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Latest Bulldog News

  • ATHENS – Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are literally best friends and I’m sure they honestly don’t care, but it’s going to be very interesting to see which of the Georgia running backs is picked first in the NFL draft. They’re also very competitive with each other, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there might be a friendly wager involved. I’ll say this, though: I expect both of them to be selected by the end of the second day of the April 26-28 draft at least. And, regardless, I predict NFL success for both of these guys. The general consensus coming out of this season seemed to be that Michel will be the first of the Dogs’ duo to go off the board. The narrative is that Michel is the more versatile of the two backs. That’s an assertion that Chubb didn’t necessarily disagree with. He told me as much at one of the College Football Playoff media days. He said that Michel was probably a little better catching the ball out of the backfield. Certainly statistics back that up. At the end of their careers, Chubb had 30 catches for 362 yards and 4 touchdowns while Michel basically doubled him up had 64 receptions for 621 yards and 6 scores. But it’s not like Michel was a part-time flanker or anything like that. He had nine catches for 96 yards and one touchdown all season, with the lone TD catch not coming until the playoffs. And Chubb was actually utilized more in that fashion as a freshman while he was sharing time with Todd Gurley. Kind of forgotten from that season was that Chubb had 18 catches for 213 yards and scored twice via the pass that year. So, it could be argued that disparity was as much a function of role as it was anything else. Which is another thing I always liked about these two guys. I always thought they were at their best when they were interviewed side-by-side. That’s when their personality differences were the most stark. In case you weren’t paying attention, Chubb was the quiet and reserved one while Michel was (slightly) more talkative and certainly more flashy from the standpoint of his alter-ego as rapper flyguy2stackz. But they were also a mutual admiration society. Michel never begrudged Chubb always being the starter in the rotation. He joked that meant that Chubb had the harder role, coming out Saturday after Saturday against defenses that were jacked to stuff the run and would be selling out like a flea market on run blitzes. “He’s the one that has to take all that contact,” Michel said earlier this past season. “He was softening them up for me.” That trend was reflected in their rushing stats each of the last two seasons. Michel averaged more yards per carry than Chubb both years, 5.5 to 5.0 as juniors and 7.9 to 6.4 as seniors. And that might ultimately tip the ledger in Michel’s favor when it comes to their draft prospects this spring. Without question, Michel arrives at this juncture with less wear-and-tear on his body. Chubb had 740 carries in his career with the Bulldogs while Michel had 591. And it was Chubb that had to have his left knee rebuilt after that awful incident in Knoxville in 2015. Michel has had his own share of twists, pulls and bruises. And he actually played in one more game (47) than did his roommate in college. This much is certain: Together they were nearly an unstoppable force for the Bulldogs. They’ll go down as one of the most prolific running back duos of all time. Separately, they finished as the second and third rushers of all time at Georgia, with 4,744 and 3,638 yards, respectively. Between them, they scored 90 touchdowns, with 51 of those in Chubb’s column. Only Herschel Walker, with 52, had more. Wrap your head around that for a minute. And that’s what NFL executives are going to have to ponder between now draft day. Which one of these guys goes first and how high will they be taken? That’s anybody’s guess at this point. The theory is that the running back position has been devalued by the proliferation of passing in the NFL game over the years. But backs keep getting drafted in the early rounds, including the first. LSU’s Leonard Fournette went on the fourth pick last year and made good on it with 1,040 yards rushing and nine touchdowns this season. Christian McCaffrey was also a first-round selection and eight backs were selected in the first three rounds. Included in that bunch was Toledo’s Kareem Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing this year with 1,327 yards and was named rookie of the year. And we all know what Georgia’s Todd Gurley has done for the Los Angeles Rams. Chubb and Michel’s former running mate had 1,305 yards rushing, 2,093 total yards and 19 touchdowns this past season. He said at the Rose Bowl he expects believes Chubb and Michel will both make great pros. As for their draft projections, they’re all over the board. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is the consensus pick to be the first running back selected, followed by LSU’s Derrius Guice. Chubb and Michel generally are projected a little behind those guys, almost always close together and with no consensus as to which might be selected first. Of the different rankings I perused, Michel’s highest rating among draft-eligible backs was fourth by draftwire.com (which had Chubb fifth). WalterFootball.com had Michel fifth and Chubb sixth, while CBSSports.com have Michel sixth and Chubb seventh. But then, ESPNInsider had Chubb seventh and Michel ninth and DraftTek.com had Chubb sixth and Michel eighth. Then there was ESPN’s well-known draft expert Todd McShay, who had Chubb fourth and did not include Michel in his Top 10. Wrote McShay: “Chubb rushed for more than 100 yards in 13 straight games before tearing several knee ligaments (not including his ACL) in 2015. He didn’t have the same explosiveness in 2016 coming off the injury, but he has quick feet for his size (listed at 5-foot-10, 