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    This coming Saturday night Georgia Bulldog football game will be a Top 25 matchup. The Georgia Dogs host the Mississippi State Bulldogs in the Southeastern Conference opener for the home team. Georgia is ranked 11th in this week's AP poll; Mississippi State is 17th. Both teams are undefeated. The game kicks at 7 o'clock in Sanford Stadium. The game against Mississippi State will be the second time this season the Georgia Bulldogs will have faced a ranked opponent: the Dogs beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish September 9 in South Bend.  The Bulldogs are coming off a 42-14 win over FCS Samford this past Saturday night. Jay Black wrote about that game for WSB Radio... Alright it was a laugher, it should have been a laugher, it was a laugher. But this is nothing to joke about. The 2017 Georgia Bulldogs have a lot of running backs. A lot of good running backs. Yes this school likes to pride itself as Tailback U. You certainly got to watch a lot of good tailbacks tonight. We didn’t exactly learn a whole lot on this Saturday. Samford didn’t pull off a Nicholls State type-scare and UGA wins 42-14. Wahoo. But we did learn, or confirm, this should and will be a running football team. No matter who is playing quarterback. “That’s one of our depth spots,” Kirby Smart told the UGA Radio Network after the game. “We got a lot of guys who can play.” Yeah no kidding. Let’s start with the bell cow climbing up the UGA record books. Nick Chubb rushes for 131 yards on 16 carries and shows the patience and the vision that’s made him the second leading rusher in school history. Now he’s also second by himself with 19 100-yard games. He trails only Herschel Walker. That’s not bad. Chubb also passed the legendary Charley Trippi to move into a tie for fourth in UGA history with 33 career TD runs. To wedge yourself between Walker and Trippi on any list is a good night. Imagine what could have happened if he didn’t blow out his knee on that sad excuse for grass they call a field in Tennessee? Does Nick Chubb pass Herschel? Probably not, because those stats are still silly good, but it would have been fun to watch. Speaking of injuries, Chubb’s understudy didn’t even play tonight. Sony Michel has a bad ankle. Even if it’s five percent hurt, there was no reason to play tonight. There’s plenty of reinforcements. For example, the freshman. “What a special talent D’Andre Swift is,” said Smart. Uh huh. Kirby was kind of complaining on our air last week that this kid wasn’t getting the ball enough. He got a few chances to show off tonight. Swift had nine carries for 54 yards and a 10 yard catch. Oh yeah, and that touchdown. “You’ve got to see that one on replay tonight,” said UGA analyst Eric Zeier. Swift hit the Circle Button, dropped a beautiful spin move and zoom, into the end zone for his first career TD. He sort of reminds me of Sony Michel when he was a freshman, but I think he might be (gulp) swifter than Sony. The kid can fly. That’s your third string running back folks. But UGA goes five deep. “I still don’t think we’ve seen the best of Brian Herrien,” said Smart. “We see it everyday in practice, but he hasn’t had a chance to show off his skills.” Herrien also got five yards per touch tonight. Walking away with 45 yards on nine carries. He’s smaller, won’t run a lot of people over, but in the last two years, we’ve seen flashes of a guy who deserves more than fourth string. And that goes double for the fifth-stringer, Elijah Holyfield. He was a 4-star recruit and the guy many thought would step in and be the man after Chubb and Michel. He finally got eight carries tonight and only had 28 yards behind the second-string offensive line. But we saw on the kick return that got called back against Notre Dame, that Evander’s son can still be a weapon. Credit to Jim Chaney for finding ways to get all of these guys touches in the early going. Even if it means Holyfield returns kicks, they are all involved. “They run hard, they protect the ball, they protect the ball,” said Smart. “I was proud of the toughness they ran with tonight. They deserve that opportunity.” UGA still has plenty of questions and they weren’t going to be answered tonight. I still don’t know what to make of this offensive line and Jake Fromm is still a freshman. But this team can play defense and it can run the rock. That recipe generally works. Now we find out for real what Kirby has in year two. SEC play begins and the real football starts now.
  • This weekend’s Georgia Bulldog-Notre Dame football game will be a top 25 matchup: the Dogs, after last Saturday’s season opening win over Appalachian State, are again 15th in this week’s Associated Press poll, while the Fighting Irish enter the poll at number 24. The Dogs and Irish play Saturday night in South Bend.  From Seth Emerson, AJC’s Dawg Nation... It was a fairly standard question to Georgia senior safety Dominick Sanders: What did you know about Notre Dame’s history growing up, and what did it mean to you? Sanders shrugged. The storyline didn’t interest him. “Not really, I didn’t really know anything about that,” Sanders said. “But you know, my main thing is coming out and punishing them from the start. I really don’t care about what they’ve got going on.” So, a reporter followed up, he doesn’t care about the history of Notre Dame, and its stadium, which Sanders and the Bulldogs visit on Saturday? “Oh no, no, no,” Sanders said. “I just care about my guys doing what we’ve gotta do: Punishing them from the start.” So you don’t really care, another reporter followed up? “Me personally, nah. I don’t really know anything about them and I don’t really care,” said Sanders, who was a first-team All-SEC safety in 2015. “Just my main thing is let’s put them pads on and let’s go to work.” This was after practice on Tuesday, as Georgia (1-0) prepares for one of its most highly-anticipated nonconference trips in recent memory. Georgia is a slight underdog, by 4 1/2 points at last check, and Sanders seems aware of it. “We can’t worry about what people are saying out there. A lot of people are saying we’re underdogs and all that. We don’t care about any of that,” Sanders said. “We just keep our composure and day-by-day get better, and we’ll come out and prove these people wrong on Saturday.” And if Sanders’ feelings weren’t entirely clear, he echoed them when asked another question about whether this game would have any special meaning because of the opponent and the venue. “This is just a regular game, and we’re going to come out and punish them from the start,” Sanders said. Georgia junior defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter also sounded a fairly confident note about the match-up with Notre Dame’s big and well-regarded offensive line. He was asked about going against offensive linemen who are being pegged as NFL prospects. “Definitely it’s exciting. You can ask any of our defensive lineman, linebackers, even all the way back to our secondary. I know everyone’s itching to get a good lick on every single one of their guys,” Ledbetter said. “Definitely respect them. But good competition is hard to come by. So when you see it and everybody’s raving about it you want to prove a point. So we’re ready to prove a point.” Earlier in the evening, Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Notre Dame may have the best offensive line they face this season. Fighting Irish offensive tackle Mike McGlinchy is 6-foot-8. The 6-4 Ledbetter was asked about going against someone that tall. “There’s always a way to beat somebody,” Ledbetter said. “Somebody will always have a weakness, and you have to find it. And we’re going to find it. And we’re going to execute off it.” Ledbetter’s overall tone was of confidence, stopping short of brash. He was also asked about whether Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush could also be a problem for Georgia’s defense, given his dual-threat ability. “We’re pretty thorough in our game-planning, so I’m not worried on their front or their quarterback being super-athletic,” Ledbetter said. “Because I know what we bring to the table, and we’re going to work as hard as we need to, to be ready for Saturday.”
