Southern Sports Edition

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Stetson For Heisman

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

2017 seems so long ago. The Georgia Bulldogs won the SEC Championship, Rose Bowl, and were a blown coverage away from winning the national championship.

At the time there was the walk-on QB that was giving Roquan Smith and company fits on the scout team all during that championship season. That QB was Stetson Bennett.

After a brief stint away from Athens, and a global pandemic the former walk-on led Georgia to a national title in 2021. He lit up an Alabama defense for fourteen points in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line.

Still during the lead up to the 2022 season there were doubters. The doubters said UGA won despite Bennett. They do not remember the 40-yard strike to AD Mitchell and the capping TD toss to Brock Bowers facing an Alabama blitz to end the 41-year championship drought.

Then something amazing happened and Stetson Bennett torched 11th ranked Oregon for a career high 368 yards and a 49-3 curb stomping.

Then he has backed it up with great performances against Samford and South Carolina. Now Georgia is the top ranked team in the country, and you are hearing the impossible being said and that is STETSON FOR HEISMAN!

Wait one second Kipp what are you saying? I am saying Stetson for Heisman. Why not?

As of now Bennett sits high on the list of favorites. He is playing better than the media darlings that he trails in the current odds.

If the award were given today Stetson Bennett would be your 2022 Heisman winner based on performance, and if you base it on team accomplishments who is better than Georgia right now?

Brock Bowers is in the mix as well. Who throws Brock the football?

Bennett is a dual threat for the UGA offense this season. His grasp of the Todd Monken system makes the offense look unstoppable at times.

UGA scored in their first seven possessions against Oregon. Georgia put on an offensive clinic against South Carolina. UGA rolled up almost 550 yards of total offense against an SEC defense.

If you look at the UGA schedule from now until the Cocktail Party in Jacksonville, you see the likes of Kent State, Missouri, a down Auburn team, and Vanderbilt.

Bennett should put up some substantial numbers in those contests. UGA should enter the Florida game at 7-0.

Then you have Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Georgia Tech. If Georgia can run the table and go 12-0, then how can Stetson not be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony?

If UGA was to be a 13-0 SEC Champion and Bennett has played as well as he has during the first three games of the season, then he will have earned the Heisman Trophy.

Folks this thing could happen because Stetson is the leader of a complete football team in Athens, Georgia.

This story has the makings of a Hollywood movie script. The Stetson Bennett story would be an impressive movie. I know about ten million fellow Georgians who would agree.

The season still must play itself out, but Stetson Bennett is already a Georgia Legend.

The only real question that remains is, which actor would portray Stetson Bennett in a Hollywood adapted movie in the next 5 years?

Move over Rudy the Stetson Bennett story will be coming to the theaters soon.

Three Amigos

By: Joe Delaney

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Man, fall is in the air! Football is all over the place. Whether it’s our local high schools, college, or the pros.

But, let’s give it up for the Atlanta Braves. The World Series Wonders are fighting for the NL East title with the Metropolitans and win or lose will be back into playoffs.

The kicker on this is that the Braves have been built the same way Kirby has built the Dawgs. And that’s for the long haul.

The Braves have a guy running the show who has been pulling all the right strings since he came to Atlanta. Alex Anthopoulos came to the Braves in 2017 and was promoted to president of baseball operations in February of 2020.

He is the mastermind behind what is happening to the Braves. Anthopoulos was the guy who reworked the Braves lineup late last season to bring in Adam Duvall, Joc Peterson and Eddie Rosario. I don’t think the Bravos win it all without those moves.

Duvall was steady as a rock. Joc Peterson had half of Truist Park wearing pearl necklaces and ole Eddie was the NLCS MVP. Yeah, Anthopoulos pulled all the right strings last year.

But what about that deal for the long haul? What have you done for us lately, Alex? Well, he has worked on the Braves from the ground up and man this dude doesn’t play around.

The Braves have three of the top overall prospects in the majors now on their roster.

How good are they? Two of them will probably finish 1 and 2 in the rookie of the year voting and the third is a consensus top 10.

We’re talking about Spencer Strider, Michael Harris II, and Vaughn Grissom.  These guys all have greatness written all over them.

