Back to Back?

By: Jeff Doke news services

“Oh, woe are the Dawgs” seems to be the theme of the sports media glitterati. The poor, impoverished defending national champions lost so much from last year. Woe, I tell you. Gloom, despair and misery on ye, Dawg Nation.

Oh, just stop it. Everything is fine in Athens. More than fine, really.

Yes, the Dawgs saw 15 players go in the NFL draft. Yes, Jermaine Burton jumped ship & sold his soul to the Crimson Tide. Yes, UGA still have Stetson Bennett as QB1.

And that’s where I’m going stop you. Stetson has not only earned the right to be the starter, he’s going to have a potentially Heisman-worthy year.

Look at last year’s stats in the 11 regular and 3 post season games. 2,862 yards, 29 TDs vs. 7 INTs, 64.5% completion, plus 259 yds rushing. It’s been said before, I’ll say it again – if any other QB posted those stats with a year of eligibility left, we’d be begging him to come back.

Consider me #TeamSBIV, and proudly so.

And while there was a lot of talent lost to the NFL, keep in mind exactly how much production Kirby got from underclassmen. All told, 13 starters return to the Dawgs this year, mostly on an offense that looks to be somewhat improved; SBIV, Brock Bowers, Ladd McConkey, Adonai Mitchell, Sedrick Van Pran, Warren Ericson, and BHS alum Warren McClendon.

Add the RB stable of Kendall Milton, Kenny McIntosh, Daijun Edwards, and the beastly Branson Robinson, and it’s not a stretch to think that the 2022 offense is going to surprise some folks.

While the defense will not reach the historic standards of last year, Jalen Carter, Nolan Smith and Kelee Ringo will lead a squad that should still statistically lead the SEC.

And of course, Glynn Academy’s own Jack Podlesny will carry on the proud legacy of UGA kickers for one more year.

While there are a few pundits out there that seem to think UGA can’t go undefeated in the regular season again (including one SSE writer that has the Dawgs going 9-3), here’s how this humble correspondent sees the 2022 campaign playing out;

WEEK 1 – vs Oregon – My favorite Dawg podcaster says the Silver Britches are going to blank the Ducks. I’ll ride those coattails and call it a 31-0 win to start the season.

WEEK 2 – vs. Samford – The Athenian Bulldogs wallop the Alabamian mutts 49-6.

WEEK 3 – @ Carolina – Although I’m admittedly an appreciator of Beamer Ball, this ain’t the year quite yet. Dawgs on top 35-14.

WEEK 4 – vs. Kent State – My best friend’s dad graduated from Kent State and was present for the darkest day in their history. I’ll forgo the jokes out of respect and just predict a lopsided 55-12 final.

WEEK 5 – @ Mizzou – The first of back-to-back Tiger matchups. Dawgs dispatch the midwestern SEC pretenders handily, 42-10.

WEEK 6 – vs. Auburn – There are trendy upset picks, and then there’s delusions of grandeur. Absolutely no way War Eagle Nation walks out of Sanford Stadium with a “W.

Georgia stretches their record in the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry to 63–56–8 to the tune of 35-17.

WEEK 7 – vs. Vanderbilt – Some things never change, and some things rarely change. The outcome of UGA versus Vandy falls somewhere in between the two. More of the same this year, red and black dispatches The Commodores 41-9.

WEEK 8 – vs. Florida – Dan Mullen may be gone, but the stench still remains…oh, who are we kidding. That stench has always been there. Dawgs thump the lousy stinkin’ Gators 49-7.

WEEK 9 – vs. Tennessee – This is another fashionable pick for a trap game. Much like your typical Volunteer fan, I’ve never been accused of being “fashionable.” Sanford security confiscates the mustard & Dawgs keep rolling 42-20.

WEEK 10 – MISSISSIPPI STATE – If there’s any potential stumbling block for 2022, this is it. Those cowbells are loud and annoying, but I have faith. Kirby & company ekes it out 27-24 in OT.

WEEK 11 – KENTUCKY – Another tough road game, another close score, another W for the Dawgs. Put ‘em down for a 31-28 final.

WEEK 12 – North Avenue Trade School – The only anticipation in this game will be seeing what my spirit animal Andrew Smart put on the dry erase board this year. Dawgs still run this state 52-0.

FINAL RECORD – 12-0, 1st place in the SEC East, CFB playoffs.