  • The Georgia Bulldogs are the 15th ranked team in the preseason AP college football poll: Alabama is number one, followed by Ohio State, Florida State, Southern Cal, and Clemson. The Dogs open the season in 11 days at home against Appalachian State.  Kickoff on September 2 is set for 6:30. Alabama (52) Ohio State (3) Florida State (4) USC (2) Clemson  Penn State  Oklahoma Washington  Wisconsin  Oklahoma State  Michigan  Auburn  LSU  Stanford  Georgia  Louisville  Florida  Miami  South Florida Kansas State  Virginia Tech  West Virginia  Texas  Washington State Tennessee  Others receiving votes: TCU (98), Utah (85), Notre Dame (65), Boise State (37), NC State (26), Northwestern (25), Pittsburgh (23), Oregon (21), Houston (19), Colorado (18), UCLA (9), San Diego State (9), BYU (5), Appalachian State (4), Nebraska (4), Tulsa (4), Kentucky (3), Texas A&M (3), Michigan State (1).
  • We are four weeks away from the Georgia Bulldogs season opening home game against Appalachian State: the annual UGA Fan Day is set for Saturday, 2:30 at Sanford Stadium. The Bulldogs will hold an open practice that starts at 3:30 and sign autographs afterwards.  The Bulldogs are 15th in the Coaches’ preseason poll that was released Thursday. From the UGA Sports Information Office... The University of Georgia Football Fan Day presented by United Healthcare includes, for the second year in a row, the Bulldog football team holding an open practice at the Sanford Stadium from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Players and head coach Kirby Smart will be available for autographs immediately following the practice on the field at approximately 5:45 p.m.   Fans will also have an opportunity to take photos with Uga X beginning at 3 p.m. Special ticket coupons are required for access to the location for Uga X and those tickets will be distributed to the first 150 fans at noon from the East End ticket windows on East Campus Road. Ticket holders who want to see Uga X must be in line by 3:30 p.m. Only those with a ticket are guaranteed a photo, and no stand by tickets will be issued.    Fans may enter the stadium through Gates 2, 4, 6 and 9 beginning at 2:30 p.m. and can sit in the 100 and 200 levels. The West End Zone will be closed due to construction for entry and seating. The open practice, which is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. will last approximately two hours. At the conclusion of practice, fans wishing to participate in Fan Day will enter the field through specific gates. Fans can start lining up at 5 p.m.    Following practice, the Georgia football team and Coach Smart will be available for autographs for 45 minutes. The gates to the field will open once the autograph session has been set up. In an effort to facilitate as many autographs in the time allowed, fans are limited to two posters per person and fans will only be allowed to have the 2017 Georgia football schedule poster signed. The poster will be available as fans enter the field for the autograph session. No other items will be permitted for autographs and no posed photographs with players and Coach Smart will be permitted.    Parking is available in any lots along East Campus Road, Psychology-Journalism, Legion Field, Tate Center parking deck, Hull Street parking deck and North Campus parking deck.   Concessions will be available in specific areas on the 100 and 200 levels. Coca-Cola products, hot dogs and assorted snacks will be available at the concession stands. Fans can purchase UGA merchandise at the UGA Bookstore, located in the Tate Center and open from 10 a.m. until 7:30 p.m., or inside Sanford Stadium’s Gate 6 Plaza and Reed Plaza.   In case of inclement weather, the Fan Day portion of the afternoon would be cancelled. Please check georgiadogs.com for more details on the day of the event.
