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If ever there was a UGA senior class to see honored, this 2017 bunch is it

If ever there was a UGA senior class to see honored, this 2017 bunch is it

If ever there was a UGA senior class to see honored, this 2017 bunch is it

If ever there was a UGA senior class to see honored, this 2017 bunch is it

Georgia-Notre Dame-Davin Bellamy-Lorenzo Carter

ATHENS – One million, eight hundred and sixty thousand.


At the very least, that is how much “The Big Four” left on the table to play for the Georgia Bulldogs this season. Probably would’ve been more.

As far as I know, nobody has ever referred to Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel as The Big Four. But how can you not? That is essentially certainly what they’ve been for Georgia this season.

I’m not talking about statistical contributions, necessarily. Yes, they’ve all contributed significantly to the Bulldogs’ cause in terms of what they bring to the team on the field each Saturday. But it’s really a more intangible effect that the Big Four has had on the 2017 squad.

It started with them walking away from that pile of money last December.

“Those four guys (coming back), it just shows their commitment,” said fellow senior Jeb Blazevich, a tight end. “I think that really set the tone for the rest of the team. It said, ‘hey, we’re investing another whole year into this.’… Even the younger guys are thinking, ‘this season is special.’”

And it has been special. Still is, despite that aberration that occurred last Saturday at Auburn. With a win Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats (7-3, 4-3 SEC), the No. 7-ranked Bulldogs can improve to 10-1 on the season and finish the year undefeated at home. They’ve already punched their ticket to Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the SEC Championship Game.

With that in hand, all other possibilities remain in play. That’s right, College Football Playoffs and national championship.

Scoff if you like, but that remains these seniors’ objective.

“We made a decision; we came back for a reason,” Carter said after the Bulldogs’ practice on Wednesday. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job so far. But all of us seniors – even the underclassmen – we let them know we’re not done yet.”

We never got an exact assessment of what The Big Four were told by the NFL when they asked for a draft evaluation after last season. It’s a very formalized and private process nowadays.

Essentially, underclassmen can inform the NFL’s college advisory committee that they’re considering foregoing their college eligibility to play professionally. Made up of high-level NFL personnel evaluators and individuals from scouting organizations, the advisory committee then reviews data and video provided by the players and their schools and offer a generalized assessment. They receiver either a “first- or second-round evaluation” or a “stay in school evaluation.”

Not everybody accepts their assessment. In 2016, 107 underclassmen entered the draft. Of those, 30 of them went, according to the NFL.

Without the benefit of these guys telling us the exact evaluation they received, there’s no way to know how much money The Big Four left on the table. But based on where I’m sitting, it’s at least the number I mentioned above.

That’s based on my personal view that each one of these guys would have made an NFL roster, regardless of their draft position. The NFL minimum salary for 2017 is $465,000. Multiply that by four and you get $1.86 million.

I don’t know what The Big Four’s presence has meant financially for UGA. I guess you could say without them, the Bulldogs probably aren’t eyeing a “New Year’s Six bowl” and certainly not an SEC Championship Game or playoff berth. All those come with their resident monetary rewards.

Intangibly, though, it’s hard to put a number on.

“That’s a group of guys that have been really special to me,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who advised the Big Four to come back. “But they’ve been really special to the DawgNation and the legacy they leave behind.”

Of course, it’s not just The Big Four who have made the Bulldogs into what they are this season. In fact, there are a bunch of seniors that have contributed to the cause this season. That goes beyond those who receive full-ride, grants-in-aid.

Including walkons, there are 31 seniors who will honored during Senior Day before Saturday’s game. Not all of them have been here the last four years, but most of them have. Guys like safety Dominick Sanders, who needs one pick to tie the school record for career interceptions; like Aaron Davis, who has started 41 games, most ever by a non-kicking walkon; or tackle Isaiah Wynn, who has played in all but two games the last four years, most of them starts. Including a year at prep school, John-John Atkins has been pledged to Georgia since 2012, and has likewise been a block of granite for the Bulldogs at noseguard.

Together, they’ve amassed a 37-12 record (.755). A couple more wins and they’ll finish among the Top 10 most successful teams of all time, which span 125 years.

As for the money, Carter has maintained that it really wasn’t about that for him or the other seniors that came back.

“We didn’t go out last year like we wanted to,” he has always maintained. “I feel like I had a lot more to do here so I couldn’t leave yet.”

Nevertheless, Carter may have benefited the most in that regard. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound outside linebacker from Norcross has been mentioned as a potential NFL first-rounder for next April.