Dawgs’ New Tricks

By: Jason Bishop news services

Gone are Sony Michel, Nick Chubb and Roquan Smith, Georgia’s best three players. All three will find themselves in the NFL very soon.

Despite losing those key pieces from last year’s run at a National Title, there are some familiar faces returning to the Georgia Bulldogs that were put on display during the annual Spring Game in Athens, G-Day.

Georgia fans will get to watch Jake Fromm return at QB, D’Andre Swift come back as the featured tail back in the 2018 season. UGA faithful will also get to see newcomers like Justin Fields, the number one QB in the country at the high school ranks last season.

Coach Kirby Smart took his team through the dog walk leading into Sanford Stadium to begin one of the most anticipated seasons in Georgia Football history and it all starts with G-Day.

A crowd of over 80,000 showed up to watch the Bulldogs spring scrimmage. In the game the Black team defeated Red team 21-13.

The Black team opened the scoring with a Deandre Baker pick-6 of Jake Fromm. A good sign from UGA’s secondary as most are predicting it will be the weak link for the Bulldogs in 2018.

Justin Fields was put in display for the fan base to see and he did not disappoint. Fields went 18-33 for 207 yards and a TD. He also did throw an interception.

Jake Fromm also put up decent numbers, going 19-38 for 200 yards and a TD. Fromm did end up throwing two interceptions.

Former Pierce County QB Stetson Bennett also out together an eight-play drive that covered 64 yards and ended with 3 points.

Georgia LB, Monty Smith had a great day. Smith ended up with 14 tackles and a sack. Smith will have big shoes to fill as most expect him to replace Roquan Smith at LB.

Overall, the Georgia defense had 4 interceptions. Baker, Richard LeCounte, William Poole and KJ Smith each intercepted a pass. The secondary will need to continue to be that opportunistic when the season starts on September 1.

The Bulldogs will open against Austin Peay at Sanford Stadium. Georgia will have to go to South Carolina on September 8th, host Tennessee on November 29th, go to LSU on October 13th, travel to Jacksonville to take on the Gators on October 27th, host Auburn on November 10th and then close the regular season out with in state rival, Georgia Tech coming to Athens.

The Bulldogs will also be looking for some help at WR. Coach Smart noted the wide receiver corps had a ton of drops in the Spring Game. Terry Godwin and Calvin Ridley look to step up for Georgia in those roles.

Georgia will still be tough to beat in the SEC East and I look for this team to at least make a return trip the SEC Title Game.


Mark Fox Not The Answer at UGA?


By: Drayton Hogarth news services

With college basketball well underway, teams all over the country are preparing to enter the conference portion of their schedule.

Many teams are still trying to find their identity after winding down the out of conference slate. One of those teams that is in need of a new identity is the Georgia Bulldogs under long time coach Mark Fox. The Bulldogs are as good as they are going to be under Coach Fox, and that isn’t good enough.

Entering his eighth season in Athens, Mark Fox was hired by former Georgia Athletic Director Damon Evans, after a successful run at Nevada. It was thought at the time to be an interesting hire, mostly due to geographical concerns.

In other words, would recruits know who Coach Fox is here in the southeast, and the home state of Georgia in particular. Fox has amassed a record of 134-107 so far. It isn’t so much just the lack of wins, Georgia has never been a great basketball power, but it is more than that.

It is how the team is losing that is so maddening. The Georgia sports information department, which does a fantastic job, likes to espouse the fact that Georgia has won twenty games three straight seasons under Coach Fox. While that used to be a staple of big time programs, in today’s schedules of teams playing 35 or more games, it does not hold the same merit that the 20 game plateau once did.

How Georgia is losing games is what can be so frustrating, the team has an amazing tendency to go into offensive droughts for multiple minutes at a time; seemingly at the most inopportune times.

The droughts are equal opportunity offenders. When Georgia is competing against a top ten team, such as earlier this year against Kansas, the team goes into a drought for virtually the entire first half, where Yante Maten, was the only player who was a constant threat to score for the Dawgs.

Or, the droughts will make an appearance against a team like Oakland, in Michigan, where Georgia was winning the game by double figures, only to turn around and go into the tank in the second half, being outscored by 14 in that time frame. It is not just a one year issue, it is one of the constants of the Georgia team under Mark Fox.

In addition to a lack of on the court performance, seeing the elite players from the state of Georgia almost all going elsewhere to play their collegiate ball is even more disappointing to Bulldog fans.