228 pounds). Right now, he projects as a Day 2 pick, but he could move up the boards if he can regain some of that agility.” If you know Chubb like I do, I’m sure he’s busy “regaining that agility” as we speak. But same for Michel. These two Dogs spent the last four years trying to out-do each other in the weight room and on the practice field and in games. Maybe one team will take a page out of Georgia’s book and draft both of these guys. Wouldn’t that be something? The post Nick Chubb or Sony Michel: Who goes first in NFL draft not a sure thing appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – So Roquan Smith and Trent Thomson have packed their bags and joined Georgia’s giant pack of seniors in heading on down the road. This is what makes college football so great. This is also what makes it so hard. Georgia’s toughest task will be in finding another inside linebacker that can have near the impact that Roquan Smith did this past season. (Perry McIntyre Jr./UGA) College football, by and large, is cyclical. That works to varying degrees for different programs, but because of the constant ingress and egress of players due to graduation and attrition, achieving sustained, championship-level success is next to impossible for any program not currently named Alabama. To me, that’s what makes it fun and somewhat unpredictable from year to year. Alabama, at this place in time, is the exception. I know it’s still awfully soon in these parts to be offering the Crimson Tide any kudos but — those egregiously bad calls aside — Bama did, in fact, make it back to the penultimate game for a third year in a row. The past decade under coach Nick Saban has been, in a word, astonishing. The Tide has won five national championships in that span and more games than any team in America. Maybe the next 10 years will be similarly grand for Georgia. But that’s where coach Kirby Smart will have to distinguish himself as different from coaches that have preceded him. As we all know, Georgia is a very proud and successful football program by its own right. It is, after all, third all-time in number of bowl appearances with 53. Only Bama (66) and Texas (54) have more. But historically speaking, the Bulldogs have been the very the definition of cyclical when it comes to high-level success. Again, only Alabama (26) has won more SEC football championships than Georgia (13) over the years (the Bulldogs are tied with Tennessee). But as one might suspect, those have been few and far between in what we’d call the modern era, which would begin with Vince Dooley’s tenure back in 1964. Georgia won six SEC championships in 25 seasons under Dooley, or roughly one in every four seasons. Neither Ray Goff nor Jim Donnan were able to hoist the conference crown. Mark Richt won two in 15 seasons, while playing for it five times. Now Smart is a sporty 1-for-2. But that’s all about league titles. That’s no longer the ultimate measurement. Now it’s all about getting into the playoff. As Alabama can attest, you can do that without being a conference champion. Judging Georgia’s success more from the perspective of having good years – that is, winning a lot of games and playing in a good bowl – the Bulldogs’ cycle looks more like this: Dooley 12 of 25 seasons, or about half; Goff one in seven; Donnan one in five; Richt eight in 15 (I’m not counting the 10-win seasons that resulted in Taxslayer and Belk Bowl bids). Taken as a whole, that’s about 42 percent of the time Georgia has been in for a really fun and exciting season. We don’t need to discuss how it often it has played for the ultimate prize (OK, four times in 37 years, but I’m not discussing it). Back to the here and now, part of what makes it so difficult to regularly get your program “in the hunt,” as it were, is that cyclical tendency of the college game. If your team is good enough to compete for a championship, conference or national, then two factors are probably going to apply: One, it featured a lot of extremely talented players; two, it was veteran-laden and experienced. In both cases, they’re usually followed by an exodus. That was definitely the case for Georgia in 2017. As was well-chronicled all year, the Bulldogs featured a total of 31 seniors. Seventeen of those seniors were on scholarship. Fifteen of those would fall in the category of major contributors. At least four or five of them could be first or second-day NFL draftees. Then you add in the losses of the juniors Smith and Thompson to the NFL draft – a relatively light number given the level of success Georgia enjoyed — and you begin to get a sense of the talent deficit the Bulldogs are going to have to replenish if they are to have similar success in 2018. As for Smith, I don’t have to tell anybody who watched Georgia this season what kind of an absence he’s going to leave. He was a once-a-generation player, to be sure, as some of these Top 10 and 15 draft projections suggest. And Thompson, even though his junior season was less productive than the previous one, is a unique physical talent that will be difficult to replace. All told, that’s six starters off your offense, nine off the defense and two specialists. If not for junior Jonathan Ledbetter’s decision to return, it could’ve been a 7-for-7 loss of Georgia’s front seven. This is not to sprinkle doom-and-gloom over the prospects of next season for the Bulldogs. That’s just a little reality check on the challenge that’s in front of Smart and his staff. But as evidenced from this past season, I definitely believe they’re up for it. You can start with recruiting, where Smart is in the midst of building his third straight Top-10 class, each one better than the last. The current group is ranked No. 1, with only a handful targets remaining on the board after that smashing experiment that was the first year of an early-signing period. Georgia already has netted 20 actual signees, with at least five more on the way. None of which has