  • 33 days til the Georgia Bulldogs kick off the 2017 college football season at home against the Appalachian State Mountaineers: coach Kirby Smart, in his second season in Athens, begins summer practice today.  From Seth Emerson, AJC DawgNation... As former Georgia quarterback David Greene remembers it, Mark Richt’s first season as Georgia’s coach in 2001 was marked by players and coaches still trying to figure each other out, players trying to learn a new system, and people being mentally and physically exhausted well before the season was over. Then came Year 2: a five-win improvement, an SEC championship, a Sugar Bowl victory, and what ended up being the best season of Richt’s tenure at Georgia. “Year 2, everybody kind of knows what to expect,” Greene said. “They understand what coaches expect. The offense and defense and special teams, you’ve got a nice foundation and you’re kind of building off it. I think that’s why you see so much growth in Year 2, especially when you’ve got the right pieces in play.” Indeed, it’s not at all unique in college football. The second year of a head coaching tenure, which Kirby Smart is about to begin at Georgia, is often wildly successful. Bob Stoops, Jim Tressel, Urban Meyer and Gene Chizik all won national championships in their second year at schools. Other coaches have seen big jumps in Year 2 at some stops, including Nick Saban, Pete Carroll and Will Muschamp. “It definitely happens a lot,” said ESPN analyst David Pollack, another star on that 2002 Georgia team. “It’s confidence. It’s familiarity with the coach. It’s knowing expectations and rules. Because here’s the thing: When a coach comes in and changes, there’s always griping and moaning. Because it’s not the way it used to be. And just like with you at your work, you like it the way it is. You get accustomed to it. “So when you make a change, there’s griping and moaning. There’s not complete buy-in. It takes a little bit of time to realize, OK this dude’s got my best interest, he’s going to push it, this is what he’s going to expect, these are his parameters.” In just the past two decades, there are four examples of coaches winning it all in their second year at their school: Meyer won the national championship his second year at Florida, after going 9-3 his first year in Gainesville. At his previous stop, Utah, Meyer went 12-0 in his second year, after going 10-2 his first year. Now Meyer is at Ohio State, where he hit the ground running with a 12-0 first year, a 12-2 record in his second year and a national title in his third season. Stoops went from 7-5 his first year at Oklahoma to 13-0 and a national championship the following season. Stoops holds some parallels to Smart: Both were longtime defensive coordinators with no head coaching experience before being given the head job at a major program. Both lost five games in their first year. Tressel won the 2002 national championship at Ohio State, a year after a 7-5 debut season. Chizik won the national title in his second year at Auburn, after finishing 8-5 the previous year. But that Year 2 success also coincided with the one season that Cam Newton was on Auburn’s campus. Plenty of other coaches – some who ultimately soared, others who ultimately were fired – had a big Year 2. Muschamp’s best year as a head coach came in Year 2: After going 7-6 in his debut season at Florida, the Gators went 11-2 and played in the Sugar Bowl in 2012. Saban went from 6-7 his first year at Alabama to 12-2 and the Sugar Bowl. His team won the national championship the next year. When he was at LSU, Saban went from eight wins his first year to 10-3, a division title and the Sugar Bowl. (It took longer at Saban’s first major coaching job, Michigan State, where he was 6-6 his second year, and stayed there until his fifth year, when the season ended with a 9-2 record.) Carroll, who took over at Southern Cal in 2001 and finished 6-6 that year, saw his team post an 11-2 record and win the Pac-10 championship. What about Georgia history? Richt wasn’t the only one to make a big second-year leap. Jim Donnan also saw a huge improvement in Year 2: After the program finished 5-6 in 1996, Donnan’s second team at Georgia went 10-2. Then again, Vince Dooley went from 7-3-1 in his first season (1964) to 6-4 in his second year. In the third season, Dooley’s Bulldogs finished 10-1 and won the SEC championship. Greene, who follows the program closely now, said he sees similarities between Richt entering his second year and now Smart doing the same. Both were assistants on national championship teams under legendary coaches —Richt at Florida State under Bobby Bowden and Smart at Alabama under Saban — so they know what it looks like to be at the top. “I could see from both of them in their first years at Georgia they are extremely hungry to get better, and to get to a championship level,” Greene said. “You could certainly see it with coach Richt when he got to Georgia, and now you do with Kirby. He wants it as bad if not more than any coach in college football right now. He eats, sleeps and breathes football. He loves it, and he’s a Georgia guy.”
  • Georgia Bulldog running back Elijah Holyfield will go through a pre-trial diversion program after his marijuana arrest of earlier this year. The son of former heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield was arrested May 1. He’s a sophomore on the Bulldog team that opens the 2017 season in 47 days. Holyfield is expected to be suspended for the September 2 home game against Appalachian State.  The sportswriters who attended last week’s SEC Media Days in Hoover Alabama voted the Georgia Bulldogs as preseason favorites to win the SEC East in coach Kirby Smart’s second season in Athens.
  • Georgia Bulldog running back Nick Chubb was named Georgia Collegiate Athlete of the Year at last night’s Atlanta Sports Awards show. Chubb and his Bulldog teammates are today 50 days away from the season opener against the Appalachian State Mountaineers, a September 2 contest in Sanford Stadium.   Chubb, a native of Cedartown, Ga., was chosen from an all Bulldog group of finalists including track and field’s Keturah Orji and swimming and diving’s Olivia Smoliga, who were both 2016 U.S. Olympians.   This marks the second year in a row that a University of Georgia student-athlete has won the Collegiate Athlete of the Year honor after golfer Lee McCoy enjoyed the honor in 2016. The first accolade of this sort was given in 2006 and since football’s D.J. Shockley won the inaugural honor, there have been nine Bulldogs to garner the award. Five of those Georgia team members selected have been football players, including Jarvis Jones going back to back in 2011-12.   Chubb finished his third season as Georgia’s No. 2 all-time leading rusher with 3,424 yards, trailing only Herschel Walker (5,259). Named one of the team’s overall captains following the 2016 season, Chubb went for 1,130 yards and eight rushing touchdowns last year. This marked the second 1,000-yard season of his career after Chubb tallied 1,547 yards and 15 scores as a freshman in 2014. He was named the SEC Freshman of the Year and a Freshman All-American following his first year.   Chubb returned in 2016 following a season-ending knee injury that he sustained in game six of his sophomore year in 2015. In his season debut last year, Chubb exploded for 222 yards on 32 carries (6.9 average) and two touchdowns in the win over #20 North Carolina during the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game. He completed his third year with a 147-yard performance during the victory over TCU in the Liberty Bowl.