Spencer Strider has struck out 200 batters in 132 innings. He carries an 11-5 record as of today. He consistently hits 97-100 on the gun. One of his teammates was asked how he ranked Strider and his reply was “just under deGrom”. Jacob deGrom is a future Hall of Famer.

Spencer Strider is 23 years old. Get used to seeing ladies with black fake moustaches at Truist Park! The guy is becoming his own little cult!

Vaughn Grissom is 21 years old and was brought up by the Braves when Ozzie Albies went down with a fractured foot over the summer.

He skipped AAA ball and came up from AA. With the Braves, he has played sterling defense and is batting .302 with 5 HR and 16 RBI in 34 games. Now with Ozzie out again with a fractured pinky, Grissom will finish out the season at 2B. This guy has a chance to be a great one.

Last but not least of these three amigos is Michael Harris II. He is the odds-on favorite for NL Rookie of the Year.

The amazing thing about that is he only came up to the Braves at the end of May. Harris has solidified center field for the Braves and should be there for the foreseeable future.

He is currently hitting .305 with 18 HR and 59 RBI and 17 SB. He is 21 years old.

Anthopoulos knows his stuff and just signed the rookie Harris to an 8 year 72 million contract.

So, this is how Alex Anthopoulos is building the Braves for the future. And what a future it’s going be. These guys are loaded and now have a lineup that is as good as any in baseball. I think ole Alex is gonna keep it that way. GO BRAVES!

 

New Chiefs

By: Robert Craft

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

Here are my latest observations about the Seminoles after their 3-0 start this season.

1 — This team’s toughness is legit. Every time things begin to look bleak; these guys find a way to fight back. Whether it’s the defense making a stop or creating a turnover or the offense stepping up to make a play.

Remembering Norvell’s Memphis teams, when we learned that FSU was targeting him for their vacant head coaching job in late 2019, what stood out most was how hard Memphis competed snap by snap.

They were physical on both sides of the ball, and seemed unfazed by the score or situation. Whether ahead or behind, Memphis seemed to play with the same high level of energy and intensity.

It’s such a positive thing to see a strong program battle back after challenging years. FSU fans should be falling in love with this team.

They know there will be times this season when the offense sputters or the defense has major lapses — heck, that’s already happened in the last two games (double heck, this ain’t even pro football! Kids mess up all the time). However, toughness is something that shouldn’t come or go. You have it or you don’t. Grit is absolute.

2 —Trey Benson’s break out. Even though he had 100-plus yards in the season opener against Duquesne, I didn’t think we saw the real Trey Benson in either of Florida State’s first two games.

I don’t know if maybe it was taking a little time to get acclimated to the speed of the game against teams like LSU and Louisville. If that was the case, it would be understandable. Remember, he missed nearly all of last season due to a catastrophic knee injury when he was at Oregon.

Maybe he’s just still getting comfortable with Norvell’s offense. Whatever the case, the guy is 6-foot-1, 215 pounds and built differently than everybody else FSU has in the backfield.

FSU got game(plans). As much credit as Florida State’s players deserve, the coaching staff prepare excellent strategies.

Despite the fact that QB Tate Rodemaker struggled several times in critical situations, Norvell was convinced that he would eventually turn the corner. Rodemaker may have actually done just that.

Injuries + Recruiting. Florida State has been dealing with several injury concerns. Then the list got much longer during the trip to Louisville, with QB Jordan Travis, DE Jared Verse, DL Malcolm Ray, OT Robert Scott, LB Tatum Bethune and others either leaving the game completely or missing time.

I also see the drop off in recruiting the past three years costing the Seminoles for the remainder of this season. With injuries mounting, the lack of depth will hurt the Seminoles as they navigate the remainder of their schedule.

FSU is off to a great start. The was the last time FSU had a 10-win season was 2015.

Will Norvell lead the Seminoles back to glory or will their lack of depth have them come up short?

Wind In The Sails

By: Kipp Branch

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The high school football regular season is already a third of the way finished. One local team sailing high are the Brunswick High School Pirates.

First year head coach Garrett Grady has the Pirates sitting at 3-0 on the young season with back-to-back impressive wins against Camden County and The Bolles School out of Jacksonville, Florida, which have a combined 14 state titles.