slowed down the charge of Smart and his staff. Since the championship game ended, they hardly have even come up for air. They’re laser-focused on the remaining targets, all the elitist of the elite, while concentrating hard on prospects for 2019 and even ’20. It’s a luxury the Bulldogs can afford with the current state of affairs being what it is. But replacing seasoned veterans with unproven talent is always a risky proposition. Certainly it helps when they have a lot of stars by their name, but that’s no guarantee. Hopefully Georgia will get a nice blend of contribution from brilliant newcomers, developing lettermen and established stars. That certainly came to past this last season, though finding leadership to rival the group that just left will be the ultimate challenge. Of all this, Smart is well aware. He comes from a place that has been able to put all that back together on the regular. And he’s bringing all that knowledge to a place that’s been doing pretty doggone good as it is. Nobody has won more than Alabama over these last 10 years, games (125) or national championships (5). But Georgia hasn’t been all that far behind. The Bulldogs stand ninth in victories over that span with 96. The key is keeping those lows high and the highs at the very top of the mountain. Smart has given the Bulldogs a peek of that view. Everyone seems to be in agreement that they like it. Now, to find the next Roquan. … The post Greatest coaching challenge for Georgia’s Kirby Smart awaits him in 2018 appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Every year we see a handful of prospects drastically improve their NFL draft stock with huge bowl game performances. This season, no player’s stock was helped more by a huge postseason than Georgia’s Sony Michel, according to a report by NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah.  Jeremiah polled a handful of NFL executives, asking which player helped himself the most in bowl season, with three of the five executives naming Michel as the biggest winner. One called Michel a “three-down back,” while another took things a step further by saying that Michel “separated himself from [Nick] Chubb.”  In his two College Football Playoff games, Michel totaled 320 yards from scrimmage and 4 touchdowns. His performance against Oklahoma was particularly monstrous, as he ran for 181 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 11 attempts, while also adding 4 catches for 41 yards and another touchdown.  At the moment, Michel is likely to go in Round 2 or 3, though he could continue to improve his stock with a big NFL combine or Georgia pro day.
  • ATHENS – Well, there goes Jacob Eason, headed back West, we assume. And there goes Trent Thompson, headed for the NFL. And just like that, the top players in Georgia’s classes of 2015 and ’16 are gone. No, surprise in either case, I’d say. As to how it might affect the 2018 Bulldogs, any loss of elite talents such as these two are is going to hurt your team. Sure, they will be replaced by others, but to assume that it will be an equal or even net gain trade-off would be foolhardy. But in each case the moves were made with their personal futures in mind, not Georgia’s. On that front, I’d argue that they were both justified and understandable. Eason should arrive back in Lake Stevens, Wash., with his bags packed full of good will and kudos from the Bulldog Nation. I certainly hope he does. The kid certainly didn’t do anything wrong. In fact, I’d go as far as saying he did everything right. There’s no question he did once that fateful injury sidelined him on Sept. 2, 2017. Running to the sideline under pressure from an Appalachian State defender, Eason caught a little shove in the back as he was heading out of bounds. That little bit of force caused him to land awkwardly on his left leg as he tried to step over the yard-marking chain and all sorts of other sideline flotsam with those long and lanky legs. It was just enough to sprain the medial collateral ligament and sideline him for at least four weeks. Then the world discovered Jake Fromm. The true freshman from Houston County, who thought he might play in garbage time that day, had to scramble to throw on his helmet and get in the game. Fifteen games and 13 wins later, it was only at garbage that he ever left a game the rest of the way. The season didn’t end until this past Monday when Georgia fell short in the CFP Championship game against Alabama, 26-23 in overtime. There were a lot of reasons why the Bulldogs lost, but quarterback play wasn’t one of them. One of the memorable scenes for me at the end of that heartbreaking loss involved Eason. The former 5-star quarterback prospect nicknamed “Skinny” – who’s not so skinny anymore — waited inside the tunnel leading to Georgia’s locker room for Fromm to come off the field. There Eason greeted his road-game roommate with a hug and put his arm around Fromm as they made their way out of the limelight. Eason told us out in Los Angeles during Rose Bowl preparations that he healthy enough to play again by midseason. But Georgia, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney would also attest, made the choice to stick with Fromm, who at that point remained undefeated and was improving at an incredible rate with each week. All the while, Eason kept preparing and staying ready if called on while also supporting his position-mate. As he said, he always remained “a play away.” The Seattle Times, citing “several sources,” reported days ago that Eason was transferring to Washington, his home-state school located 45 minutes away from his home in Lake Stevens. For what it’s worth, Eason’s father told me in a text they “aren’t a source” and “I don’t know where that came from.” So Eason may or may not be headed there, but I have no reason to doubt that very reputable news outlet. If he does land at UW, Eason will have to sit out a year. But the biggest thing will be his proximity to