  • Georgia Bulldog football coach Kirby Smart travels with running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and linebacker Roquan Smith to Hoover Alabama: the Bulldogs SEC Media Days session takes place this morning. The Dogs are gearing up for the start of coach Smart’s second season in Athens, with an opener against Appalachian State that is now 53 days away.  From the AJC’s Seth Emerson... Advisory to Georgia football fans: You may want to skip over the first few paragraphs to this story. They recount a memory that remains hurtful to many of you who read this site. Unfortunately, that moment was brought up several times here Monday at SEC media days. So it will be recounted here briefly, and you will be notified when it is safe to read again. Tennessee cornerback Emmanuel Mosely was on the visiting bench at Sanford Stadium, sitting next to teammate Cameron Reeves-Maybin. They were sure they had just given up a demoralizing last-second touchdown to Georgia that had cost them the game. Their offense was on the field for its own last-second hail mary try. “I closed my eyes,” Mosely said. “When I noticed that he caught the ball I ran on the field, and went up and hugged him. It was such a great play.” Jauan Jennings had hauled in an improbable 43-yard touchdown with time expired, and Tennessee had shocked Georgia, 34-31. “That was probably the craziest thing I’ve ever been a part of,” linebacker Kendal Vickers said. “I got up out of my seat and threw my helmet. I don’t remember where it went. Just the joy we felt after that game, and the disbelief we saw in all the Georgia fans, it was crazy.” OK, it’s safe to resume reading again. So yes, Tennessee took its turn on the first day of the SEC media days gauntlet, and while much of the day was about disappointment – how the Vols have yet to capitalize and win the SEC East – that moment last year … Sorry, may need to look away again. Just one paragraph. … Proved to give Tennessee its highlight of an otherwise down season, and reinforced that the Vols have switched the mojo in a series that had been dominated by Georgia. “I’d say we have,” Mosely said, before falling back into the old cliché’ of taking it one at a time, etc. Verbal tripe has been a thing lately for the Volunteers, whose coach has become the source of derision for some of those utterances. Butch Jones capped it off late last season when he said his players had been “champions of life.” Mosely was asked about that on Monday. He laughed briefly before answering. “Coach Jones said that. You can’t look at the criticism,” Mosely said. “Basically he wanted us to be better (people) off the field. Great people in life. That’s what I took from it.” Jones, now entering his fifth season at Tennessee – where he has tried to rebuild the program “brick by brick” – seemed to avoid that pitfall during his tour on Monday. But he came close when asked if he viewed last season as a disappointment. “I don’t view it as a disappointment. The way I view it is we didn’t accomplish everything we set ourselves out to. And, again, our goal every year is to win a championship and compete to win a championship,” Jones said. “So, was it a disappointment? No. Did we not accomplish some of the things we set out to do? Absolutely. We have to learn from the things that went wrong that we could have done better.” Jones added that his team started 5-0, with those five wins coming against teams that won their divisions. Alas, Georgia was the fifth game, and it did not win its division. Jones may have issued some talking points to his players, as evidenced by offensive lineman Jason Robertson’s response when asked about Jones possibly being on the hot seat. “We’re one of three teams who have had back-to-back 9-game winning seasons. Also, we won three consecutive bowl games, and that hadn’t been done at the University of Tennessee in 20 years,” Robertson said. “That’s a lot of positives.” Actually, the best positive may be that Jones has elevated the program, after about a decade of struggle, to the point that there is pressure. And … Look away, Georgia fans. … After losing five in a row to Georgia, the Volunteers can now boast a two-game winning streak. And as much of a disappointment as last year may have been, the Vols still have that hail mary. “I’m definitely going to remember that for the rest of my life,” Vicker said. “That specific play.”
  • Sanford Stadium Utility Work Update - Tate Drive Closing From 6/19 through 6/30, construction crews working on the utilities at the Tate drive will be performing their work at night starting at 7PM and working to 6AM. During this time, the drive to the Tate Parking Deck from Lumpkin will be closed. The entrance to the parking deck will be shifted to the ramp just south of the intersection at Baxter and Lumpkin and traffic will be directed by UGA PD. There will also be a full closure of the drive from 7pm on 6/23 through 10pm on 6/24 as the utilities are installed across the width of the drive. During the day, the drive will be re-opened.
  • The Georgia Bulldog basketball team learns its postseason fate: coach Mark Fox’s team will not be going to the NCAA Tournament. The Dogs will instead face Belmont in the opening round of the NIT Wednesday in Stegeman Coliseum. If the Dogs and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets both win their opening round games, they would face each other in the second round of the NIT here in Athens. The Jackets face the Indiana Hoosiers in their first-round contest.
  • Tim  Bryant

    News Director

    Tim Bryant is News Director for Cox Media Group Athens and also works as an anchor and reporter for WSB Radio in Atlanta. Previous stops on the dial include Augusta and Tallahassee. Tim has reported for ABC, CBS, and the Associated Press, and has provided guest commentary and analysis on stations across the US, the U.K., and New Zealand. Tim hosts Classic City Today, 6-10 weekday mornings on 98.7FM & AM 1340 WGAU in Athens. 

