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Could QB Jake Fromm be Georgia’s biggest advantage against Alabama?
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Could QB Jake Fromm be Georgia’s biggest advantage against Alabama?

Could QB Jake Fromm be Georgia’s biggest advantage against Alabama?

Could QB Jake Fromm be Georgia’s biggest advantage against Alabama?

ATHENS – It’s well known that Kirby Smart was a recruiting dynamo at Alabama, particularly in the state of Georgia. He always had a keen eye for talent and often got the Crimson Tide involved very early with the best prospects.

That was the case with Jake Fromm. Early on, Smart identified the big right-hander from Houston County as a special player with an “it factor” that nobody can really define. Smart had a good relationship with Fromm’s high school coach, Von Lassiter, who was the first to convince him that Alabama should take a long and hard look at his quarterback.

One of Kirby Smart’s first major moves as Georgia’s head coach was to flip Jake Fromm from his commitment to Alabama, where Smart had been his chief recruiter. (Wade Payne/Associated Press)

Smart did, he liked what he saw and he invited Fromm to the Crimson Tide’s camp. That represented the beginning of a relationship that might as well have been forged in steel.

Just ask Nick Saban. He knew how close Smart had become with Fromm and his family. So as soon as Smart was tabbed to the new head coach at Georgia, Saban predicted Fromm’s defection like a zone blitz.

“We were excited to have him be part of our program,” Saban said this week , “but we understood when Kirby went to Georgia … there was a chance of that happening.

And that was exactly what happened. It might’ve even happened a little faster than Saban predicted.

While all the media attention in December of 2015 was on Smart and his new staff’s intense efforts to keep longtime commitment and 5-star prospect Jacob Eason on the hook – Jim Chaney’s first act as offensive coordinator was to fly from his old job in Pittsburgh to Lake Stevens, Wash., to meet with Eason – Smart had already made his overture to Fromm about following him to Georgia.

This is something that will probably be hard to get Fromm talk much about this week. The Bulldogs, for whom he now starts and stars, will be facing Saban’s Crimson Tide in the College Football Playoff championship game on Monday in Atlanta.

Smart, ever the controller of messages like his former boss, has restricted all media access until Saturday, when title game’s mandatory media day takes place in downtown Atlanta. And surely then Fromm will be extremely measured in anything he has to say about the events that transpired between these two schools in recruiting two years ago now.

But Fromm was quite clear on the subject when I visited with him down in Warner Robins in December of 2016, a couple of weeks before he reported to UGA as an early enrollee.

“Yes, I immediately got an offer,” Fromm said in answering the question of how soon he got a Georgia offer from Smart. “Coach Smart was recruiting me for Alabama. Coach (Lane) Kiffin, too, but I had a really great relationship with (Smart) and just really bought into everything he had to sell. I really just loved his personality. My whole family loved him. It was like a perfect win-win situation for me and my family. I fell in love with the idea of going to Georgia. I’m a hometown kid, a home-state guy. I just wanted to be there; I wanted to be in Athens.”

That’s the way Lassiter remembers it, too. Officially, Fromm’s “flip date” from Alabama to Georgia is listed on Google’s news archives as March 3, 2016. That’s when you first read about it on DawgNation.

But Fromm had re-opened his recruitment well before that, and even have silently pledged to Georgia and Smart right on the spot.

“That’s right. (Georgia) called immediately,” Lassiter recalled Wednesday. “It was just days after Kirby got the job. Maybe the first day or the second day. It wasn’t long after that, that Coach Chaney came to see him. And then we went on an unofficial visit up there.”

Regardless of the actual date or moment of betrothment, Smart had the Fromms at “hello” once he was at Georgia. He’d always been their recruiting contact at Alabama, and they’d grown quite close.

Combine that with the fact that the entire household, Fromm included, had grown up as Georgia Bulldogs’ fans, and it was a no-brainer. It didn’t matter whether Eason was already there or Tom Brady himself, Fromm was going to accept any offer from UGA.

That’s where Fromm’s heart had always been. He grew up in a house bedazzled in UGA regalia. But that all came down in the weeks and months he was committed to Alabama. While Smart and the Crimson Tide were one of the first major programs to come forth with an offer, Georgia never did.

At the apex of Fromm’s recruitment and evaluation, Brian Schottenheimer was Georgia’s offensive coordinator. And for whatever reason, Schottenheimer didn’t believe he fit the Bulldogs’ bill.

“The only time they weren’t Georgia fans is when Georgia didn’t offer him and he was committed to Alabama,” Lassiter said with a life. “They were Bama fans for a little while in there. Otherwise, they’ve been all Bulldogs all their lives.”

That’s one heck of a note now that Georgia is getting ready to face the Crimson Tide in UGA’s first appearance in a national championship game in 35 years. Few people believe that the Bulldogs would be in the position if they didn’t have Fromm under center.

At this point, the narrative that Fromm can’t make all the throws, or the one that Chaney has reduced the offense’s complexity because he has a true freshman running it, have been proven to be nothing more than myths.

There are two plays in the second half of Georgia’s Rose Bowl semifinal win over Oklahoma that do well to illustrate that.

The Bulldogs trailed 31-24 late in the third quarter and were facing third-and-seven at the Oklahoma 38 when Fromm broke the huddle and approached the line of scrimmage. Before he reached the backside of center Lamont Gaillard, he recognized something in the Sooners’ defensive set that excited him. He immediately began barking signals and shouting instructions to each of Georgia’s offensive linemen and to tailback Sony Michel, who he directed to move from the right side of the backfield to the left. At the snap, Fromm handed the ball to Michel and he rambled untouched to the right side for a game-tying touchdown.

