Legends of the Fall: Our Best Players (not) to Wear the Red and Black

We all know names like Walker, Pollack, Greene, Scott, Hearst, and Hoage. These gentlemen are some of the finest to ever suit up for the Dawgs, and grace the field of play between the hedges. And while their play was inspiring and spectacular to say the least, let us not forget that there have been several other individuals throughout the ages whose play has not only helped the Dawgs out from time to time. In some instances, it was the sole reason we were able to come away as victors.

No, these men did not don the silver britches, sport the red and black, or run through the giant G at Sanford Stadium. Instead, they share a sacred bond, and belong to a brotherhood based on failure and lackluster performance. The men I’m referring to are the Bulldog Nation’s favorite individuals to laugh about in regards to victories over their teams.

Perhaps it was a few bone-headed plays that entered them into this fraternity of follies. Maybe it was our defense that thoroughly and diligently scouted them out in the week prior to the contest (spoiler alert: they’re all offensive players). Or better still, it might have just been a bad day at the office for these guys who often entered these games surrounded by an unfair amount of hype and promotion.

Whatever the reason for their dismal performances, they have forever etched themselves in our memories and our hearts, and have cemented their laughable moments in the archives of Georgia football lore.

So here’s my list of my 5 favorite players for opposing teams who helped us out the most. I realize that it is mostly comprised of recent players so feel free to add your own favorites and share your thoughts. Go Dawgs!

5. BLAIR KIEL – QB – NOTRE DAME

Okay, so technically this pick was a one and done, but it was in the biggest game on the biggest stage in the program’s history. Herschel’s 150 yards and 2 TDs might’ve been the MVP performance, but the game absolutely could not have been won without that Junkyard Dawg defense and the less than stellar performance by Kiel. Not to overlook the performances of Scott Woerner and Mike Fisher, but 3 interceptions is 3 interceptions. They weren’t all overly tough throws, and they were at terrible times for the Irish. However, much respect is to be paid to the late Kiel because he was a freshman who led his team to the national championship against an incredible Dawg defense. Nothing to laugh at there. The importance of this game and how much his play helped us is why he’s on here.

Notre-dame-qb-blair-kiel_medium

via www.chicagonow.com

4. CASEY CLAUSEN – QB – TENNESSEE

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via grfx.cstv.com

I’m pretty sure this picture is of Casey, but Google also asked if I meant Vanilla Ice or Ivan Drago in a Tennessee football outfit. This guy was one of the best of the best coming out of high school in a long line of Clausen family quarterbacks. And nothing displays that more than going 0 – 4 in your college career against one of your biggest conference rivals (us). Here’s his career rundown versus UGA:

- 2000: He completed less than 50% of his passes (5 for 11) and threw 1 INT

- 2001: Best game. Almost 300 yards and 4 TDs, but he also had an INT…then there was a Hobnail Boot, and top 10 ranked Tennessee went down.

- 2002: A no show in Athens (can’t remember if he was hurt or suspended)

- 2003: He completed less than half of his passes again, had 1 TD, 2 INTS…then there was this

Always had the talent, but never caught a break against the Dawgs.

3. JABARI DAVIS – RB – TENNESSEE

So this one might be a little personal, but I loved seeing this big tub of nothing struggle against Georgia. I first witnessed the wonder that was Jabari his senior year of high school, when his alma mater Tucker made the trip down to Statesboro. My dad and I had heard that he was one of the best in the country, so we thought we’d make the trip across town to see what all the fuss was about. All we knew was to look out for, “big old Jabari.” Well, we looked, and honestly, Darrius Swain was the most impressive Tucker athlete on the field that night. Remember that guy? I’ve never seen a big boy move that fast and swiftly! Shame he didn’t work out. Anyways, what made Jabari personal was when the 5-Star back made a big deal about moving UGA into his finalists circle, leaned towards us, then spurned us at the last second when he bolted for Rocky Top. Here are the career highlights against the Dawgs for the guy who was billed as the next Jamal Lewis:

- 2001: No show (only 60 yards and 2 TDs all year)

- 2002: 65 yards on 14 carries

- 2003: This again…

Incredibly satisfying.

Oh, and in 2004, Tennessee beat us…while Jabari didn’t play. Sometimes we get those 4 and 5 Star backs who don’t pan out for us (i.e. Crowell, King, and Ealey). Then again…sometimes it’s for the best when they don’t sign with us.

2. Brandon Cox – QB – Auburn

When Auburn came to Athens in 2005 and beat us in a classic game for the ages, I thought for sure that Cox was only going to get better. However, the football Gods deemed him unworthy, and the next 2 years included 4 INTs in 2006, 4 INTS in 2007, and most importantly, 2 major SEC losses. ’06 was particularly sweet with Auburn being ranked 5th while we were struggling. Rest assured, those UGA squads certainly played their hearts out and earned the win, but Cox’s performances (or lack there of) were major contributors. Here’ s the stat line.

- 2004: Backup. No action.

- 2005: 50% on completions, 1 INT

- 2006: 33% completions, ONLY 35 YARDS! 1 TD, 4 INTs (one of which was returned for TD)

- 2007: 45% completions, 133 yards, 1 TD, 4 INTs yet again.

Nicely done Tra Battle. If we had won in ’05, he might’ve taken the top spot. But…………………..there’s this guy.

1. REGGIE BALL – QB – GEORGIA TECH

Seriously, is there any debate here? The Dawgs have been absolutely dominant over the Techies since 2000 (only one loss in 2008). And for 4 brilliant years, Ball was just as integral to our victories as our efforts were. The scary part is this: for 3 of those years, he had arguably the most physically gifted wide receiver to ever play the game in Calvin Johnson. If any, and I mean ANY other QB had been under center for Tech, they could’ve had some sort of aerial attack. In Megatron’s final season (’06), Ball completed less than half of his passes, and Johnson still had 1,200 yards and took home the Biletnikoff Award. Imagine if Joe Cox had been the QB (no offense Joe, just making a point). Fortunately for us, head coach at the time Chan Gailey stuck by his man, and we as a fan base are forever grateful. Without further ado, I present, Reginald’s stats against Georgia throughout his career. Please hold all applause until the end.

- 2003: The ACC Rookie of the year (might want to go wash your mouth after saying that one) went 8 of 16 for 80 yards and an INT. Pretty solid right? Not!

- 2004: 13 of 31 (41%) for 141 yards and sacked numerous times. No love for Calvin Johnson. Instead, we got perhaps the greatest play an opponent has ever made for the Dawgs. I suggest you watch the whole minute and a half video as it is hilarious, but you could also skip to 1:19. Wait for it….

- 2005: He finally completed at least 50% of his passes, and found Megatron in the endzone. But there was one interception early, then there was this (might want to skip to 1:52):

- 2006: Wow. He was still the starter? We didn’t complain. One more year, one more loss to go along with 42 passing yards and 42% completion. He still had Calvin Johnson folks. I’m not really sure how much I can stress that. Oh, and then there were the 2 INTs, and Tony Taylor fumble recovery for a TD that ultimately made the difference in the game.

