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    Floridians struggling with the aftereffects of Hurricane Irma could be eligible for help buying food. >> Read more trending news  Officials say households that may not normally be eligible under SNAP rules may qualify for two months of benefits through USDA’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. To be eligible, a family's income must be under the disaster limits and they must have qualifying disaster-related expenses.  Applicants must have been living in the declared disaster area at the time of the disaster. If eligible, recipients will receive disaster food assistance benefits that will be accessed using an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.  D-SNAP eligible households will receive two months of benefits equivalent to the maximum amount of benefits normally issued to a SNAP household of their size to meet their food needs as they settle back home following the disaster.  To be eligible for D-SNAP, a household must have lived or worked in an identified disaster area on Sept. 5 when mandatory evacuation orders began, have been affected by the disaster, and meet certain D-SNAP eligibility criteria.  The D-SNAP announcement is the latest in an ongoing series of USDA actions to help Florida cope with the storm and its aftermath. This includes the early release of September benefits to all current SNAP participants prior to the storm’s impact, a waiver to allow SNAP participants to buy hot foods and hot food products with their benefits at authorized SNAP retailers statewide through Sept. 30, and mass replacement of 40 percent of household SNAP benefits to current participants in 52 counties.  Details on Florida’s D-SNAP program, also known as Food for Florida, is available at the Food for Florida website.
  • A Foxborough, Massachusetts, man shot and killed his 6-year-old son Thursday night before turning the gun on himself and committing suicide, the Norfolk County District Attorney said Friday morning. Around 11:30 p.m. Thursday, the Foxborough Police Department received a 911 call from a neighbor to report what appeared to be a medical emergency. >> Read more trending news “First responders came to the scene and located 6-year-old Anthony Scaccia suffering from a single gunshot wound,” District Attorney Michael Morrissey said at a news conference Friday morning. “He was taken to Norwood Hospital where he was pronounced dead.” First responders also located William Scaccia Jr., 49, Anthony’s father, dead from a single gunshot wound to the head, Morrissey said. >> Related: Mother feared father would kill son, self, affidavit says “As far as we know he was not living at that house,” Foxborough police Chief William Baker said. “The occupants of the house, including this child, had a family relationship with him and had lived there previously.” Baker said the police department had previous run-ins with William Scaccia. “The history recently led me to deny him a pistol permit in July of this year,” Baker said. “He appealed that denial to the District Court in Wrentham. On Sept. 8, the judge in the District Court supported my denial, preventing him from being licensed from having a firearm.” Baker reiterated the fact that they had previous history with William Scaccia, which were described as “family and domestic relationships,” which, he said, were complicated. One of those run-ins with police, Baker said, led to his arrest on Sept. 16. The incident is under investigation by state and local authorities, and Morrissey said a weapon and shell casings were recovered from the scene. “There was also some evidence that an accelerant was spread through parts of the house and in a hallway area and upstairs,” Morrissey said.  The boy’s grandmother was asleep in the home and awoke to smoke and flames. She was able to extinguish the fire before first responders arrived. Baker said the most important part of this incident, in his opinion, was the killing of Anthony Scaccia. He said that in his previous jurisdictions the police department created public service announcements pleading to “people on the edge” to reach out to clergy or other resources to get them the help they need.  “Seek help rather than make a horrific decision like this, to take the life of an innocent child,” Baker said.  Foxborough Public Schools Superintendent Debbie Spinelli said the entire community was shaken. “Our hearts go out to this sweet little boy who was just starting his educational journey and to those who loved and cared for him,” Spinelli said in a statement. “Counselors are available at school (Friday) morning for our students and staff, and will continue next week.”