Regardless, each of the Big Four has left an indelible mark on this program:

  • Chubb became just the second rusher in Georgia history to exceed 4,000 career yards and will finish as UGA’s second all-time behind Herschel Walker in rushing yardage, rushing scores (39), and all-purpose yardage (4,669). His 4,318 rushing yards are the fourth most in SEC history.
  • Michel is the fifth-leading rusher in Georgia history with 3,142 yards and could finish as high as third. He’s on pace to finish among the top five in all-purpose yards (3,755) yards as well.
  • Bellamy has played in 33 games, collecting 108 tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss. He ranks third on the team with nine quarterback pressures this season.
  • And Carter, he had a team-high nine tackles and a sack in the 42-7 win over Florida, a couple of huge sacks and fumble recoveries in the win at Notre Dame and 13.5 sacks in his career so far. Except for that stinging loss at Auburn last Saturday, senior year has been nothing but a blast for Carter and his classmates.

But it’s not over yet, Carter points out.

That’s why, if you’re going to Saturday’s game at Sanford Stadium, you really need to be inside and sitting in your seat by 3 p.m. Kickoff between No. 7 Georgia and Kentucky is not until 3:37 p.m., but setting aside an extra half-hour to honor these 2017 seniors rather than gulping down another cold one will be time well spent.

“These guys have meant a lot to this program, meant a lot to me personally, meant a lot to the staff, and they’ve meant a lot to this university,” Smart said. “I think we all owe it to them, as a fan base and as a coaching staff and as a team, to make sure that we give them our best effort.”

You can be assured that Georgia’s seniors will be bringing it.

The post If ever there was a UGA senior class to see honored, this 2017 bunch is it appeared first on DawgNation.