There you have it folks. I want to hear your input though, especially from some of the folks who were at the games in the 80s and 90s. Go Dawgs!

Who’s your favorite Unsung Hero of the Richt Era?

Like several followers on this site, I really enjoyed MaconDawg’s post about the biggest recruiting surprises that we’ve seen during Head Coach Mark Richt’s tenure. I liked it so much that I felt compelled to reply with my own thoughts on the subject, agreeing with him and many others that Thomas Davis and Tim Jennings took the prize as most surprising recruits. However, while pondering the subject, I also thought about another former Dawg who was not the most sought after high school prospect, but in my eyes, always was a damn good Dawg. The following is an excerpt from my reply:

“Here’s a name I hope some people remember too: Jarvis Jackson! I can’t think of a more under-appreciated Dawg in my lifetime. This kid was a 2-Star according to some scouting sources, and a 3-Star on others out of high school, but man was he fun to watch. Remember back between 2003 and 2005 when we had a different linebacker suspended or hurt every other week? Jackson was THAT GUY who filled in at any LB spot, and did 10 times better than the regular starter (particularly in ‘04 when Odell Thurman was suspended to open the season and our backers were shuffling around). I kept hearing Munson call his name on every tackle, and after the game he would always end up among the stat leaders. He never became a full time starter until his senior year in ’06, and I don’t understand why! I mean Brandon Miller, Arnold Harrison, and Danny Verdun Wheeler were great guys and hard workers, but none of them had the tenacity and consistency of little #45. Jackson just had a nose for the ball, and he always arrived with a good pop. There are so many games that I look back at and remember how lost some of the guys who were starting looked (i.e. Miller against West Virginia), and I was just yelling, “Why the hell is he on the field and not Jarvis!” That was also the season (2005) when Tony Taylor started in the middle, and I remember the following spring the coaches announced what a mistake that was. Not that Taylor played dreadfully, but he was just more natural on the outside, and proved more effective there in ‘06. That’s when they decided to finally let Jackson start in the middle. People often forget that in that miserable season, our defense was actually very good (except against Tennessee), but our offense couldn’t put up points. They kept the D on the field most of the time so that by the end of the games, they were exhausted. The defense only surrendered about 16 points a game, 90 yards passing, and 90 rushing. Those stats are normally enough to win you ball games, and the Jackson-Taylor swap was a huge reason why. The offense was just so God awful.”

 

While I admit that it was a much longer and in-depth reply than I had originally set out to type, I stand by my defense of Jarvis, and would gladly argue against anyone who differed. But while I was typing the reply, I began to realize that my emotions had been thoroughly unraveled in my rant, and that I was not as concerned with a surprise recruit as I was a player who had not gotten his deserved praise. Jackson was, in my eyes, an unsung hero in a time where many of the best players the program has ever seen have come and gone.

The idea really stuck with me, and really took me back to the bare principle for which I love the sport of football so much: that anybody on that field can make a difference in any given moment, even if it is not always visible. Not every fan sees the great pancake block an offensive lineman makes, or the three blocks that the nose tackle takes on so the linebacker can make a tackle for loss. Fans might follow the heralded safety racking up interceptions and pass break ups, but do they cheer for that one pass rusher who’s always in the quarterback’s face forcing him to make poor throws? Everybody celebrates the quarterback when he breaks school records and lights up the stat book, but do they notice the receiver who has had to adjust and practice tirelessly to make those passes look great and catches easy? Or perhaps there’s a fluke scenario, where the star receiver or running back is hurt. A scrub/backup is suddenly thrown into the mix, and he’s expected to make a play. He comes through in brilliant fashion as he leads the team in receiving or rushing yards in his only start. He powers them to the win, then resumes his place on the bench.

Maybe his play merits more playing time or accolades. Then again, maybe it doesn’t. He might not have his name called as often, but he’s the one who’s also never in trouble, never being publicly criticized by the coaches, and never being cursed by the fans. He just makes the play he’s supposed to, then goes back to the huddle and prepares to do it again. It’s not because he knows he will find eternal glory in the headlines and pictures, but because it’s an honor for him every time he puts on the Red and Black. He’s a football player who just wants to play.

That’s the unsung hero for me. Jarvis Jackson encompassed these traits, who was it for you?

Jarvis vs South Carolina in '04

Jarvis vs South Carolina in ’04

Draft Recap and Thoughts

Call me nerdy, but the NFL Draft is one of my favorite events involving the great sport of football. For three days each year, my eyes stay glued to the television, my computer screen, and my phone to make sure that I see each draft pick and analysis. To be honest, I don’t know why. Perhaps I enjoy comparing my research and observations of the best college players in the country to those of the professional scouts. Maybe it’s because I’ve witnessed first-hand the talent of several prospects from the time they were in high school through their final performances in bowl games, and I want to see where to continue watching their careers. A lot of Friday nights and Saturdays have been spent watching these athletes, and seeing them make it at the professional level is my return on investment I guess you could say. And better still, I’m a sucker for the story lines behind the draft picks (i.e. – the Michael Oher’s who overcame harsh childhoods to become overnight millionaires or the Heisman trophy winners who were over-hyped in college yet become free agents). It’s more than a professional gambling hall where you win some and lose some. It’s the end of one journey and the beginning of another for these young men.

The following is a list of all the former Bulldogs drafted this past weekend along with where I had them pegged to go, where they actually went, and my prediction/analysis.

1ST ROUND

Jarvis Jones

- MY PICK: 6TH TO CLEVELAND

- ACTUAL PICK: 17TH TO PITTSBURGH

Granted, I made my draft predictions back in March. But still, I didn’t think the medical history would scare that many teams into letting Mel Kiper’s previous “Number 1 on the Big Board” prospect slip by. He was cleared to play by a top notch medical staff, and his chances of his spinal injury repeating itself are about as good as a running back tearing up their knee. It’s football folks, there’s always a chance. The Steelers boldly proclaimed before the Draft that they would not let him get by, and they stood by their word. Honestly, there isn’t a whole lot that Jones needs to improve on in his game. He possesses great lateral movement and speed for an OLB, and he’s deceptively strong. But in the pros, the offensive linemen are bigger and faster too, so he’ll have to step it up a notch. He immediately is a contender to start in James Harrison’s vacated outside linebacker spot, and if he adapts as quickly as he did when he transferred to Georgia, he’ll be a star very soon.