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Latest Bulldog News

  • ATHENS – It’s Friday and it’s a beautiful day in Athens. It also means we’re a day away from Georgia-Mississippi State, which is going to be another beautiful day, both weather-wise and because these two top 25 SEC teams are going to do battle in one of the best college football matchups in the country Saturday at Sanford Stadium. And since it’s Friday, it means it’s time to clean out the ol’ notebook. A lot of this stuff is not going to do us any good after kickoff on Saturday. But it’s some interesting info for the here and now. So, here now: Herschel Walker keeps tabs on Dogs In all the haste to get out of South Bend, Ind., a couple of weeks ago and get back to Georgia ahead of Hurricane Irma, I forgot to share “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey used to say, from my terrific telephone interview with Herschel Walker. If you recall, I talked to the greatest tailback in the history of college football on the eve of the Bulldogs’ first game against Notre Dame since Walker ran all over them in the Sugar Bowl to win the 1980 national championship. Walker told us that day that he felt Georgia should win again against the Fighting Irish as long as the players stayed together regardless of the situation, remained confident and concentrated on playing the way they were taught. That ended up being good advice and prophetic as the Bulldogs came from behind four times beat Notre Dame 20-19. But Walker and I talked for a good 20 minutes that day and he had a lot of other things to say about a lot of other things, none of which really fit into a preview of the Notre Dame contest. So let’s revisit Walker’s insights right here. Is he surprised Georgia has won a national championship since he was a freshman tailback in 1980? “I’m not surprised. The talent is so competitive right now and you’re getting talented kids coming into programs everywhere every year. Recruiting is very, very important, so it’s surprising, but then it’s not. It’s so different now how they put people in the playoff from a selection committee. Years ago, when they were just putting it together and told them I wanted to be on the selection committee. But they never gave me a look. I’d still like to.” On Georgia tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel … “I really like those two guys. I like them a lot because they’re football players. What I mean by that is you still need running backs. If you want to win a championship you better be able to run and those two guys run the football. But they can go out and catch the football, too. And I was really happy when they decided to stay. I said as soon as that happened, ‘this is going to be a great year for us.’” Thoughts on Georgia coach Kirby Smart … “I like Coach Smart. I think he’s doing a good job. He has them playing crisp and tight. Everything’s real quick. How they practice is how they’re going to play and I like the way they practice. Going into games, they need to forget about everything and just go out there and play.” On whether he keeps up with the Bulldogs … “I do keep up with my Dogs. … I keep up with all the teams. I want to see them do well, not just in football but I want to see the University of Georgia do well. That is my alma mater and I love that university. I tell you what, I really love that university. I’m always thinking about what can I do to continue to be connected with my university, because I do love it.” On trying to get UGA to do business with his latest venture, Renaissance Man Food Services, Inc. … “It’s been a booger-bear to get it there. They have a contract management group and I’ve been trying to work with them. But they don’t recognize that Herschel Walker played at Georgia and I don’t think they really care that much.” Notre Dame good will One last thing from the Notre Dame game. I was inundated with messages and comments from UGA fans who raved about their experience in South Bend and the treatment they received from the University of Notre Dame and its people. Here’s one more example. Joseph Sisson covers sports as a correspondent for the Rome News Tribune and the Calhoun Times over in Northwest Georgia. He was able to get credentialed to cover Georgia’s game at Notre Dame on Sept. 9. However, a death in the family prevented him from making the trip. He informed Notre Dame Athletics ahead of time and told them how much he regretted not being able to make as it was a bucket-list trip for him. Much to his surprise, Leigh Torbin of the Irish’s sports communication office, mailed him his customized press pass that he never got to use as a keepsake and included a nice, hand-written note. A class institution, inside and out. Wow… @NDFootball is a complete class act, I’m more then floored st their gesture. pic.twitter.com/L73FyPBnZ1 — Joseph Sisson (@Joesisson) September 20, 2017 Where’s the tight ends? There has been a lot of talk about Georgia’s tight ends the last couple of weeks. Specifically, folks are wondering, where are they in the passing game. Sophomore Isaac Nauta, a freshman All-American with 29 catches last season, has just three so far and the tight ends as a group have only six all season. Smart addressed that head on this week when he said, “At the end of the day, you kind of get how you practice. Those guys have to practice the right way. They play physical, they block, then they usually get rewarded.” There’s also this: Georgia is having to heavily involve the tight ends in the blocking and protection packages. Between the offensive line struggling and having a freshman at quarterback in Jake Fromm, the Bulldogs are having to play it somewhat safe on protections and passing schemes. Plus, Georgia remains a run-heavy team. The Bulldogs are still running the football 69 percent of the time. Therefore, the tight ends’ primary responsibility remains providing blocking for the Bulldogs’ backs. That will be especially important Saturday against Mississippi State. Mullen’s a very good coach Put in historical perspective, it’s pretty incredible what Dan Mullen has done with Mississippi State. As unofficial UGA historian Jeff Dantzler pointed out this week, the Maroon Dogs had just two winning seasons from 1895-73, three from 1979-90 and one from 2001-09. They’ve pretty much only had the Jackie Sherrill era to hang their cowbells on and that came with some costs. Likewise, Georgia has pretty much owned Mississippi State in this series. They’ve played only 26 times, but the red-and-black Bulldogs have won 17 of those meetings, and they generally haven’t been real close. UGA’s average margin of victory in those games is 16 points. Georgia’s also won 10 of the last 11. But Mullen, a former offensive coordinator for Urban Meyer at Florida, has led his Bulldogs to six winning seasons in his eight years at the helm. And this team, currently 3-0 and ranked 17th with a 37-7 win over then No. 12 LSU, appears headed for another. In fact, UGA’s last loss to the Maroons came in Starkville in 2010 (24-12), a year in which State also beat Florida and throttled Michigan in the Gator Bowl to finish 9-4. You should also recall that Mullen’s team