game in Atlanta and immediately get home field advantage in a five-game series.

The Phillies would tee off on Braves ace Max Fried, who was pitching while suffering from the flu, and would win the game 7-6. The Braves would not recover and would go on to lose three games to one.

All of this after playing 162 games.

How does that make sense? Why would a team, who not only failed to win the division, but finished way out of first place, be given such an easy chance to get home field advantage?

Logic says they shouldn’t. In fact, it’s my opinion that it’s time to make the wild card teams work harder to win a playoff series.

Here’s my proposal for the baseball playoffs: Any time a wild card team is facing a division winner in a playoff series, the division winner should get three more home games than the wild card team.

For example, if a division winner is playing a wild card team in the National or American League Division Series, the division winner should get four home games to the wild card teams’ one.

If it’s the National or American League Championship Series, the division winner should get five home games to the wild card winners’ two. This would force the wild card team to have to win two away games no matter what. If they can do that, then they’ve earned the home field advantage.

As for the World Series, that can stay at four games to three no matter who ends up there as a wild card team would have earned their way there by then.

It’s time for Major League Baseball to make the regular season important again if they’re going to keep letting all these wild card teams in.

Unfortunately, it’s run by Rob Manfred, arguably the most incompetent commissioner in sports history, so I don’t see him getting a clue any time soon.

Practice Game

By: Garrison Ryfun

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

On Monday last week, Hugh Freeze pitched the idea of playing a scrimmage in the Spring against another school: “Allow us to scrimmage somebody on a day.” Bringing up the attention and revenue it could bring, the decrease in risk of injury for both schools, and the benefits to seeing your guys in action against a different group of players.

Freeze even mentioned going against in-state teams like Troy, UAB, or Alabama State, to which new UAB Head Coach Trent Dilfer responded saying: “Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty please.” He saw the benefits of live competition between teams and perceived it to be a benefit for his team as well. Dilfer mentioned the benefits of scrimmaging a team that is seen as superior to yours. Troy Head Coach Jon Sumrall was also on board with the idea saying: “I wouldn’t have a problem with it. I’d go play.”

This is not the first time the idea of scrimmaging against another school has come up in college football.

Dabo Swinney publicly pitched the idea in 2012, with then Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke publicly jumping on the train not long after. If this is such a popular move with Head Coaches across the sport, then why haven’t we seen it up for vote already?

David Cutcliffe, former Duke Head Coach, lays it out well in this 2012 quote: “That’s an old idea, that’s a good idea, but that’s very difficult to get the NCAA to move in those regards. Your best chance is if you can prove you can make some money, because then you have a chance for the presidents and the ADs to vote in favor of it.”

At the end of the day college football is a business, while it may benefit the coaches to see other teams in live competition with their own, if it doesn’t generate decent revenue then it is likely dead-on arrival for any vote. Something I am sure coaches have thought about in their pitches behind closed doors, but you do not see a lot of in past public pitches for the idea.

Which is why Hugh Freeze’s pitch makes a lot of sense, it may ultimately come to nothing but he is hitting the right chords. The focus on scrimmaging with a more local university, making the organization easier and less costly.  The revenue that an in-state scrimmage could drive in for both Alabama and Auburn; Hugh Freeze understands what the pitch has to be if anything will come out of it.

It is a similar pitch to one Mike Gundy made in the spring of 2021, where he pitched a spring game against Arkansas.

Once again, his public comments did not really hit on the revenue generating aspect of the conversation, and it likely went nowhere because of it.

Other coaches, like Mike Norvell, said they were open to the idea during conferences this week. Could there be another major push for spring scrimmages against other schools?

One of the other major roadblocks is that while most major college football coaches seem on board with the idea, there were some pretty powerful dissenters to the push in 2012, namely Nick Saban and Bob Stoops.

The former is now a coach in the XFL, and the latter has adapted and changed his philosophy with his style of offense in more recent years.

Could Saban, and more importantly Presidents and ADs, come around to the idea, or will this die down for another decade before another push happens again?


On The Clock

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Everyone these days produces their own version of an NFL Mock draft.

You do not have to be correct because most of these so-called experts are not. It is something fun to project. Keep that in mind. Here is my 2023 mock draft for the top ten picks with trades factored in.

Carolina Panthers: With the first pick in the 2023 NFL Draft the Panthers select Bryce Young QB from Alabama.

I do not care how tall he is or what he weighs. The guy checks every box as a QB. He is accurate with a strong arm. He is mobile and played at a high level in the NFL equivalent of AAA Baseball the Southeastern Conference. Young steps in and has Carolina in contention in the weak NFC South.

Houston Texans: C. J. Stroud QB/Ohio State: Stroud showed me something in the Peach Bowl. Great pocket presence and show us some wheels when the pocket broke down.

Houston has twelve picks in this draft and can get respectable quickly in the weak AFC South.

Arizona Cardinals: Will Anderson DE/Alabama: Anderson fills a need for Arizona.

Alabama has two of the top three picks in my mock draft and they did not make the college football playoffs in 2022. Head scratcher.

Baltimore Ravens: Anthony Richardson QB/Florida: The Ravens trade Lamar Jackson to the Colts and get Richardson who wowed at the combine and who is bigger, stronger, and faster than Jackson.

Seattle Seahawks: Jalen Carter DL/Georgia: Carter is the best prospect in this draft who Seattle loves.