Alec Ogletree

- MY PICK: 19TH TO NEW YORK (GIANTS)

- ACTUAL PICK: 30TH TO ST. LOUIS

I wasn’t entirely disappointed with his sliding a little as he didn’t help himself in the off-season (no DUIs over the summer please kids). The fact that he still went in the first round is a testament to his talent, and Lord only knows the Rams need it. Many analysts are projecting him to start right away, and teamed with James Laurinaitis, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with. He’ll need to become a more natural linebacker to succeed in the pros, but he has the physical tools to do it. Keeping his nose clean off the field will hopefully not be a tall order for him. I’d like to see Tree become another Thomas Davis in the pros instead of an Odell Thurman. St. Louis quietly had a solid draft, and could sneak up on their division if their young picks mature quickly.

3RD ROUND

John Jenkins

- MY PICK: 1ST ROUND, 24TH TO INDIANAPOLIS

- ACTUAL PICK: 82ND TO NEW ORLEANS

Okay, so I went out on a limb here with my prediction and didn’t come through. I wasn’t alone in thinking that Jenkins had some 1st Round talent, but realistically, he’s a much safer pick in the 3rd round. Jenkins can provide the talent and impact of a 1st rounder without having to get as much guaranteed money. He didn’t have quite the impact in 2012 that he did in 2011, but performed well at the combine and pro day. The biggest concern regarding him is which John Jenkins the Saints will get. On one hand, there’s the strong and shifty rock who can clog up the line of scrimmage and also pressure the quarterback at times. On the other hand, there’s the hefty and tired man-child who sometimes disappeared for several plays. He has shown that he can adapt to higher levels of competition, but how quickly can he do it?

Shaw Williams

- MY PICK: 3RD ROUND, 75TH TO NEW ORLEANS

- ACTUAL PICK: 84TH TO CINCINNATI

Boy I almost nailed this one. The Saints really wanted a safety in this draft, but they opted to grab one early with Kenny Vaccaro out of Texas. I had a Dawg going in Round 3 to New Orleans (see Jenkins above), and I had Williams going just 9 picks earlier. But hey, when in doubt over where a Georgia Bulldog will go in the Draft, it’s always safe to bet on Cincinnati. Marvin Lewis and the Bengals love their Dawgs (7 on the current active roster!) and Williams fits their mold with his talent and leadership ability. The safety position is pretty much an open competition right now, and his work ethic should earn him some serious playing time. He needs to get a little looser and fly around more (he plays more like a fast linebacker), and his coverage skills could use some polishing. But still, there’s something to be said for spending a lot of time in the film room and constantly challenging yourself like he does. I’m really looking forward to seeing how his future progresses.

5TH ROUND

Sanders Commings

- MY PICK: 5TH ROUND, 154TH TO CAROLINA

- ACTUAL PICK: 134TH TO KANSAS CITY

So close once again! Right round, wrong team. Corner wasn’t really an area of need for K.C., but then again they really didn’t hit on several positions where they need help. Commings will step into an environment where he can learn as a backup and make his bones on special teams before seeing extended playing time. Can he succeed? Yes. Physically he’s the ideal size for a corner in the pros.: fairly tall, rangy, and tough. He could be faster, but his cover skills are solid. Will he succeed? Eh, it’s hard to tell. His career was defined by several big plays followed by stretches where he’d be pretty quiet. Hopefully he’s matured a little too. If he can keep his head on right and learn the schemes, Commings could surprise as a pro.

Tavarres King

- MY PICK: 4TH ROUND, 101ST TO CLEVELAND

- ACTUAL PICK: 161ST TO DENVER

I admit that I overshot this one just a little. However, I still think he’ll make a decent pro, and was worthy of a 4th round pick. Was King the best receiver in the Draft? Nope. Was he the best receiver in school history? Definitely not. Was he consistent, did he improve throughout his career, and does he have the physical tools necessary to succeed? I vote yes. He’ll need to polish up a little as a route runner, and could be a little more physical at the line of scrimmage. But overall, his speed and good hands could help him break into a receiver rotation in the Broncos’ pass happy offense. When Peyton Manning’s your QB, it’s pretty easy to look good right?

6TH ROUND

Cornelius Washington

- MY PICK: 3RD ROUND, 64TH TO JACKSONVILLE

- ACTUAL PICK: 188 TO CHICAGO

So much for impressing the scouts pre-draft and climbing up the boards right? This guy turned heads as he flew through the combine and pro day workouts, and some analysts predicted he could climb as high as the 2nd Round. In fact, he was Number 1 on Mel Kiper’s Big Board from about the middle of the 3rd round on. I’m still scratching my head that so many teams let him fall so hard. But then again, if he hadn’t impressed so much after his career was over, he would’ve gone in the 6th round anyway I think. In a way, these teams might just have exemplified my long held belief that performance matters more than intangibles. I’m still disappointed that he fell so far, but perhaps it was for the best. Physically, Washington is a freak that could one day start for daaaaaaaa Bears. But as we saw throughout his 4 years, it didn’t always translate to the field. He’ll need to find whichever position suits him best (DE or OLB), and he’ll have to work his butt off to keep that momentum he developed in postseason workouts going. However, I think he’s up to the task.

Bacarri Rambo

- MY PICK: 4TH ROUND, 100TH ARIZONA

- ACTUAL PICK: 191ST TO WASHINGTON

If he had had the same caliber season in 2012 that he had in 2011, Rambo would have easily been a 2nd to 3rd round pick. However, failed drug tests and rather inconsistent play a top pick does not make. Talent wised, Washington might have gotten a steal here. His ball hawking skills are superb, even if he got a little cocky with them at times last year, and he’s not afraid to get physical. Rambo still needs to get a little stronger, and he needs to study film more instead of relying purely on instinct. Still, t I think the Redskins got an athlete who has truly seen the error of his ways, and has dedicated himself to proving his worth. They need someone to step up at safety badly, and he steps into an ideal situation where he can show off his skills while absorbing more knowledge.

FREE AGENTS

Kwame Geathers – San Diego – I had him going in the 7th round to San Francisco, but that was mainly because of his size. He’ll really have to work hard to make the roster, but it’s not like the Chargers are oozing with talent on the line. There’s a chance.

Marlon Brown – Houston – I had him signing with Baltimore, but there is actually a decent opportunity for him to make the Texans roster. Andre Johnson is the only Wide Receiver returning with any real talent after they let Kevin Walter go. They like to use their Tight Ends a lot, but a tall WR with good hands could be very useful.

Abry Jones – Jacksonville – Even if I had him going to Green Bay, my outlook for him remains the same. He’s a good kid who was unfortunate to get hurt like he did, and his work ethic may help him out. He’s an average defensive lineman at best, so he’ll have to work hard not to get overlooked.

Branden Smith – Tampa Bay – I pegged him to be picked up by the hometown Falcons purely because of his speed. Instead, he wound up with division rival Tampa Bay. I don’t see him make a roster unless he somehow learns how to be a corner or consistent returner, something he didn’t do in Athens (sorry for the harshness but 5 Star recruits eventually get their act together).