  • U.S. President Donald Trump is clearly not a fan of the national anthem protests that have been taking place in the NFL over the past year. >> Read more trending news While at a Friday campaign rally for Alabama Sen. Luther Strange in Huntsville, Alabama, Trump took on a number of things during his speech, including North Korea and Kim Jong Un, the crowd size of the rally and protests by NFL football players. Trump considers the protests are disrespectful, and used colorful language to say so. “Wouldn’t you love one of the NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a (expletive) off the field right now. Out. He’s fired!’” The crowd applauded Trump’s comments. Trump also referenced NFL ratings, which are down so far this year, and blamed the low numbers on the protests negatively affecting the game. He also blamed rule changes on hard hits. Trump seems to be taking a shot at former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who was the driving force behind the protests last year. Many players across many different teams and sports have since joined in on the protest during the anthem, generating attention among sports fans and others at large.
  • One woman in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, has a simple request for her 100th birthday: 100 birthday cards. The Northwest Florida Daily News reported that Bobbie Arrasmith, 99, celebrates her birthday Oct. 7. She wants handwritten cards for each year of her life. >> Read more trending news “Our whole family is trying to get her 100 birthday cards for her 100th birthday,” Arrasmith’s son, Richard Arrasmith, told NWF Daily News Thursday. “It would be such an honor, and we would appreciate any help that we can get.” As of the newspaper’s report, Arrasmith has about 20 cards that have mostly come from one of her seven grandchildren who lives out of the state. “I don’t feel like 100,” she told the newspaper. “I’m pretty healthy. They take good care of me...I take one day at a time and I thank the Lord in the morning for that extra day.” For more information on Arrasmith, visit NWFDailyNews.com. Those interested in sending handwritten birthday cards to Arrasmith can send them to 30 Memorial Parkway SW, Fort Walton Beach, FL 32548.
  • In celebration of her late older brother, fashion designer Donatella Versace reunited some of the most iconic supermodels from the 1990s at her runway show Friday at Milan Fashion Week. >> Read more trending news Harper’s Bazaar reported that Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Claudia Schiffer, Carla Bruni, and Helena Christensen walked the runway holding hands behind Versace during the finale of the show. The occasion marked 20 years since the death of Gianni Versace, the founder of the Italian fashion house. Gianni Versace was murdered by a serial killer in July 1997. The New York Times reported that the models -- who were some of the late designer’s favorites -- wore gold chain-mail gowns in a nod to a 1994 ad campaign. “For me, this is a celebration of my brother, an opportunity to do something lively and fun, that creates joy,” Versace told NYT of the finale of her show. “We need it these days.” See images of Versace, Campbell, Schiffer, Crawford, Christensen and Bruni at Milan Fashion Week below.
  • Frida, a rescue dog from the Mexican navy’s Canine Unit, has made headlines due to her heroic efforts following the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that rocked Mexico City on Tuesday.   The Los Angeles Times reported that the 7-year-old Labrador has saved more than 50 people since joining the Mexican navy. >> Read more trending news Throughout her career, Frida has recovered 52 people, 12 of which were alive, in various natural disasters, including the earthquake that hit in Oaxaca, Mexico, on Sept. 7. KABC reported that Frida carries a camera on her harness to assist rescue crews as she navigates areas that would not be accessible otherwise. Because of Frida’s age, the dog typically follows up after younger dogs, including 1-and-a-half-year-olds Evil and Echo, who first go into the rubble. Frida then confirms whether or not other dogs have detected a person, the LA Times reported. The Navy has dispatched 15 rescue dogs in an effort to find survivors and those who have died. About 270 people have been confirmed dead, and that number will likely rise as Frida and her crew continue their search. 
  • Remember the beloved character, Steve Urkel, from the ‘90s sitcom “Family Matters”? The house he frequented in the show, which appeared in the opening credits of the series is being demolished.  Earlier this week, the city of Chicago approved a demolition permit for the home, located at 1516 W. Wrightwood Ave., according to DNA Info.  >> Read more trending news The residence will be wrecked and removed to make room for a three-unit abode on the lot. Coldwell Banker Realtors told the DNA Info that renovations were not viable. However, the owners plan to hang a photo of the original house in the entry of the new building.  “Family Matters” made its debut on ABC in September of 1989. It lasted for nine seasons, airing its last episode in July of 1998. The series followed Chicago policemen Carl Winslow, his family and their pesky neighbor Steve Urkel. Although it was filmed in California, the series used the Chicago home as the backdrop. Take a look back at the opener below to spot it.