Later, when the Bulldogs were desperately trying to get down the field in the game’s final minutes to score and force an overtime, Fromm faded back to pass on third-and-10 and delivered a strike to Terry Godwin over the middle that went for 16 yards and a first down at the Oklahoma 7. Nick Chubb would score two plays later.

Even in extra time, after Lorenzo Carter blocked Oklahoma’s field goal attempt in the second overtime, it was the true freshman Fromm who was settling down his teammates to focus on the new task at hand.

“I started getting everybody together to try to get collected and calm down and go try to score,” Fromm said. “Everybody’s is hyped and going crazy, you know, and I have to the one to get everybody to have a level head and go attack from there.”

Michel attacked with a 27-yard TD run, and the Bulldogs’ ticket to Atlanta and their biggest game in 3 ½ decades.

College football analyst Kirk Herbstreit, who was calling the Rose Bowl for ESPN and will call Monday’s title game as well, was raving about what he’s seen from the young kid during a media conference call on Wednesday.

“The bigger the stage, the better he seemed to play,” Herbstrit said. “He’s one of those guys. Occasionally you have guys like that. So, as the game played out and Georgia was down, we kept trying to kind of get in front with ‘Georgia’s not out of this type of thing. This young kid is making adjustments and doing things that are unique to him.’ So, how he played, even though it would typically be very rare or unusual to see a guy play under pressure on that stage, knowing him and watching him, I personally wasn’t surprised at all.”

The ability and willingness to change plays is something Lassiter saw from Fromm going way back. Because Houston County ran so much fast-break/hurry-up offense, Fromm didn’t get a lot of opportunities to audible. But he took them whenever he could, even when his coach didn’t want him to.

Lassiter said he directed Fromm to “rodeo punt,” their terminology for a basic quick-kick, in a “huge region game.”

“That sucker changed it to a go-route with the outside receiver,” Lassiter said. “He threw it for a touchdown. If it hadn’t scored I probably would’ve strangled him. But it worked and he looked at me and shrugged his shoulders and smiled and there wasn’t much I could say.”

The crazy thing is, now some people are saying that Georgia might have the edge at quarterback in this game. And that’s with the Bulldogs going against a quarterback in sophomore Jalen Hurts who has proven himself one of the best play-makers in college football has led the Crimson Tide to 25 wins over the last two seasons and into the national championship game twice.

Saban, for one, doesn’t see anything from Georgia’s offense to indicate their true freshman quarterback is holding them back.

“He does a lot ‘check-with-me’s,’” Saban said of audibles, “which for a freshman quarterback probably demonstrates his knowledge of the game and preparation and intelligence. You know, he’s always been a fantastic passer and remains that way.”

Saban should know. He wanted him badly at Bama.

And so did Smart, wherever he happened to be coaching.

The post Could QB Jake Fromm be Georgia’s biggest advantage against Alabama? appeared first on DawgNation.

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  • 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
  • ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia’s Yante Maten was named to the Midseason Top-25 list for the John R. Wooden Award, presented by Wendy’s, the Los Angeles Athletic Club announced on Thursday. Maten, a 6-8, 243-pound, forward from Pontiac, Mich., is in the midst of a standout senior season for the Bulldogs and currently ranks second in the SEC in scoring at 19.3 ppg and first in rebounding at 8.9 rpg. He also is among league leaders in minutes played (fifth), field goal percentage (seventh) and free throw percentage (10th).  Maten has scored in double figures in 14 of the Bulldogs’ 15 games, with seven 20-point outputs and seven double-doubles. He scored a season-high 30 points against Temple, his fifth career 30-point outing and third career 30-point, 10-rebound performance. Earlier this season, Maten joined the Bulldogs’ top-10 carer leaders in both points and rebounds. He currently ranks No. 8 in both scoring (1,539 points) and rebounding (740 boards), as well as No. 4 in blocked shots (167), No. 5 in free throws made (410) and No. 6 in free throw attempts (547). Maten, who is the SEC’s active career leader in points, rebounds, blocks and double-doubles, was one of two league players on the 25-player Wooden ledger. Chosen by a poll of national college basketball experts based on their performances during the first half of the 2017-18 season, the list comprises of 25 student-athletes who are front-runners for the sport’s most prestigious honor. The players on the list are considered strong candidates for the 2018 John R. Wooden Award presented by Wendy’s.  The leading candidates will be further pared to 20 top players in early February. Fifteen top players who have proven to their universities that they are also making progress toward graduation and maintaining at least a cumulative 2.0 GPA will be submitted to voters on the Final Ballot prior to the NCAA Tournament.  Every year, players have made the Final Ballot that were not on the preseason or midseason lists. Voters are permitted to take into consideration the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament when casting the ballot. The 10-man Wooden Award All American Team will be announced the week of the “Elite Eight” round of the NCAA Tournament. The winner of the 2018 John R. Wooden Award will be presented during the ESPN College Basketball Awards presented by Wendy’s on Friday, April 6, 2018. Created in 1976, the John R. Wooden Award is the most prestigious individual honor in college basketball. It is bestowed upon the nation’s best basketball player at an NCAA Division I university who has proven to his university that he is making progress towards graduation and maintaining a minimum cumulative 2.0 GPA. Previous winners include Larry Bird (’79), Michael Jordan (’84), Tim Duncan (’97), and last year’s recipient, Frank Mason III of Kansas. Georgia is currently 11-4 on the season and 2-2 in SEC play. The Bulldogs return home on Saturday at 1:00 p.m. to host South Carolina at Stegeman Coliseum, where Georgia is a perfect 8-0 this season. The game is a sell-out The only seats that remain are the free 2,000 tickets for UGA students that will be distributed beginning at 11:30 a.m. on Saturday.