Mike Gilliard – St. Louis – I didn’t see him landing with a team since he doesn’t really stand out physically and his 2012 season was atrocious. Maybe he’ll get his head in the game for the Rams. Who knows? Short and sweet yes, but I’m still kind of angry about last season after he had and incredible 2011 campaign.

Christian Robinson – St. Louis – Wow, three Bulldog Linebackers going to the Rams. Impressive. I didn’t have Robinson signing anywhere originally, but I’m glad to see it. He was always touted as one of the best leaders on the team, despite the fact that his play was average. Great kid, and I wish him all the best of luck.

Congratulations to all of these young men and good luck to them as they embark on this journey in the professional world. Hopefully, their time wearing the Red and Black has prepared them for the roles and challenges that lay ahead. After all, we breed the best in Georgia because we are the best. Go Dawgs!

 

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This guy should emerge as a leader for the Bengals

 

 

Until August: Spring Practice Wrap Up and Grades

Kyle Karempelis

Kyle Karempelis

Another G-Day Game has come and gone, and folks…I could not be more anxious for the Fall to arrive! This year’s game saw the Black Team (first team defense) take down the starters on offense on the Red Team in a back and forth 23 – 17 win. While some people would consider that a sign of distress, I beg to differ as I was hoping the defense would rise to the occasion knowing that our offense returns almost entirely intact. I’m happy to report that I am more than pleased with this team’s effort heading into the Summer, and let’s just say I’m ready for them to head into “Death Valley” on a mission. Without further to do, I present my grades and evaluation of spring practice.

OFFENSE OVERALL: A-

As with most offseason practices, the main goal of the offense was to keep the stars (i.e. Murray and Gurley) alive and healthy while building up depth and establishing backups. I feel like this was mostly achieved albeit the late injuries/medical procedures to Malcolm Mitchell and some of the linemen. By most accounts though, the offense was consistent enough in practice to draw mostly praises from the coaching staff. Of course, Mike Bobo wasn’t entirely thrilled by the final G-Day score, but again, I think they achieved what they wanted to for this round of practice. The finishing touches will be added in the Fall once everyone’s healthy and the new kids arrive.

QUARTERBACKS: A-

Aaron Murray is easily one of the best QBs in the country, and only solidified that statement by demonstrating his commitment to improving over spring break (spent it practicing with QB guru George Whitfield). His numbers in the previous scrimmages had not been spectacular, but you can’t argue with his G-Day performance (12-18, 200 yards, 2 TDs, no INTs). Behind him sits perhaps the country’s best QB not in a starting lineup, Hutson Mason. While he’s been lauded by coaches and teammates alike throughout the process, he played like a man with something to prove Saturday, and showed a lot of moxie. Aside from the sloppy INT when he meant to throw the ball away, he moved well in the pocket, and even showed off some running ability. Folks, after 3 spring practices, I must say that I’m not sold on the Christian LeMay project. He oozes intangibles and ability, but something’s still holding him back. I’m happy that Richt and Bobo support their players and stand by their performances, but you’ve got to have more than a couple completions in these scrimmages (0-6 yesterday) to be able to earn a spot. I’m starting to feel that he was more a product of a well-oiled machine at Butler High School, which is a perennial powerhouse up here in North Carolina. Plus, missing that last year of high school ball just when he scratched the surface of his potential had to have set him back a bit. Parker Welch is still the guy whose name keeps popping up that everyone likes to forget about. Another solid G-Day for #2! The jury’s still out on Faton Bauta (here’s to hoping that shoulder heals up) and Brice Ramsey, although the latter showed a lot of maturity in his first few college practices.

RUNNINGBACKS: A

Dear 8 lbs. 7 oz. tuxedo T-shirt wearing Lord Baby Jesus! Thank you for letting Todd Gurley escape the Spring unscathed! I’m going to have to give the kid some credit one day for not limping off the field all the time like Crowell, but it is always nice to know that #3 in red is healthy. As long as he keeps that element of speed along with his size and strength, he could be looking at a 1,500 yard season. Keith Marshall I think kind of flew under the radar throughout the Spring after adding more muscle. He didn’t have a great game yesterday, but he practiced and performed well in the other scrimmages. To me, he just looks a little more natural and patient when he hits the hole, and it’ll pay off once the regular season rolls around. Kyle Karempelis might just be the most under-appreciated of the bunch as he looked great in the game (13 carries for 89 yards)! I’d love to see him get some reps at some point down the line. And I know he may not stay at RB, but man did I like JJ Green. You can just tell he’s a ball player and an all-around athlete. He’s got my vote for kickoff returns, and would be a great 3rd down option in the slot or out of the backfield. Brandon Harton’s still there too. I’m glad he’s healthy again, but I don’t expect to see much of him once a big bruiser like A.J. Turman arrives in the Fall.

RECEIVERS: B+

It’s always nice to know that you have 3 good starters at WR. Malcolm Mitchell has all-star potential, Michael Bennett is the go to guy, and Chris Conley could be a monster. It’s also good to know that our Tight Ends (Lynch, Rome, Flourney-Smith) are a solid 3 deep group. Having said all that, it wasn’t really until Saturday when I truly felt comfortable with the depth after those guys. With Mitchell and Bennett out, Conley really emerged as a prime target. Who I was slightly disappointed with was Justin Scott-Wesley (JSW for short here). I still think he’s a little bit of a project as he just doesn’t quite look all that natural (jumped way to early on LeMay’s one good deep pass). He has progressed though, and should be solid by next year. Then there’s Jonathan Rumph, the JUCO transfer who managed to hide throughout all of spring practice, and then show up out of nowhere come game time. He’ll immediately play the role of “Tall Receiver #1″ vacated by Marlon Brown, and if he can just get some speed on him, will be a force to be reckoned with. I’m very impressed with this kid, and he is a welcome addition to the Bulldog Nation! Tramel Terry will be interesting to watch when he’s healthy, and Blake Tibbs had a decent spring as well.

OFFENSIVE LINE: B

Okay, so this is normally the time of year where the big boys get shuffled around, measured, poked and prodded like cattle, and we never really know how they look for sure until they return after the Summer. John Theus, Chris Burnette, and Austin Longall had injuries at one point or another and the rest played musical chairs to fill the voids.Mark Beard and Xavier Ward have really come a long ways, but still need to be more consistent. Sacks should never be taken too seriously in these types of scrimmages since the QB can’t be taken to the ground, but I’d like to note that the young defensive line was in the backfield an awful lot. However, as much as I like seeing the lines go hard at it, I’d much rather see them be safe since it’s easy for the guys in the trenches to shift that weight on their legs wrong and tear something. I don’t foresee any real alarms here other than depth (as per usual). Motivation and continuity will return when the season gets closer.