occupied the No. 1 spot in the college football playoff’s first rankings in 2014. They were 7-0 at the time. They finished 10-3 with a loss to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. So what Mullen has done in Starkville has been quite surprising and impressive. Equally as astonishing is the fact that he’s still there. The post Herschel Walker ‘not surprised’ UGA hasn’t won another title appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS------The Georgia Bulldogs will have 31 games at Foley Field in 2018, featuring Southeastern Conference series with South Carolina, Texas A&M, Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas. The 56-game college baseball season begins Feb. 16 at Foley Field with a series against Georgia Southern. Eight of Georgia’s first nine contests will be at home before a Spring Break trip to Charleston for games against College of Charleston, The Citadel and Charleston Southern. SEC play opens on the road against Alabama (March 16-18) while the Bulldogs SEC home opener will be with the Gamecocks (March 23-25). The other SEC home series will be with the Aggies (March 29-31), Wildcats (April 13-15), the Volunteers (April 27-29) and Razorbacks (May 17-19). Along with the series in Tuscaloosa, Georgia’s road trips in the conference will be at Vanderbilt (April 6-8), Ole Miss (April 20-22), Missouri (May 4-6), and Florida (May 11-13). Please note the ESPNU and SEC Network Thursday night selections have not been set, thus some SEC series may change to Thursday-Saturday. The 16th annual Spring Baseball Classic to benefit Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta will be May 8 as the Bulldogs battle their rival Georgia Tech at the Atlanta Braves home, SunTrust Park. The Bulldogs are 10-5 all-time against Tech in this game. The SEC Tournament again will feature the league’s top 12 finishers in the regular season and be played in Hoover, Ala., from May 22-27. NCAA Regional action at various campus sites will be June 1-4 with Super Regionals from June 8-11. The 2018 season culminates with the College World Series (CWS) from June 16-27 in Omaha, Neb. The Bulldogs have made six appearances in Omaha including winning the national title in 1990 and reaching the CWS Finals in 2008. Georgia will begin fall practice today, and it will end with the annual Red versus Black Fall World Series from Nov. 3-5. Georgia is in its fifth year under Ike Cousins head baseball coach Scott Stricklin. The Bulldogs fall roster features 26 returning lettermen and nine newcomers. Georgia welcomes back all nine starting position players and several key components of the pitching staff. The Bulldogs went 25-32 last year including 8-3 over their final 11 games of the regular season to qualify for the SEC Tournament. In that stretch, Georgia claimed a road series over No. 4 Kentucky and No. 30 South Carolina and a home series over No. 6 Mississippi State. The Georgia Bulldog Club operates the Georgia Baseball Fund (GBF), which will serve as the priority-seating program for Georgia Baseball. The donation deadline to guarantee a renewable season ticket for the 2018 Georgia Baseball season is Oct. 31. To learn more about the GBF, call The Georgia Bulldog Club toll-free at (877) 423-2947 or review the GBF brochure at the following link: http://thegeorgiabulldogclub.com/georgia-baseball-fund   Season ticket applications will be mailed in October, and the deadline will be Nov. 30. FOLLOW THE BULLDOGS For the latest Georgia baseball news, visit www.georgiadogs.com and follow the Bulldogs on Twitter (@BaseballUGA), Facebook (@GeorgiaBaseball) and Instagram (@baseballuga). --get 2018 schedule--   2018 GEORGIA BASEBALL TENTATIVE SCHEDULE DAYS DATES OPPONENT/SERIES TIMES (ET) Fri.-Sun. Feb. 16-18 Ga. Southern 5/1/1 pm Wed. Feb. 21 @ Kennesaw State 5 pm Fri.-Sun. Feb. 23-25 Charlotte 5/1/1 pm Tues. Feb. 27 Wofford 5 pm Wed. Feb. 28 Ga. State 5 pm Fri.-Sun. March 2-4 @ College of Charleston 4/1/1 pm Tues. March 6 @ The Citadel 7 pm Wed. March 7 @ Charleston Southern 3 pm Fri.-Sun. March 9-11 Toledo 6/2/1 pm Tues. March 13 Kennesaw State 5 pm Fri.-Sun. March 16-18 @ *Alabama TBA Tues. March 20 @ Ga. State 6 pm Fri.-Sun. March 23-25  *South Carolina 7/2/1 pm Tues. March 27 Charleston Southern 6 pm Thurs-Sat. March 29-31 *Texas A&M 7/7/2 pm Tues. April 3 Ga. Tech 7 pm Fri.-Sun. April 6-8 @ *Vanderbilt TBA Tues. April 10 @ Clemson 7 pm Fri.-Sun. April 13-15 *Kentucky 7/2/1 pm Tues. April 17 Clemson 7 pm Fri.-Sun. April 20-22 @ *Ole Miss 7:30/2:30/2:30 pm Tues. April 24 @ Ga. Tech 7 pm Fri.-Sun. April 27-29 *Tennessee 7/2/1 pm Fri.-Sun. May 4-6 @ *Missouri 7:30/3/2 pm Tues. May 8 vs. %Ga. Tech 7 pm Fri.-Sun. May 11-13 @ *Florida 6:30/6:30/1 pm Tues. May 15 Presbyterian 6 pm Thurs.-Sat. May 17-19 *Arkansas 7/7/2 pm Tues.-Sun. May 22-27 ^SEC Tournament TBA   Fri.-Mon. June 1-4 +NCAA Regionals TBA   Fri.-Mon. June 8-11 +NCAA Super Regionals TBA   Sat.-Wed. June 16-27 $College World Series TBA          Home games in Bold; *SEC game; %SunTrust Park, Atlanta, Ga.; ^Hoover Metropolitan Stadium, Hoover, Ala.; +Campus Sites, TBA; $TD Ameritrade Park, Omaha, Neb.; Note: All times and dates subject to change
  • ATHENS — So many players in Brian Herrien’s position took the other route. They didn’t hold out for their dream school. They didn’t put faith in their ability to reach seemingly unattainable grades and test scores. They let the dream die. Herrien could have done that. He could have gone the junior college route and tried to get into Georgia in a couple years. But he had his heart set on Georgia. “Why take the long route when I can take the short route?” Herrien said. That quote proved to be a fitting description for more than just his journey to Georgia. It was a storybook moment: The very first time Herrien touched the ball as a college football player he scored a touchdown. And it wasn’t in garbage time of a guarantee game, either. It was last season’s opener against North Carolina in the Georgia Dome. “I remember everything right before the play,” Herrien said. “Coach [Kirby] Smart, when they told me to go in, he said: ‘We trust you, we love you.’ I said all right, I’m about to go in here and I’m about to run it.” Georgia was at the North Carolina 19-yard line. It was a tie game midway through the second quarter. The play call: toss sweep to the right. “It was one of my favorite plays,” Herrien said. “When they tossed it to me I looked and they started cutting the defense down, there was nothing out there except a safety coming across the top, and I knew I could beat him.” Brian Herrien finishing off a 19-yard touchdown run on the first carry of his career. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC) Herrien would go on to be Georgia’s third-leading rusher last season, with 363 yards on 63 carries. Pretty good for someone who qualified late academically and was far down the tailback rankings in the 2016 class. Georgia, a program used to getting premium 5-star recruits at tailback, unearthed a gem who was a 3-star prospect. “From the start you could tell he was a great player,” teammate Nick Chubb said, recounting his first impression of Herrien last year. “You’re right, we didn’t hear much about him. I’m proud that he’s here; he’s a great player.” It remains to be seen how active a role Herrien will play going forward. Georgia, you may have heard, has two great senior tailbacks in Chubb and Sony Michel, a very impressive freshman in D’Andre Swift, and has secured the commitment of 5-star prospect Zamir White. “We’re loaded,” Chubb said. “So many great backs. We have to compete every day. Those guys are really, really good.” But Herrien’s skill set is keeping him involved. He has 15 carries for 56 yards this season, including two carries in the Notre Dame game. He hasn’t been very active in the passing game, but Smart has talked about using Herrien’s size, speed and athleticism in the that part of the offense. Whatever Herrien’s future holds, his path to Georgia was quite remarkable. At first he didn’t have the grades at New Manchester High School, or the ACT score, to qualify academically. That caused plenty of college programs to back off. But Smart and Georgia’s staff stayed on him. “There was no giving up,” Herrien said. “I knew when they told me that I had to get straight A’s and get my ACT higher by two points, I knew I could do it,” Herrien said. “I told them when they were interviewing me then, there’s no second option. I’m going to get the job done.” Indeed, Herrien’s grades have been good since he got to UGA. Why? He had a simple answer. “College is easier to me than high school,” Herrien said. Say what? “It’s just easy,” he said. When pressed, Herrien explained. “The only thing that really changed for me was when I got into school, when I got to college, to make sure I stayed on top of my grades and never let myself get below,” Herrien said. “So I try to stay on top of everything. That’s all I do.” The post Brian Herrien: The kid who wouldn’t let go of his dream of playing at UGA appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – Mel Tucker’s office in the Georgia football building is the same one that Todd Grantham occupied for four years. And it’s not the first time that’s happened. A decade ago Grantham was let go after three years as the defensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns. The Browns then tabbed Grantham’s young secondary coach as their new coordinator: Tucker. Plenty has changed since then, other than the Browns still being a woeful franchise, and on Saturday the two men will be key coaches in a match-up of ranked teams: Tucker is No. 11 Georgia’s defensive coordinator and Grantham coaches the defense for No. 17 Mississippi State. They have different personalities: Grantham was fiery, while Tucker is less so. But there is a connective tissue in former NFL coaches, it seems: The reporters who covered both hear the same phrases about football and reluctance to give too much away. And one Georgia player who was reared in NFL jargon laughs when he hears his defensive coordinator talk. “It’s actually crazy,” said Georgia defensive back J.R. Reed, whose father Jake Reed was an NFL receiver. “Some of the stuff my Dad says coach Tuck says, and I just laugh to myself. People are like, ‘What are you laughing about?’” DIFFERING DYNAMICS AT GEORGIA There are three current Georgia players who were around in 2013, Grantham’s last year at Georgia. Davin Bellamy, John Atkins and Aaron Davis were not available to the media this week. But senior Lorenzo Carter, who was recruited by Grantham before the coach left for Louisville, had warm memories of him. “I like coach Grantham,” Carter said. “He’s an electric guy. A lot of energy. He values pass-rushing. I’m sure they’re going to bring that.” Todd Grantham as Cleveand’s defensive coordinator in 2007. (GETTY IMAGES) Grantham is in his first year at Mississippi State, and – yes it’s very early – has his defense ranked fourth in the nation in least yards allowed. That follows a run at Louisville in which Grantham’s defenses were in the top 20 each year. Tucker, meanwhile, is in his second year at Georgia, where he replaced Jeremy Pruitt. (Who is now the defensive coordinator at Alabama, replacing Kirby Smart, now Georgia’s head coach. SEC coaching is a well-paying small world) There are big differences in the dynamics between Grantham’s four-year tenure at Georgia and Tucker now. For one, Grantham had total autonomy over the defense, brought in by offense-oriented head coach Mark Richt to replace a foundering unit. It was an up-and-down four years for Grantham, with an elite defense in 2011, but one that struggled in his final year. Tucker came to work under Smart, who remained very hands-on with the defense. That led to an easy perception that this wasn’t really Tucker’s defense. Whoever’s defense it was, Georgia finished 16 th nationally last year, fourth in the SEC – and two behind Grantham’s at Louisville. But this year the signs are that this is Tucker’s defense. After the Notre Dame game, when the defense basically won the game, Smart heaped praise on Tucker’s calls and scheme for the game. Tucker dialed up blitzes at key times and Georgia’s defense kept fast Notre dame QB Brandon Wimbush in the pocket. That same strategy figures to be in effect against Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald. “This is his defense. Coach Tucker is the DC,” Reed said. “Coach Tucker brings an NFL type feel to the defense. He coached 10 years in the league.” Mel Tucker as a Cleveland Browns assistant in 2006. (GETTY IMAGES). And he’s brought some of that philosophy to Georgia, such as, according to Carter, more time watching film and lifting weights in-season in order to maintain strength. “I love coach Tucker,” Carter said. “He brings a lot of knowledge from the places he’s been in the past when he was coaching in the NFL, so he does a great job making sure that we go about things the way the pro’s do.” Grantham was the Browns’ DC from 2005-07. He was let go and went to Dallas, where he spent two years before going to Georgia. Tucker was the Browns’ defensive coordinator in 2008, after spending the previous three years as the Browns’ secondary coach. He went on to a four-year stint as Jacksonville’s defensive coordinator, which included four games as interim head coach, and he was Chicago’s DC from 2013-14. From there he went to Alabama as secondary coach, where he began working with Smart. And now here he is, starting to make a name for himself in the SEC. “Obviously he’s doing an amazing job because our defense is the glue right now,” senior tight end Jeb Blazevich said. “They’re doing everything they can, and they’re just clicking.” The post Mel Tucker escaping shadows of Kirby Smart, Todd Grantham appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – Last Saturday before the Bulldogs played Samford at Sanford Stadium, Cameron Nizialek pulled out his laptop and queued up the Columbia University game. Nizialek was playing at the Ivy League school in New York City just a year ago and, if not for some forethought and planning, might still be. But Nizialek fancied himself a pretty good punter, good enough to perhaps earn some money at it after college. So he left Columbia as a graduate transfer, landed at Georgia and, Saturday, will enter his fourth game as the No. 11 Bulldogs’ starting punter as they open SEC play against 17th-ranked Mississippi State in a nationally-televised primetime game on ESPN. That’s not quite as big of a deal to Nizialek as it might’ve been a few weeks ago. I mean, he’s already played before two packed houses at Sanford Stadium and in a nationally-televised game at Notre Dame Stadium already. Still, it’s a long way from playing against Wagner College in 17,000-seat Robert K. Kraft Stadium. His Lions won, by the way. “It’s just totally different,” said Nizialek, laughing at the contrast after a Georgia practice this week. “There’s nobody in the stands. The pace of play is a little different. But, I mean, I love those guys. They do a really good job. But right here is where my focus is and I’m excited for the rest of the season.” Nizialek has a lot about which to be excited, and so does Georgia. He has quickly emerged as one of the best punters in the SEC and a real weapon for the Bulldogs in the all-important battle for field position. Since winning the job in UGA’s preseason camp, Nizialek is fourth in the league in net punting (44.5) and Georgia is the only SEC team whose opponents have negative return yardage (minus-4). UGA punter Cameron Nizialek has become a potent weapon. (AJ Reynolds/Special) What’s more, the Bulldogs’ opponents have attempted to return only four of Nizialek’s punts. Those have all ended badly – and usually painfully — for the returners. That’s because Nizialek’s hang times have been in the NFL range. His punts generally take 4.4 seconds or so to return to earth after leaving his foot. He has reached as high as 4.9 seconds on a couple of punts. The optimum in the punting game is to match hang time with distance, such as a 4.4 hang time on a 44-yard punt. Nizialek is doing that consistently. With speedy gunners like Mecole Hardman and Jayson Stanley covering kicks, that hasn’t left opposing returners many options besides fair catch or immediate contact upon fielding the ball. “The biggest thing is putting the ball as high as possible, really,” Nizialek said. “Limit returns is what I’ve been trying to do. That’s what I’m going to try to keep doing.” Georgia could not have asked for a better blessing than Nizialek. In case you haven’t noticed, punting has been a bit of an issue for the Bulldogs the past couple of years. Last year, after starting punter Marshall Long suffered a knee injury, backup quarterback Brice Ramsey had to take over. Not coincidentally, UGA was 13th in the SEC in net punting at 34.9 yards. So you’re looking at a 10-yard difference a year later. “He flips the field position, man,” head coach Kirby Smart said of Nizialek. “It’s just obvious. Number one, he gets it off fast; number two, he’s getting distance; number three, he is just changing the field position. He’s had a couple of punts that were bombs, but we measure punts by hang time. We look for hang and distance to match. He’s done that every time but probably twice.” That’s on 15 punts. Nizialek is averaging 44.3 yards on those, with a long of 57. He has yet to record a touchback, which is a good thing for punters. Smart would like to tell you that he found Nizialek by scouring the country from the coast-to-coast in an attempt to discover a hidden gem of a prospect to bring back to Athens. He’d like to, but that’s not how this came down. Nizialek found Georgia. “With him, it wasn’t like we knew something. He was free,” Smart said with a laugh. “He didn’t cost us anything. He’s a grad school transfer that walked on; great for him! He did an unbelievable job and he won the job. He saw an opportunity and he seized it. To be honest, I never saw him kick in a game at Columbia. He came to a game and said ‘I want to come to Georgia.’ I said, ‘great, come on!’ “There was no loss of value for us. And look what we got out of him!” Actually, this all has been in Nizialek’s plans for a while. Not UGA necessarily, but you don’t get into Columbia University without some smarts. Once it became evident to Nizialek that he not only was a good punter but exceptionally exceptional, which was right around his sophomore year, he planned to graduate from Columbia early and seek a Power 5 school that could display his football talents on a bigger stage. The Chantilly, Va., native looked at Clemson, Virginia Tech and South Carolina, among a few others. But, again, a wise and highly-educated man, Nizialek did lots of research. And his data indicated that Georgia would be an ideal spot. Georgia did not find punter Cameron Nizialek. He found the Bulldogs. (Steven Colquitt/UGA) “I did a lot of research on how successful the punters were or if they had a senior and stuff like that,” he said. “So I knew where I had a good shot of playing.” As for the decision to go to Columbia out of high school rather than walking on and trying to earn a scholarship at one of the many major programs within a couple of hours of his home in Virginia, Nizialek said football wasn’t a major priority for him at the time. The son of a pair of Duke graduates, he was fully focused on academic opportunities, and he took care of that by earning an economics degree from Columbia in 3½ years. With that valuable lambskin in his pocket, Nizialek felt he could afford to intently focus on the pigskin for a while. In the meantime, he’ll earn his master’s degree from UGA at the end of this semester. “It’s going well so far,” Nizialek said. “Coming in, I just wanted an opportunity to get a chance. That’s all you can ask for as a graduate student. But I had to make a really calculated decision. I’ve got one year and I want to play at the next level, so I had to weigh those things appropriately. “I’d say I’ve done an all right job but I’d like to do a little better. I think there’s room to improve. I’m excited about how I’ve been doing but I think I’ve been doing better in practice and I want to keep that rolling.” Georgia needs Nizialek to play especially well this weekend as the Bulldogs collide with Mississippi State in what everybody expects to be an extremely close and competitive Top 20 matchup. It’ll be the fourth consecutive night game for Georgia and promises to be the most electric atmosphere Nizialek has ever experienced. It’s not something Nizialek is necessarily used to just yet, nor is it something he wants to get used to. “Just running out of the tunnel and having 93,000 people out there is something you’ve just got to cherish because it’s really incredible,” Nizialek said with grin. “I don’t think I was ever intimidated, but I’m still going to appreciate it every time I go out there because it’s an incredible experience. It’s not something anyone ever gets to do. No one gets to do what I’ve experienced and that’s pretty awesome.” Pretty awesome for the Bulldogs as well. Be sure to tune in tonight and every Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. to the Towers’ Take Facebook live chat, brought to you by Marco’s Pizza — voted America’s favorite pizza company. Visit Marcos.com for authentic Italian pizza, and do DawgNation’s Facebook page to hear Towers’ Take. The post From Ivy League to SEC, punter Cameron Nizialek has proved a difference-maker for UGA appeared first on DawgNation.