  • Former Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams was arrested in Texas on Tuesday on traffic warrants, records show. >> Read more trending news  Williams was pulled over for a traffic offense, then arrested on warrants, Austin police said. He is no longer in the Travis County Jail, records show.  Williams, who starred at the University of Texas and played seven seasons in the NFL, is currently a football analyst for ESPN's Longhorn Network. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1998 and was the second Longhorn to win college football’s top prize, and was also a two-time All-American. Earlier this year, Williams said he was racially profiled while walking through a neighborhood in Tyler. A man called 911 when he 'observed a black male, wearing all black, crouched down behind his wire fence,' and Tyler police stopped and searched Williams, according to media reports.  Williams was taken to the Travis County Jail 17 years ago, when he was playing for the New Orleans Saints, when he refused to sign a traffic ticket, according to previous media reports. 
  • Kylie Jenner, the youngest of the Kardashian-Jenner family, is reportedly pregnant, according to TMZ. The website, which first reported the news, cited “multiple sources close” to the reality TV star. >> Read more trending news Jenner, 20, and her boyfriend of five months, rapper Travis Scott, 25, have been telling their friends the news, according to TMZ’s Friday story. TMZ said it could not verify it, but Scott may have told friends they are expecting a girl. BuzzFeed News, citing “a source with knowledge of the situation,” also reported that Jenner is pregnant. “They started telling friends a few weeks ago,” a source told People. “The family has known for quite some time. She is REALLY excited and so is Travis!” TMZ reported that Jenner has been posting older photos on her Instagram as of late, and in a recent Snapchat, she posed for a photo in a baggy T-shirt. Recent photos Jenner posts are from the chest-up. The latest Instagram photo she posted Thursday was at least from November of last year, according  to BuzzFeed News. Jenner is due in February, a source told People.  Representatives for Scott and Jenner have not responded to reports.
  • A good Samaritan with a metal detector helped a couple recover a ring that was accidentally dropped into a Missouri pond earlier this month in a marriage proposal gone awry. >> Read more trending news A video of the proposal went viral after Seth Dixon got down on one knee to propose to his girlfriend of four years, Ruth Salas, on a wooden bridge over Kansas City’s Loose Park Pond, The Kansas City Star reported. In video posted on social media, Dixon can be seen opening the box that held the engagement ring, and then watching in horror as the ring pops out of the box and slides between the slats of the bridge they stood on. Photographer Staci Dabney said in a Facebook post that the couple’s friends grabbed goggles and jumped in the water to help find the ring, without luck. The video was seen by thousands of people across the internet, including Michael Long, of Springfield. 'I had a metal detector,” Long told KMBC. “I just thought it would just be nice to get up there, help a random couple out and find the ring before someone else found it.” Long told the news station that over the course of two days and hours in the water equipped with little more than the metal detector, a pair of goggles and a bucket filled with rocks to weigh him down, he found 25 nails, a toy car and the couple’s engagement ring. “First thing I did was jump out of the pond and I’m running to the people around me and I was like, ‘Do you think this thing is real?’” Long told the Star. “It’s a shock, like, ‘Did I really just find this thing?’” Dixon thanked Long on Wednesday in a Facebook post. “We truly appreciate you going out of your way to find our ring and returning it to us,” Dixon said. “Many people searched for the ring, but you are the one who found it. We appreciate your service!” The couple was in Los Angeles when the ring was recovered.  Dixon said he and Salas believed they were in town to film a segment for 20/20, but were surprised when they were instead brought on for a redo of their engagement on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” “Even with them knowing everything, they still decided to bless us with a new ring,” Dixon said. “After the show, we again mentioned the ring situation. They again said they wanted us to keep the new ring! All of the staff at ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ have been AMAZING and we are so thankful for them!” Dixon said the couple plans to marry on Oct. 21.

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.