DEFENSE OVERALL: B+

While they still have a ways to go before Clemson, this defensive unit has me thoroughly excited after their G-Day performance! With all the starters we had going pro, I knew it would be interesting to see how these young bucks responded to new roles, but I had no idea that they would show up with such tenacity and enthusiasm. Sure, there’s still work to be done on the line, and the secondary depth chart needs to be built up. But this group improved dramatically over the course of a couple weeks, and has me awful curious about just how special this 2013 team could be.

DEFENSIVE LINEB

Gone are the premiere nose tackles in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme, John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers. Gone are Cornelius Washington and Abry Jones at the defensive end spots. Now enters a whole new breed of Dawgs ready to stuff the run and get after the QB. Ray Drew had, by all reports, a phenomenal spring, and really aided his journey to justify 5-Star high school billing. But don’t think Sterling Bailey will give up a spot so quietly. He had a solid couple of weeks as well, and could vie for playing time. Garrison Smith is the incumbent starter, and should be solid. The surprise of the group in my eyes was Jonathan Taylor out of Jenkins County. Originally billed as a 4-Star tackle out of high school, he’s following the mold of Deangelo Tyson and rotating in at end. He was the one who I felt had the best G-Day of the ends, and I saw #94 flying to the ball with speed and athleticism not usually shown by a man with his proportions. Mike Thornton has apparently defied the odds and secured the starting job at NT. He may be short (only 6-1), he may be small (right at 300 lbs.), but he can (can’t believe I’m going to finish this jingle) really get to the ball. Several O-Linemen have said that he uses his stature to his advantage by keeping a low center of gravity and driving into their ankles to clog the middle of the line. Behind him though, there are still questions. John Atkins and Chris Mayes are still developing, but held their own at times. Toby Johnson will arrive in August too so that’ll intensify the competition.

LINEBACKERS: B

In terms of the defense, this is the group whose performance I’m most excited about seeing. From the outside to the inside backers, these guys have all stepped up to be leaders even though they have some big shoes to fill themselves. Jordan Jenkins is already a star at OLB, and he only got better this spring. The opposite position was almost immediately filled by James DeLoach right from the get go, and he performed well. The battle for who will back them up should be interesting when the freshmen arrive in August. Ramik Wilson definitely is a better fit at ILB than he was for the outside, but still needs to be more consistent. He flew around well Saturday, and has the athleticism to make plays, but he still seems like he’s holding back at times. I want him to really let loose and not play so timid. Armarlo Herrera is almost the exact opposite. This guy’s going to be a stud! The only thing I wanted to see out of him this spring was improvement in his speed and foot work, and he excelled! He’s a hard hitter, a sure tackler, and makes great reads off the ball. No complaints there! Ryne Rankin and Reggie Carter are fresh out of high school, but they’re playing the ILB position like they’ve been in Athens for years. Carter snagged a nice heads up pick yesterday, and Rankin plays much bigger than his size. I’m interested to see if one of them can’t supplant Wilson, keeping in mind that two more very highly rated kids arrive in August.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: A

If you had told me that our starters at the end of spring practice would put everyone’s fears to rest, I would’ve found it hard to believe. After all, we’re talking about replacing one of the greatest safety duos in school history, and a 3 year starter at corner. But my fellow Dawg fans, I’m here to tell you today, Josh Harvery-Clemons and Tray Matthews are the next generation of great Bulldog defenders. JHC could still use more muscle, but he just has a knack for getting to the ball and arriving with a fury. I saw more than a few good hits and open-field tackles out of him in the G-Day game. Matthews is a freak. You’d think he was an upper classman already after the spring he had. He has great natural instincts, tremendous closing speed, and is a headhunter that nobody wants to mess with. The pair of them was all over the field yesterday, and although they didn’t rack up any real big plays, they were solid, and solidity is what we need. It gets a little hazy behind them. Corey Moore stayed fairly quiet, and Connor Norman is a good ball player, but just doesn’t have the size and speed to start in the SEC. I think 30 years ago, he’d be in a mold like Jeff Hipp or Jeff Sanchez where his intelligence and work ethic compensate for his lack of athleticism. Damian Swann has worked on some more fundamentals in his game, and should be one of the best in the conference next year. At the opposite corner spot, Sheldon Dawson had a great spring and earned himself the starting role. However, we didn’t get to see him in the game due to an injury. Reggie Wilkerson had a fine game and a solid spring overall. He’ll have to compete with some more incoming freshmen in the Fall, but he has the tools to be a star.

SPECIAL TEAMS:?

I assume everything went according to plan here this spring…right? I mean, all the field goals were made, and Richt said he’s been working with Morgan about being more confident and consistent (hopefully Blair Walsh can lend him some advice too). Barbour is solid, he just needs more practice. Returns are what I’m excited about seeing come fall time. JJ Green anybody? Or maybe Marshall on kick returns. The possibilities….

So there you have it ladies. Spring is done, and Fall’s right around the corner. I love the beach, the pool, flip flops and cheap beer as much as the next person. But seriously, football season needs to hurry up and get back here.

“If they don’t score, we can’t lose!” – Erk Russell

Where will the Dawgs go in the Draft?

Most of us prepare for a job interview by pressing our best looking suits, brushing our teeth, touching up our resume, and spending every free second posing random questions to ourselves in front of a mirror.  For several Georgia Bulldogs and hundreds of other football players, the preparation was done on the gridiron in shoulder pads, helmets, cleats, shorts, and workout shirts.  They’ve physically drained themselves, watched hours of their film, have tried perfecting their technique to impress the eyes bearing down upon them.

The  Combine has come and passed, and now these prospective employees of the National Football League find themselves fretting much like we do after an interview as the 2013 Draft slowly approaches.  They probably wonder, “how’d I interview?  Did I have an impressive showing?  What organization will get me…if any?”  For some of these athletes, the last three or four years of college ball have been long auditions that they’ve fought and bled through in hopes of impressing an NFL team.  Others might have come out of high school knowing that the next three years were only a formality so that they could rake in millions of dollars at the next level.  And still some, having not been highly recruited or exposed in college, are hoping they made enough of an impact at the Combine to get noticed.

So here we sit, on the edge of Free Agency and nearly a month and a half until the Draft, with 11 Dawgs hoping to (essentially) get hired by a professional team.  Some of them will get that million dollar contract that is so coveted amongst draftees and almost exclusively reserved for 1st Round picks.  The rest will fall to later rounds where it’s on to the next challenge of just making the team, or enter free agency where they’ll be traveling salesmen.

Here’s my rundown of the 2013 Georgia Draft Class along with evaluations and insight into each pick:

1ST ROUND

Jarvis Jones – 6th – Cleveland:  There have been rumors that some teams are shying away from the Sack Master because of his spinal injury nearly four years ago.  However, I think these reports are a bold strategy employed by some organizations hoping he will fall to their slot.  I don’t think the Browns fall for it, as they honestly can’t afford to.  They desperately need an effective pass rusher to help get the defense off the field and disrupt QB play in the tough AFC North.  Damontre Moore could go here but I think Jones is a better overall athlete, and too hard to pass up.