The talent has finally gotten to a competitive level at Georgia in the last couple of seasons, as Fox was intent upon not delving into the world of AAU recruiting early on in his Athens tenure. While Fox has changed his recruiting strategy, more needs to be done in the recruiting front.

The state of Georgia is one of the deepest basketball talent pools in the country. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at almost every program in the top ten and you will find a player from the state of Georgia. North Carolina, Duke, Kentucky, all have significant contributors on the team from the Peach state; not only this season, but for the last several seasons now.

A coaching change likely won’t be made very soon, and despite evidence that a change is needed, that could be a good thing. My reasoning is, it won’t be too much longer before there will be a new person in the Athletic Director’s chair.

Current athletic director Greg McGarity should be retiring soon, and the decision of who to hire as the new basketball coach should belong to the incoming athletic director, whoever that may be. Let’s hope it is one of his or her first orders of business.

Future of SEC QB

draytonBy: Drayton Hogarth news services

While the Southeastern Conference has been the dominant football conference for years, now there is one question that is difficult to answer, “Where are all of the quarterbacks?”

Media and college football fans have been pontificating in recent seasons, why doesn’t the SEC have more viable field generals if it is the greatest conference in the country?

Well, Alabamas Jalen Hurts, Jacob Eason at Georgia, Gamecock signal caller Jake Bentley, and Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson are all looking to change that perception as each of them now starts for their respective schools.

These true freshmen have come in and earned starting spots at four schools around the conference. Be it by outright winning the job from the beginning of the season or by taking over mid to late in the season, these young kids have come onto campus, honed their craft and have seized their opportunities to lead their teams both now and into the future.

Even though the conference has long had a history of both power offense with a defensive-minded foundation, the run of quarterbacks dates back well into the annals of time as Bart Starr, Joe Namath, and Fran Tarkenton are some of the historic NFL names that got their start in the SEC.

The tradition continued until the last four years or so. In particular, with the graduation of Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger after the 2013 season, the SEC had hit somewhat of a lull in top flight NFL caliber quarterbacks.

Well, good news football fans, or bad news if you are an SEC antagonist, the level of quarterback play in the SEC is about to hit a very high level; likely an all-time high.

When you talk SEC football, one may as well start with Alabama. And this topic is no different as Coach Nick Saban has entrusted his current team’s offense to the hands of a dynamic dual-threat quarterback in Jalen Hurts.

Hurts has stepped in for last season’s starter of the National Championship team, Jake Coker, and has seemingly brought an added dimension of the quarterback read option to the mix.

Hurts, along with a dynamic defense, has put Alabama right back at the forefront of the college football championship again this season.

Georgia Bulldog, Jacob Eason, has the eye of the NFL already. The huge 6’6” 240 pounder out of Lake Stephens, Washington, has the size and amazing arm strength that the NFL desires.

Statistically, Eason has been fairly steady. However, it is when the game is on the line that the young signal caller has elevated his game and seems to truly get dialed in with his receivers.

At South Carolina, Coach Will Muschamp gave young Jake Bentley the reigns after the Gamecocks struggled mightily for the first half of the season. Bentley has come in and pushed the Gamecocks to possible bowl eligibility by showing good poise and a willingness to hang tough and make plays. Bentley shows just enough mobility to keep defenses honest.

The latest true freshman to get the starting nod is Shea Patterson at Ole Miss. The Rebels have had a hugely disappointing season after entering with major championship aspirations.

Recently, leader and longtime starting quarterback Chad Kelly went down with a knee injury. Rebels coach Hugh Freeze went against the norm and pulled the redshirt off of Patterson, three quarters of the way through the season and despite a 4-5 record.

Patterson came in and actually led the Rebels to a major comeback over the Aggies of Texas A&M. Patterson would throw for over 350 yards in his debut, and would shine in the fourth quarter going 7/10 for 119 yards and two touchdowns, including a dramatic scramble and pass on one of those scores.

So everyone can relax and just sit back and enjoy (even more) these next three to four years of SEC football as the quarterback position is in very capable hands.

Georgia’s Brian Herrien

draytonBy: Drayton Hogarth news services

What was considered to be a source of strength coming into the Georgia Bulldog’s 2016 football season was the position of running back.

With running backs such as Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Brandon Douglas, plus the addition of true freshmen Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien it was thought that they would be a strong stable of running backs, and while that is still true it is the level of play and contributions of that freshman running back Brian Herrien that has been the biggest surprise of the season.

Continue reading