home. Think about these last two years for the Eason family. They’ve made the trip from Seattle to Atlanta multiple times and were pretty much everywhere Georgia was all this season. They were doing that not knowing whether their kid, the one they call “Jake,” would get in and knowing he probably wouldn’t. Another year or so of that didn’t make much sense. To have their son just down the road and in position to come him every holiday does, regardless of future prospects. As for Thompson, his decision doesn’t surprise me in the least. Though he was largely insulated from interacting with the media very much since he arrived at UGA, I felt like I knew Thompson pretty well. I spent a couple of days with him down there in Albany for a Next Generation piece I did the week he graduated from Westover High School. I sat in his house and talked to his mom and aunt and little brother and rode around town with Trent and met his uncle down at his Goodtimes restaurant on South Slappey Boulevard. Thompson is a great college player who probably could benefit from another year in school to improve his draft status and all that. But there’s also a lot of people in Albany hoping and praying for him to earn living to help out all his loved ones down there who have lifted him up so much the last several years. Clearly, Thompson had some medical problems that led to that rather high-profile incident on campus last February. He also battled shoulder and knee injuries that forced him to miss a lot of playing time this season. As a result, Thompson didn’t have as exceptional a season as he did as a sophomore. But he made it through 15 games still upright and still made a lot of plays for the Bulldogs, including three tackles in the championship game. Still walking and relatively healthy after all that, I’m sure that made him think, “I better do this while I can.” Thompson likely won’t be the last of the underclassmen leaving Georgia after this magical season. Linebacker Roquan Smith almost certainly will be next. He’s getting some Top 10 projections in NFL mock drafts. There’s no guarantee, but that’s like winning the lottery, for you and me. So I’m sure no one will begrudge Smith whenever he makes that decision. There might be others. Jonathan Ledbetter has been pretty adamant that he’s coming back, and that’s a very good thing for Georgia if he does. Cornerback Deandre Baker and center Lamont Gaillard are among those who were still thinking about it late in the year. It’d be worth their while to remain in college, in my opinion. But who knows. I saw some fans post on social media that Friday’s news was adding to their depression from having lost the national championship to Alabama. But it shouldn’t. This is just the price of doing business on this level. This is why Kirby Smart remains such a relentless recruiter and tries to stack 5-stars on top of 5-stars at every position. As for the quarterback position, I think the Bulldogs will be fine. Certainly there are some depth concerns. But in addition to getting Justin Fields ready to play fast, the Bulldogs also have Stetson Bennett waiting in the wings. Scoff if you want, but it has been a long time since I’ve heard as many players and coaches rave about a scout team quarterback the way they have Bennett. I’m convinced he could handle anything Georgia needed if pressed into service. Meanwhile, I’ll watch with great interest how Eason’s future unfolds. He gave Georgia all he had and remained a good teammate and friend when things didn’t go his way. He told me in L.A. he thought things would have gone just as well for the Bulldogs had he not gotten injured because of the tremendous team chemistry and overall talent this team possessed. Alas, we’ll never know. But Eason should also leave knowing there’s a whole nation of Bulldogs rooting for him going forward. Unless and until they run into each other in the playoffs one day. And even then they’ll probably hope he plays well. I know I will. The post Can’t really begrudge these two Bulldogs for their decisions to leave appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Georgia junior football player Rashad Roundtree announced he is giving up football due to concussions, which caused him to miss most of this past season. Roundtree, a reserve at safety and inside linebacker, revealed the news in a series of Twitter messages he posted on Wednesday. > Also: Read more about concussions in college athletics, and the steps some schools are taking to minimize concussion-related injuries on myAJC.com “As a result of a number of concussions, it is with a heavy heart that I announce that my journal in the path of football has come to an end,” Roundtree wrote. “As a child, all of my dreams involved playing football and it deeply saddens me that I can’t play anymore. I want to humbly thank everyone that has supported me and who continue to support me. “From little league, to middle school, through high school and now at Georgia my life has always been filled with football. My best memories involve being out on the field with my boys and with my family in the crowd cheering me.” Roundtree did not play this season. He did not practice for the latter part of the season. Head coach Kirby Smart said that Roundtree was dealing with injuries. An AJC Super 11 selection in 2014 out of Lakeside High in Evans, Roundtree played in 24 games as a freshman and sophomore, mostly on special teams. He began as a safety, briefly tried inside linebacker in 2016, the moved back to the secondary. It is unclear whether Roundtree will remain at UGA on scholarship, but that is usually an option in medical cases. Roundtree could take a medical disqualification, allowing the team to keep him on scholarship but not having him count against the team’s NCAA scholarship limit of 85. > Also: Read more about concussions in college athletics, and the steps some schools are taking to minimize concussion-related injuries on myAJC.com