Alec Ogletree – 19th – New York Giants:  The good news is that I don’t see Manti T’eo going any higher that Tree, so I think he’ll hold on to his spot as the top middle linebacker in the draft.  The bad news is that he sort-of-kinda hurt his stock in the offseason.  It’s no secret that he’s made poor choices off the field involving the law, and that he didn’t have quite the combine that we were hoping for.  But still…talent’s talent.  We saw week after week in 2012, and I think that most teams had their minds made up about him after the first couple of films they saw.  He’s a freak on the field plain and simple.  Is he a top 10 pick anymore?  Probably not.  But a team like the Giants, who lost their only good backer Michael Boley in the offseason, won’t let him slip any further, and they’ll reap all kinds of rewards.

John Jenkins – 24th – Indianapolis:  I think Jenkins had a better overall season in 2011, but that might have been due more to Kwame Geathers emergence as a decent Nose Tackle.  He also spent a lot more time at defensive end after the injuries there.  Is he the best tackle in the draft?  No.  However, the good thing about the draft is that there are generally a lot of defensive tackles picked very high, so I don’t see him having a problem sneaking into the 1st round.  Indy needs some fresh meat on the line, and I think he’s athletic and strong enough to compete for immediate playing time.  He adjusted very quickly from the JUCO level to playing in the toughest conference in football, and I think he’ll do the same at the next level.

3RD ROUND

Shawn Williams – 75th – New Orleans:  Williams was one of the few Dawgs who really helped himself at the Combine.  He showed great speed, strength, and ball skills, but appeared stiff and not as relaxed.  I think that’s where the film helps him.  Williams plays with reckless abandon when he’s flying around the field, and is great against the run.  He could be more consistent in the passing game, but is a quick learner.  I think he jumped up at least a whole round’s worth in his stock after impressing the scouts, and I’ve heard the Saints are looking hard at safeties.  Roman Harper and Malcolm Jenkins are necessarily bad, but they’re not nearly as consistent as they should be against the run or pass.  Harper might actually be on his way out of the Big Easy, and I’m not so sure Jenkins isn’t a better corner.  I think they get their future starter in Williams.

Cornelious Washington – 64th – Jacksonville:  There‘s no doubt in my mind that Washington is one of the hottest prospects that won’t be picked in the first couple of rounds.  He had the best combine of any Georgia player, and has tremendous upside because of his ability to play either DE or OLB.  The only question is, which position suits him better, and in what scheme?  If you look at his sack production, you can’t really tell.  He had 4 sacks as an end, and another 6 at linebacker.  I’m thinking he’d make a better DE in a 4 linemen scheme, and rush linebacker in the 3-4.  At any rate, the Jags need an athletic pass rusher of some sort, and they’re generally the team that makes a reach.  I don’t think he’ll be considered a bust for them, but he might take time to develop.

4TH ROUND

Bacarri Rambo – 100th – Arizona:  With the release Adrian Wilson today, this is all but assured for me.  The Cardinals have too many other concerns on offense to use one of their top picks on a defensive player, but Rambo (like fellow safety Williams), is that kind of player who will work hard and earn playing time.  While he’s sometimes slow to take off, but once he hits his stride and gets in a rhythm, he’s one of the best there is.  He could use a little more muscle and strength against the run, but he’s a ballhawk with solid cover skills.  Arizona will get a solid pick who will surprise.

Tavarres King – 101st- Cleveland:  I know, two Dawgs in a row is a stretch, but let’s face it.  Cleveland always does, and apparently always will, have problems on offense.  I think Colt McCoy got shafted after never getting a real shot.  Brandon Wheedon definitely isn’t the answer, so I think at some point in the draft, they’re going to look for a quarterback.  In the mean time, their receivers need help bad.  Mohammed Massaquoi isn’t healthy or consistent enough to be a starter, which I hate because he was one of my favorite Dawgs.  Greg Little has all-star potential, but he had a lot of big drops too.  Josh Gordon would have a big catch, then you’d never hear of him for a few weeks.  King is fast, consistent, and smart enough to fight for playing time right away.  If he can pack on some more muscle and get a little more physical, he could very well surprise.

5TH ROUND

Sanders Commings – 154th – Carolina:  Commings has elite size for a corner, which makes me think he might fit better at safety.  The Panthers need help bad all over the secondary.  Their best player was Chris Gamble, who was let go in the offseason after a long career.  Commings would seriously contribute, however, Carolina might take a DB a lot earlier in the draft.  I like Commings as a college player, but I don’t think he quite has the speed or skills to be a pro starter.  I really hope he proves me wrong.  Carolina is the place to do it since there will essentially be a wide open competition for starters.

7TH ROUND

Kwame Geathers – 246th – San Francisco:  He could go higher, but I don’t think Kwame possesses the athleticism or drive to significantly contribute in the pros.  What he does have is size and strength.  I think the defending NFC Champs will take him to provide some depth on the line as they don’t really have a whole lot at tackle.

FREE AGENTS

Abry Jones – Green Bay – I think if he hadn’t gotten hurt, he could’ve had a stronger final season, and might’ve made a stronger impression on scouts.   I think he’s an average DE who works hard, but might get lost in the shuffle of similar players.

Marlon Brown – Baltimore – It’ll be tough for him to make it in the pros after taking so long to develop in college, but if he works hard enough, he has the tools to do it.  His greatest strength is his height, but he’s also shown flashes of speed and good hands.  If he can get as physical as his size could allow for, he could seriously compete for playing time.  There’s also the ACL injury that will need to recover.  Can he do it?

Thoughts?  Any other predictions?

Spring Football Preview

Jordan Jenkins

Jordan Jenkins

 

Ah yes, it is the changing of the seasons.  The snow is melting, the air is warming (slowly), and the craft beer breweries have moved on to their spring seasonals.  In the sports world, basketball is winding down, and baseball batting cages are busy with activity.  In Braves country, people are starting to pull out their #10 Jones jerseys to start wearing around town.  In Athens, Ga., however, there’s a different sport preparing to hit the fields.

Spring Football Practice commences tomorrow folks!  That time of the offseason where for just a few short weeks, us college football fanatics get to pretend that it’s the Fall, and revel in the fact that practice for the 2013 has officially started.  To some fans, this is only a tease, and an unimportant formality that will yield little actual results.  But to the fans who know and appreciate the importance of spring practice, it is everything!

Looking at the Dawgs now, who must break in 9 new starters on defense and find some depth on offense, there really aren’t enough practices.  The good news is that Coach Richt outdid himself in the 2013 signing class by adding 13 early enrollees (among the most in the nation).  Fans can continue to complain all they want about the lack of a stellar top 5 signing class, but the fact of the matter is that we settled for quality, and wisely got some of our most important recruits here early to jump right into the fire.