What is impressive about this group of Pirates is that these kids have bought into everything Coach Grady has instilled this offseason.

Off season conditioning, where the entire team improved on their strength numbers. BHS has ten players currently in the 1000-pound club. Last season the program had three players in the club. The 1000-pound club is a combination of max bench press, squat, and power clean in the weight room.

Most players increased their strength individually by 20 to 25% during this past offseason. The benefits of that show up in the second half of games like the Camden and Bolles contests where BHS wore these quality opponents down when it matters the most.

Off the field during the spring and summer the football program was very visible in the community. Community service projects, volunteer opportunities the Pirates have been seen around town this offseason.

Garrett Grady has instilled a culture of helping and mentoring kids around the community. I personally saw Harvard commit Jayden Drayton teaching kids’ proper fundamentals at a 7–8-year-old football camp this summer.

I was told by a family member that senior LB Lionel Twitty provided them with the best customer service experience they have had in years at Home Depot on a blazing scorching summer day when Twitty refused to let them assist him in loading materials on a trailer for a big home project under construction.

The program motto is “All About the Family.” This is not just a catchphrase folks these kids live it because their coaching staff coaches them on this every single day.

Character education is huge aspect of this football program, and the culture of the Brunswick High football program revolves around this.

Just this past weekend, BHS coaches worked at The Georgia/Florida football classic at Glynn County Stadium in supporting roles making sure the event was as success. BHS staff was there from start to finish on Thursday and Saturday for the seven-game event.

Brunswick had a game on Friday night but worked to support the school system for the other six games that were played. That speaks volumes about the quality of the BHS coaching staff. Twelve to fourteen hour days on Thursday through Saturday, then a long workday on Sunday getting ready for the upcoming opponent.

On the field, BHS may field the best defense the school has seen since 1999. Unsung heroes like Jordan Jimerson, Ivan Johnson, Zion Turner, and Keon Leggett do not get all the headlines but make their presence felt every Friday night.

Did you see that hit Leggett made on a Bolles receiver last Friday night? Ronnie Lott would have been proud.

On offense, unsung heroes like OL Eli Smith, OL Jonathan Welson, OL Quan Gibson, and OL Josh Walker wear down opposing defensive fronts every week. They just do their job.

QB J.R. Elkins is getting better every single week. You have young running backs in William Heck and Jamarius Towns that will be household names in Brunswick soon.

The Pirates also have a young LB on defense J’Shawn Towns that will knock you into next week.

Then you have a kid who waited his turn in Taivon Gadson, who made the game changing play last week against Bolles when he returned an interception to the goal line that changed the complexion of the Bolles game. The Pirates went on to win 20-3. BHS was trailing 3-0 in the third quarter when Gadson rose to the occasion when his team needed it the most.

Every good football team is full of unsung heroes. I just highlighted a few this week.

It is really “All About the Family” for the BHS football program.

Garrett Grady was a great hire by BHS.

Eagles Shuck Huskers

By: Joe Delaney

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

WOW………. Almost a million and half is how much The University of Nebraska paid Georgia Southern University to come be a sacrificial lamb of a football team in Memorial Stadium in Lincoln Nebraska.

Well, I don’t know if they have Eagles in Nebraska but I can tell you the Cornhuskers don’t want to see the birds from Statesboro again, ANY time soon.

Georgia Southern football took a giant step forward by handing the Cornhuskers a shocking home loss 45-42 earlier in the month.

How shocking? After the game Cornhusker Coach Scott Frost said “we can’t let this divide us” ………. The next morning, he was no longer the coach.  And the school paid him 15 million to leave!

While this Nebraska team might not be feared in college football the way they were in the past. They were prohibitive three touchdown favorites.

I guess everyone wants to know how many yards the Southern option attack rolled up right?  Uhhhhhhh, those days are long gone sports fans. Behind the revamped offense of Clay Helton and the play of QB Kyle Vantrease the Eagles rolled up SIX HUNRED and FORTY TWO yards against the BIG 10 school.

Vantrease, who I wrote about in the season preview was spectacular. He was 37 of 56 for 409 yards and scored the winning touchdown on an 8-yard run with 36 seconds left.