I do not believe the smokescreen of Carter falling out of the top ten. This kid is too good to drop that far. Yes, he needs to make better decisions.

Pete Carroll will develop Carter into the best DL in the league before his rookie contract expires.

Tennessee: Will Levis QB/Kentucky: With Carter gone off the board the Lions trade out this spot with Tennessee and the Titans draft Levis.

Levis has the potential to end up being the best QB in the draft in 4-5 years. Tennessee is in desperate need of a QB.

Los Vegas Raiders: Christian Gonzalez CB/Oregon: Las Vegas needs help in the secondary.

Gonzalez is the highest rated corner on my board. In a division with great QB’s the Raiders must improve on the backend of their defense.

Atlanta Falcons: Tyree Wilson Edge/Texas Tech: With the QB’s gone the Falcons address a huge need, which is pass rush. Wilson can get to the QB. The Falcons need a lot of help on defense.

Chicago Bears: Peter Skoronski OT/Northwestern: The Bears after trading the number one pick to Carolina get must needed help along the line of scrimmage.

Philadelphia Eagles: Nolan Smith Edge/Georgia: The Eagles take Smith here to bring heat off the edge.

Philly is already strong on defense, so the rich get richer by taking Smith who stole the show at the NFL Combine by running a 4.38 forty. Insane speed off the edge.

Local Picks in the NFL Draft:

Round 4 Pick 125: The Los Angeles Chargers select Warren McClendon OL/Georgia: The former BHS Pirate McClendon is selected by the Chargers who need help protecting Justin Herbert in LA. McClendon will be versatile in the NFL and will be able to play both the guard and tackle positions.

Round 6 Pick 180: The Arizona Cardinals select Stetson Bennett QB/Georgia: This could be the perfect opportunity for Stet to come in and compete right away for a back-up job.

Kyler Murray is rehabbing a knee injury. Colt McCoy is an aging 36-year-old career back-up.

Bennett has all the intangibles you want in a QB. The biggest one is that he is a winner and has the physical tools to go with it now with his showings at the combine and Georgia’s pro day.

Arizona is a spot where Bennett could eventually be an NFL starter. The jury is still out on Kyler Murray in Arizona.


Complicated Hero

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Stetson Bennett; the great story, has turned into something more complicated.

For so long he was the folk hero, the former walk-on proving everyone wrong, winning one and then two national championships.

All along there was an edge to him, but it manifested itself in endearing ways, especially to Georgia fans.

mic drop after throwing a touchdown, the telephone signal to taunt Tennessee fans who had lit up his cell phone. And the general competitive spirit that won over the Georgia coaches who kept trying to find another quarterback.

But since winning the second national championship, Bennett’s edges have come out in other ways.

Blowing off the morning-after news conference, being accused of not being warm enough with fans at the championship celebration, a slightly off-key speech at the celebration, then an arrest on a public intoxication charge.

By themselves, none of these put Bennett in red flag territory, but together- they’ve added up to an interesting narrative heading into the draft.

Bennett responded by retreating from public view, dodging interviews and press opportunities all together. He emerged and had a good showing at the NFL combine, as well as a pro day performance that reinforced Bennet’s  arm strength, athleticism and accuracy.

Thus, the narrative has flipped: The physical attributes are there, the intangibles are now in question.

This drama-turned-screenplay is still being written. Will the next Act be in the NFL?

Admittedly, that’s a stretch. The idea of Bennett achieving a long NFL career is about as likely as … Well, feel free to ask a new employee of the Baltimore Ravens about doubting the kid from Blackshear, Ga.

Maybe it’s about being the best football player, but plenty else goes into the NFL Draft.

That’s why Bennett has to confront off-field questions. He said there have been “a lot of different questions,” not specifying which ones, but outlining his approach: being honest, and upfront, (NFL teams already know the answers to their questions). They want to see how Bennett, and any prospect in that matter, answers.

There’s a tired routine that’s played in the run-up to the draft: prospects being asked who they’ve met with. Bennett wasn’t asked that, pointing out that those meetings and media coverage is all a game.

Sometimes teams meet multiple times with prospects they have no intention of drafting, creating a smokescreen, then never meet a prospect they do draft until they’re drafted.

So Bennett takes the meetings, but doesn’t read into which team is talking to him, which team has concerns about his intangibles, and which team wants to pick the former walk-on turned folk hero turned complicated NFL prospect.

So, where will Bennett get selected on draft day? His résumé is impressive. He’s a back-to-back national champion. He is the first quarterback in Georgia history to achieve that accomplishment. It was a storybook college career for Bennett, as he grew up a die-hard Georgia fan. But the story may not have a happy ending if the goal is hearing his name early on draft night.

Ranked  10th at quarterback on my draft board, the 25-year-old is the same age or older than several NFL quarterbacks who have been in the league for a few years.

To put it in perspective, Bennett is older than the 24-year-old Jalen Hurts, who just led the Philadelphia Eagles to the Super Bowl … in his third NFL season.

That said, I believe Bennett will hear his name called before the NFL draft has concluded. He comes from a winning culture, and NFL teams love to be surrounded by winning.

From all accounts, Bennett would make a great addition to a locker room. On top of that, we know he is not afraid of the big moments should he ever be called upon.

Who knows, maybe Bennett’s legend will continue to grow, and he pulls off the unexpected. It wouldn’t be the first time.