So, let us jump right in said fire ourselves and break down the top things to look for on offense and defense this spring.  I’ve also included notes on what I’d like to see happen and who I think will emerge.

OFFENSE

- Offensive Line Depth Chart:  We all know that the Dawgs are returning one of the most explosive offenses in the country, and it’ll be tested early at Clemson (most anticipated game in a while for me).  However, we were fortunate that the only position that experienced injury or attrition was receiver last year, and not our young inexperienced O-Line.  This year, we’ll get a taste of how our depth looks right away with starters Chris Burnette and John Theus out of the Spring with surgeries.  Enter  Josh Cardiello and Aulden Bynum.  While they could redshirt come fall time, they’ll get their first taste of action and hopefully respond well.  The rest of the line could also use more time to gel and move around so that they’ll be ready for any scenario in the regular season

  • What I Want to See:  Dear Lord baby Jesus…please don’t let any of them get hurt.  That’s my prayer for the offensive line before any of them even walk on the field.  Spring Practice is notorious for its share of season ending injuries before the season starts.

- Wide Receiver Rotation/Depth:  This has the potential to be the most exciting position battle to watch this spring.  Malcolm Mitchell and Michael Bennett are obviously the incumbent starters, and Chris Conley is the third guy who honestly is about to explode as a star.  But after them, it gets a little foggy.  Justin Scott-Wesley got some solid experience and made great strides in 2012, but is still a little bit of a project.  Blake Tibbs redshirted, but coaches think his potential is through the roof.  Rantavious Whooten is still there (experience but little production).  And then there are the new kids, JUCO transfer Johnathan Rumph, Tramel Terry, and J.J. Green.  What will make this competition interesting is finding out who will fill in for Bennett (still recovering from ACL).  All of these guys have the potential to be studs, but aside from Mitchell and Conley, we don’t really know how they’ll do

  • What I Want to See:  I’m not sure if Conley will move into Bennett’s spot, but if he doesn’t, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Rumph move in.  He’s the next big, tall, lanky redzone threat who has just enough speed to separate from defenders.  Of course, he’ll take some time to adjust, but we need a WR with his build badly.  I think Scott-Wesley will continue to improve and earn more reps.  I’m super excited about Green just because of his athleticism.  He’s being considered as a possible running back and defensive back in addition to receiver.  We’ll have to wait to see Terry until the Fall when he’s recovered from an injury, but he’s rumored to be something special.

- The Battle for 3rd String QB/RB:  Ok, so the starters here are assured.  Aaron Murray’s going to shatter every school and conference quarterback record, and hopefully leave with a couple of rings finally.  Hutson Mason will have to wait one more year to be a starter, but at least will see some time as the backup again.  Christian Lemay, however, I’m not sold on.  Enter Brice Ramsey.  While he played in a primarily running offense in high school and didn’t put up mind-boggling numbers, he’s got all the tools to be the QB of the future.  At running back, it’s all Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall once the Fall rolls around.  But for now, it’s basically Gurley and…well…that’s it.  Marshall will miss significant time this spring with a hamstring injury, so the battle for depth in general rests on the shoulders of a former walk-on, Brandon Harton, and a current walk-on, Kyle Karempelis.  With Ken Malcome transferring and A.J. Turman not arriving until the Fall, this battle will probably consist more of avoiding injury than providing depth but hey, it gives these guys their moment to shine.

  • What I Want to See:  I expect Ramsey to learn a lot in a short amount of time, and really push Lemay (and Parker Welch, sorry bud) for that 3rd String spot.  He’s smart with a lot of upside, and I just don’t see it in Lemay.  He enrolled early last year, but I think missing his whole senior year in high school put him a little too far behind as he seems lost frequently.  I think Harton and Karemelis will shoulder the load to keep the reps down on Gurley, at least until Marshall gets back.  Maybe we’ll even see Green here to share some snaps.

DEFENSE

- Who will be on the defensive line?:  This will be one of the most interesting, yet subtle battles in the Spring.  Of the 3 down linemen in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme…all 3 starters from last year must be replace.  Having said that, the one returning with the most experience, DE Garrison Smith, is basically a starter as much as he played last year.  When Abry .Jones went down with an injury, he stepped in nicely, and played solid for the most part.  He could still use some conditioning to stay on the field for 3 downs, but overall, he’s a stud in the making.  The other end spot and the nose tackle positions are entirely up for grabs.  Ray Drew and Sterling Bailey will be the guys duking it out for the DE spot.  Things get interesting with the early enrollees John Atkins, Chris Mayes, and redshirt freshmen Jonathan Taylor.  Atkins and Taylor should battle for the NT spot formerly occupied by John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers while Mayes is being considered more for DE.

  • What I Want to See:  I think Ray Drew will really come into his own this year, and boy does he need to.  The former 5-Star recruit has yet to really make an impact in his first two years.  But if you look closely, he’s shown flashes.  Solid reps have really been the only thing he’s lacked, as I’ve watched him get faster and more aggressive with his first step off the line.  Coaches insisted last year that he wasn’t necessarily bad or slow, but that the guys ahead of him were upperclassmen who paid their dues and deserved it.  I think Taylor and Atkins will make a nice rotation that will carry into the Fall.  

- Jenkins, Herrera, and who else at Linebacker?:  Ok, so everyone knows the next J.J. not officially named Jarvis Jones is already a star in the making.  Jordan Jenkins started the second half of the season and came up big with 5 sacks and several tackles for loss.  A solid spring under his belt will help him focus more and really get his feet up under him.  He was so close to making so many more plays last year, but was sometimes a step too fast, or tried too much.  Herrera has the most experience of any returning LB, and aside from adding a little more speed, is pretty solid overall.  He’ll be the real leader to look to.  Other than those two, the other starters and the depth chart is up for grabs.  Reggie Carter and Ryne Rankin were highly touted out of high school, and will get their shot at inside linebacker after enrolling early.  On the outside, Ramik Wilson, Chase Vasser, and TJ Stripling will see who will start and who will backup.

  • What I Want to See:  I look for Jenkins and Herrera to only get better, and one of the young guns to step up and the other ILB spot.  I say by fall, with the addition of Johnny O’Neal and Tim Kimbrough, the battle will only get tougher, and the Dawgs will have a true freshman starter at the position.  Quite frankly, I don’t see any of the three other OLB veterans listed above starting come fall, as signees Leonard Floyd and Davin Bellamy have the talent to be better than any of them.  Also, it’s been said that the top OLB in the country last year, Josh Harvey-Clemons, will get a crack there in the Spring to see if he can make the adjustment from safety, where he played last year, he could surprise. Coaches have said that he’s a lot like Alec Ogletree in that he needs to be somewhere where he can make tackles and fly around the ball.