Southern had a great all-around effort on offense with Gerald Green running for 132 yards on only 10 carries and 2 scores and Jalen White added another 85 yards and 2 TDs.

Derwin Burgess led the potent Eagle receiving corp with 12 catches for 119 yards. While the Eagle defense had to fight the bigger Cornhuskers all day and gave up a lot of yards and points, they held at the end and forced a 52-yard field goal attempt that went wide left. The party was on in Statesboro and the visitor’s locker room at Memorial Stadium.

Kudos have to go out to the job Clay Helton has done in a very short period of time at Georgia Southern. That’s a BIG 10 school that the Eagles just took down ON THE ROAD.

First is not the fact that they beat Nebraska……. The deal is they were just better. Nebraska had no answer for the Eagles offense. GSU, actually led most of the game in Lincoln.

It seems that the Eagles have gotten themselves a very good head coach. Clay Helton has coached at the highest level of college football.  Many wondered how he would adjust to the smaller school, smaller budgets and small-town atmosphere of Statesboro, as opposed to the glam of Los Angeles.

Well to see him on the sidelines at the end of the game Saturday you woulda thought that this guy is all in. I did.

It’s a long season and there will be ups and downs for this Eagle team for sure. They face a tough schedule ahead. In my preview of the Eagles last month, I said that after last year’s debacle the Eagle nation needed to have some patience with this squad. I think that still holds true………. but WOW! Just WOW!

Down Here

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The NFL season is underway and there is a lot of room for improvement for several teams. We are going to take a look at the AFC South and preview the Week 2 matchups.

Indianapolis @ Jacksonville: This sounds crazy to say but the Colts acquired Matt Ryan to win games like this. Last season with a playoff berth on the line in Week 18, Indy lost in Jacksonville (3-14) to a bad team. That’s when they realized they had to move on from Carson Wentz and upgrade the quarterback position.

On paper it looks like the Colts have a complete team and they only need solid quarterback play to make a deep playoff run. They tied division rival Houston in Week 1, 20 – 20. Matt Ryan did throw for 352 yards and a touchdown in his debut but he also had two turnovers.

The Jaguars are coming into the season with optimism. Doug Pederson is the new head coach and he’s the man that finally brought a Super Bowl to Philadelphia. Trevor Lawrence is also expected to drastically improve in his second year in the league. The Jags lost to Washington 28 -22 to start the season.

The Colts are looking to send a message to Jacksonville and they will win convincingly.

Houston @ Denver: The Texans are expected to be a bad team but they put up a very good fight against Indy. The game ended in a tie but they did lead 20 – 3 going into the fourth quarter.

Lovie Smith is in his first year as head coach. He served as associate head coach and defensive coordinator for the Texans for the 2021 season. The defense recorded 25 takeaways in 2021, tied for tenth.

“Obviously we didn’t lose the game, but it kind of feels that way since we were up, we were doing so many good things in the beginning and then they came back,” Houston linebacker Christian Kirksey said.

Quarterback Davis Mills threw for 240 yards, 2 touchdowns, no interceptions and completed 62% of his pass attempts.

Receiver Brandon Cooks led the team with 7 receptions for 82 yards. Houston struggled running the ball, gaining 77 yards on 28 attempts.

We all know the Broncos have Russell Wilson now but I don’t think they are an elite team.

I pick Denver to win but not a blowout.

Tennessee @ Buffalo: This is a Monday Night Football game so we expect it to be good.

They played Monday night last season and the Titans won, 34 – 31. Some things have changed since last year though because the Bills are the favorite to win the AFC.

They started the season by blowing out the defending Super Bowl champion Rams on the road, 31 – 10. Josh Allen looks like he might win MVP this season.

Tennessee lost a close game to the Giants 21 – 20 so they are looking for their first win of the season. Derrick Henry played his first regular season game since his 2021 foot injury. He rushed for 82 yards on 21 carries. Ryan Tannehill is looked at as the weak link, which is why they drafter quarterback Malik Willis in the third round of the 2022 draft.

They also traded star wide receiver A.J. Brown to Philly on the first day of the draft so they are missing a key weapon.

I expect Buffalo to win by double digits.

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