- The Battle of the 3 new starters in the Secondary:  Bacarri Rambo, Shawn Williams, and Sanders Commings all leave big holes to fill, and it’s really an up for grabs battle to see who comes through.  Damian Swann returns at one corner after a stellar debut season as a starter, but opposite of him, only two guys with any real experience return in the form of Sheldon Dawson and Devin Bowman.  Reggie Wilkerson is an early enrollee who came pretty highly touted, so he’ll get his chance early to make a name for himself.  Safety is a real head-scratcher as Connor Norman is the only guy with any significant playing time returning.  He landed 4 starts early last year with Rambo being suspended, but didn’t have a whole lot to show for it.  Corey Moore has been quiet so far in his career, and although coaches rave about Josh Harvey-Clemons’s potential, he might end up at OLB.  Enter Tray Matthews and Quincy Mauger.  These two early  enrollees should give the returning guys a run for their money.  Matthews was very highly recruited out of the same Newnan program that gave us Alec Ogletree, and he’s rumored to be of a similar mold.

  • What I Want to See:  I think Dawson has the tools to step up and start opposite Swann, and the coaching staff seems to feel the same way.  Apparently he picked up the schemes very quickly last year, and has been solid in practice.  Shaq Wiggins will certainly mix things up when he arrives in the Fall, but for now, I’ll look to see how Dawson does.  I’ve been high on Matthews the moment he committed to the G!  This kid’s a headhunter, ball-hawk, team player, and is still very humble.  He’s the kind of guy I like because he’s not about the spotlight and being a big time college star, he just wants to play at Georgia.  I think he’ll emerge from the Spring as the starter, carry it into fall practice, and be the next great Bulldog safety.  Who starts with him is going to be tough, but I think Harvey-Clemons has the best nose for the ball and the athleticism to do it.  I just don’t know if he’ll stay at safety though.  Norman’s experience might deliver for him here.

Practice starts tomorrow ladies! Go Dawgs!

Where Will They Rank?

Good morning everyone, and what a great day to be a Georgia Bulldog!  We’re currently in the limbo that exists between signing day and the next big event in the football world, the NFL Combine, and UGA has quite a few Dawgs preparing to take their talents to the next level.  Some of these Dawgs have solidified themselves in the program’s history, and their names will forever echo in Sanford Stadium with the greats.  And while we’re all excited to see how they’ll do in the pros, let’s take a moment to look back once more on their collegiate careers in Athens.  Just what kind of legacy will these guys leave in the halls of Georgia football lore?

JARVIS JONES

jarvis-jones

It’s safe to say that J.J. might just be the most physically gifted and athletic pass rusher the program has ever had.  And for a brief 2 year period, he was the best in all the land.  Jones was a force off the edge, a solid run-stopper, and a monster at making plays when they were needed.  You can also say that he was the sole reason for both of our wins against Florida the past couple of years (which doesn’t happen often enough).  8 sacks in 2 games along with a few crucial forced fumbles…yikes.   And then there are the overall stats for his career:  28 sacks, 43.5 tackles for loss, 155 total tackles, 9 forced fumbles, 1 interception (while he missed two games in 2012).  For his efforts, he was twice a consensus All-American and All-SEC selection, the 2012 SEC defensive player of the year, and probably a top 5 pick in the NFL Draft.  We’ve had some great outside backers (i.e. Mo Lewis, Tony Taylor, Richard Tardits, Mitch Davis, Boss Bailey), but I can’t think of a single one that meant more to the team, earned more accolades, and has been more sought after by the pros.

ALEC OGLETREE

Alec Ogletree, Synjyn Days

“Tree” as he was simply known by, is the best middle linebacker my generation of Dawgs has seen, and he’s had some good company (Odell Thurman, Tony Gilbert, Will Witherspoon, Danelle Ellerbe).  In fact, I’ll go ahead and say that like Jones, he’s the most athletically gifted to ever play his position at Georgia.  Is he the best ever?  Well, that’s still debatable.  Had he played the position all 3 years of his career (remember he started as a safety) and not missed basically a season’s worth of games due to injury/suspension (drugs are bad kids), he might have been.  Still, pro scouts are drooling over scooping him up in the first round because of his raw sideline to sideline ability.  He only got to play 16 games as a linebacker, and he racked up over 150 tackles in that span.  He’s barely broken in.  That’s what makes him so scary!  Tree might not have even reached his full potential as a linebacker yet.  He’s just been so fast and strong that he’s made up for a lack of position skills.  Reminds me a lot of Thomas Davis who also rotated between safety and linebacker before settling down out OLB and having a tremendous NFL career.

SHAWN WILLIAMS AND BACARRI RAMBO

Georgia+v+Auburn+kbG7GFZHD9Ml

Ok, so these two have some stiff competition from the other dynamic safety duos throughout UGA football history.  There was Hoage and Sanchez, Sanchez and Little, Phillips and Bierra, Jones and Davis, Davis and Blue, the list goes on.  Safety is just one of those positions that Georgia has specialized in producing quality players at, along with Tight End, Runningback, and Defensive Linemen.  In fact, we had a different 1st Team All-American safety each year from 2003 to 2005 (Sean Jones, Thomas Davis, Greg Blue).  So where will the Rambo/Williams duo rank in program history?  Well, let’s break them down.  Rambo’s gotten more accolades in his career (All-American and All-SEC), has more highlight real plays, and racked up more interceptions and pass breakups.  Williams on the other hand, has been the vocal leader, the one who players and coaches alike have singled out for being the coach on the field.  He’s also led by example with all the tackles and big hits he’s made, some of which were at the most crucial times, and by being disciplined off the field (Rambo could’ve cut down on the suspensions).   So what did we end up with?  A thunder and lightning package if you will:  one’s the consistent physical presence who lays the wood always comes up with the play, and the other provides the dazzling and exciting play in coverage to empty the bench and get the crowd re-energized.  It’s hard to top the numbers and impact that Terry Hoage and Jeff Sanchez provided back in the early ’80s.  But for my generation of Bulldog fans, Williams and Rambo were the perfect tandem, the 1-2 punch, the Bash Brothers (Mighty Ducks reference) that will leave big holes to fill.

Of course, there are others departing this team who made an impact for us.  John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers pioneered the nosetackle position in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 defense, and Sanders Commings has had a solid career in the secondary.  Tavarres King left with a few school receiving records, and just missed out on that elusive 1,000 yard season (Terrance Edwards is getting lonely guys).  And hey, a team would be nothing if their long snapper couldn’t get the ball back effectively and consistently, so my hat’s off to unsung hero Ty Frix (who’s daddy also long snapped at Georgia).  These guys will be missed like the ones listed above.

So my challenge for the incoming crop of pups is:  can you step up and etch your name into the history of Georgia Football?  Can you be the next generation to bring glory to this program?  Can you be a damn good Dawg?

“If we score, we may win.  If they never score, we can’t lose.” – Erk Russell