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Georgia Sports News

  • Georgia has landed a commitment from 4-star strong defensive end Bill Norton out of Christian Brothers HS in Memphis. Norton announced his decision to commit to the Bulldogs on Sunday evening on Twitter. Committed to the University of Georgia ⛓ #GoDawgs pic.twitter.com/EgPRlr98S2 — Bill Norton (@willienorton33) March 18, 2018 At 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, Norton is ranked the No. 8 strong defensive end in the 2019 class and No. 77 overall player in the nation, per 247Sports national composite rankings. The post 4-star DE Bill Norton commits to Georgia appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Two days after signing a minor-league deal with the Braves, Anibal Sanchez was tossed into fire against the defending world champions. He went four innings and allowed two runs against an Astros lineup featuring several regulars. He struck out two and walked one on 55 pitches (37 strikes). Sanchez was expected to debut on Sunday, though not as a starter. Scott Kazmir was scratched because of a freak minor jaw injury, putting the team’s newest acquisition out there from pitch one. “Everything came out good,” said Sanchez, who made his first start of the spring after two relief appearances with the Twins. “Especially considering I’d had two weeks, a week-and-a-half since I’d pitched in a game. Command-wise, it was right there. Communication with (catcher Kurt) Suzuki was there.” Never miss a minute of what’s happening with the Braves. Subscribe to myAJC.com
  • Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs are the favorite in the SEC East again in 2018. But, with the Dawgs having to replace a number of key starters, fans naturally have questions and concerns as spring practice begins Tuesday. Replacing all those tackles by Roquan Smith is a concern for the coming season. (John Kelley/UGA) You don’t lose talent such as  Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Roquan Smith, Davin Bellamy and Javon Wims without it having some impact on your program. Yes, the Dawgs are deep in young players, some of whom already have gotten a good bit of game experience. Still, expecting the 2018 team to pick up right where the 2017 national championship runners-up left off might be a tad unrealistic. That’s not to downplay Georgia’s chances of making it back to the College Football Playoff. If Smart and his staff find the right pieces to replace the holes in their starting lineup, another run like last season is possible. That process begins, and the position battles commence, on Tuesday. However, the work won’t be completed until summer, when most of the eye-opening freshman talent Georgia has signed arrives. In the meantime, we’ll get our first taste of the 2018 Dawgs on April 21 at the G-Day game in Athens. After a bit of an attendance drop-off last year following his spectacular 93K G-Day debut in 2016, Smart once again is urging Georgia fans to fill Sanford Stadium for this spring scrimmage, and that seems likely to happen on the heels of a very successful campaign. Looking ahead, my biggest concerns about the 2018 team are replacing the starting linebackers and rebuilding the secondary. Georgia will be without more than half its starters from a very good 2017 defense, including Roquan (who has earned first-name status with Bulldog Nation), Bellamy, Trenton Thompson, Lorenzo Carter, Reggie Carter, John Atkins and  Dominick Sanders. As my buddy Joel put it: “ My biggest concern can be summed up in four words: Roquan Smith is gone.” I don’t think we can expect anyone to be the “next Roquan” anytime soon, but the return of sometime starter Natrez Patrick, still not confirmed, would loom large. Other linebackers in the mix include Monty Rice, Walter Grant, Juwan Taylor, former tailback Tae Crowder, Nate McBride and Jaden Hunter. Plus, a couple of 4-star signees, Quay Walker and Otis Reese, could get a look once they’re on campus this summer. In the secondary, an occasional problem area for Georgia last season, Georgia returns the two strongest players, Deandre Baker and J.R. Reed, but the Dawgs will have to replace Sanders, Aaron Davis and Malkom Parrish. In at least one of those spots, though, it’s likely we’ll see an upgrade. Among those in contention will be returnees Tyrique McGhee, Richard LeCounte and Jarvis Wilson, plus, hopefully, Deangelo Gibbs, whose playing status remains uncertain, as he currently isn’t enrolled. You also can bet that 5-star signee Tyson Campbell will get a look once he arrives. As for the defensive line, Georgia played a lot of folks last year, so the departure of Thompson and Atkins shouldn’t be a major problem. Tyler Clark, Julian Rochester, Jonathan Ledbetter, Malik Herring and David Marshall look like the early favorites to start. Also in contention is DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, and an incoming freshman, big Jordan Davis (6-foot-5, 330 pounds), no doubt will get some snaps. D’Andre Swift appears likely to be Georgia’s starting tailback. (Andy Harrison/UGA) My next biggest concern is how much the running game will be affected by the loss of Chubb and Michel. The Dawgs are again stacked at tailback, but the experience level will drop quite a bit. Probable starter at tailback is speedy D’Andre Swift, who was used quite effectively last year as a runner and receiver, with Elijah Holyfield the likely thunder to Swift’s lightning. Brian Herrien also will get some carries in the tailback-by-committee arrangement, and, come fall, highly regarded freshmen Zamir White and James Cook will provide depth. (White already is enrolled, but he’s rehabbing a torn ACL, so we probably won’t see much, if any, of him this spring.) This time last year, the offensive line was one of my chief worries, and what we saw at G-Day only exacerbated those qualms, but, once the season arrived, OL play generally was much improved. The Dawgs lose Isaiah Wynn, but Andrew Thomas, Lamont Gaillard, Kendall Baker, Ben Cleveland and Solomon Kindley lead the returnees, plus redshirt freshman Isaiah Wilson will get a chance. More mix-and-match shuffling on the line is likely, especially in the spring, and we could wind up seeing a freshman earn a starting spot, as we did last year with Thomas. Early enrollee Cade Mays and Jamaree Salyer, who’ll arrive this summer, seem like the most likely candidates. The Dawgs also will have to replace Wims’ production at wide receiver. Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman and Riley Ridley (who stepped up in the game against Alabama) look like the top choices, with Ahkil Crumpton, Tyler Simmons and J.J. Holloman also in the mix. The Dawgs’ tallest receiver, Matt Landers (6-foot-5), also could be a handy target for Jake Fromm. Speaking of Fromm, although I’m sure there’ll be a healthy quarterback competition during spring practice, I fully expect him to hold on to the starter’s position come fall. Too much is made, generally, of how backup quarterbacks do in the G-Day game. Still, it will be fun to see how 5-star early enrollee Justin Fields looks this spring, especially since he’s more of a dual threat than Fromm. And, during the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to see special packages introduced for Fields, especially in the red zone. Despite spring competition, Jake Fromm is likely to remain starting quarterback. (Caitlyn Tam/UGA) The big question to me on offense is whether coordinator Jim Chaney will take some pressure off Fromm and the young running backs by calling more passes to his talented roster of tight ends, who mostly were ignored last season. Swift has the potential to be as good as Michel, but he’s not there yet. And Holyfield isn’t Chubb. Maybe one of the freshman backs will make a big splash, but, in the meantime, the offense will need more weapons. And tight end Isaac Nauta, in particular, is too good to be left out of the passing game, as he mostly was last year. Still, I’m like my son when it comes to Georgia throwing to its tight ends: I’ll believe it when I see it. A somewhat lesser concern for me is replacing reliable one-year starter Cameron Nizialek at punter, but incoming freshman Jake Camarda looks very promising. A more intangible concern, expressed by my brother Tim, is whether the 2018 team will play “with the same intensity and desire as last year’s team. I think, overall, they will have more talent and athletic ability; I just hope there’s no letdown.” Despite his concerns, though, Tim expects another special season — maybe even the best ever. As he put it: “15 & 0 baby!!” How about you? Will Tom Crean’s enthusiasm be contagious? If Tom Crean can elicit from Bulldog Nation the sort of enthusiasm he showed at his introductory press conference, we could be entering a new and exciting era of Georgia basketball. New basketball coach Tom Crean showed plenty of enthusiasm in his UGA debut. (Steffenie Burns/UGA) Crean might have been Georgia’s second choice to replace Mark Fox as coach — and the unrequited courtship of Thad Matta was a tad awkward for UGA — but I like the way Greg McGarity aimed high, opened the purse strings, and didn’t waste any time moving on to Plan B. Georgia still got a high-profile “name” coach with postseason experience at major programs. I think Crean is a good hire. Yeah, he was a little over the top at his extroverted Athens debut, but he’ll probably calm down a bit once he’s on the job. And, I certainly wouldn’t object to having some passion and energy injected into the Georgia basketball program. Maybe his established track record, and that enthusiasm he showed, will help salvage Georgia’s recruiting class, once ranked No. 1 in the nation but then decimated by the declining fortunes of Fox. One thing’s for sure, with Crean’s emphasis on offense, games at the Steg should be entertaining. The post Dawgs look to replace key starters as spring practice opens appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia does not enjoy the history or fan support of the previous two programs that Tom Crean took over. And yet the team Crean inherits at Georgia is almost certainly the best of the three he has taken over. Crean’s debut as a head coach was at Marquette, which had gone 14-15 he was hired. His first two teams won just 15 games, then in Year 3 they won 26 and the next year they won 27 and made the Final Four. (It helped that Dwyane Wade joined in Year 3.) At Indiana, Crean took over a roster that was depleted and a program that had just been hit by the NCAA with three years of probation. Those first three years saw win totals of 6 (the fewest in school history), 10 and 12. Then Cody Zeller arrived and things took off for Crean and Indiana. It may not take as long at Georgia. Yes, the Bulldogs lose Yante Maten, the AP SEC Player of the Year. (And a player who chose Georgia over Crean and Indiana four years ago, as Crean pointed out Friday.) They also lose starting small forward Juwan Parker. But as long as there’s no attrition — and that’s always a possibility with a new coach — Georgia is due to return 59.5 percent of their scoring and 68.9 percent of their rebounding. The players who return also account for 72 percent of the 3-pointers Georgia made last season. “We’re going to shoot the 3,” Crean said. “We’re not going to lead the country in attempts. But I certainly hope we can lead the country in percentage.” Mark Fox was not fired by Georgia because his teams didn’t win. They just didn’t win enough. They were 18-15 in his last season, a fifth straight year of winning 18 or more games. The loss of Maten and Parker, and a coaching change, will affect continuity. But Crean appears to know that there is a potentially strong nucleus of players. And potentially a strong player or two on the way. Crean specifically mentioned Nicolas Claxton, the lanky 6-foot-11 freshman who showed flashes this past season. Another freshman, Rayshaun Hammonds, was a top-60 recruit last year. Point guard Teshaun Hightower, yet another freshman, came on near the end of the season, playing more minutes in several games than starting point guard Turtle Jackson. There’s also shooting guard Tyree Crump, who as a sophomore was second on the team in 3-pointers. And post player Derek Ogbeide may have had an uneven junior season, but he is a rebounding machine. “There is no question that there is talent, and there is versatility, and there’s a lot of youth inside of this program,” Crean said. “They defend, and they know how to run offense, they move the ball. I mean they’ve been well-coached. C’mon, I could go down the line there’s no doubt about that. “And getting to know them, and seeing where that versatility could go, and seeing a level of them taking that next step because there’s so much youth. Continuing to build the skills, continuing to build the shooting, continuing to build the strength and conditioning, those aspects of it. And then the real assessment: What do we need for now? Because there’s a lot of players here.” When there are coaching changes, teams often take a step back because coaches are willing to take a short-term hit in order to instill their program. Crean has a six-year contract. He doesn’t necessarily need to win right away. And his emphasis will be different from Fox, who was defense-oriented. Crean wants his teams to play good defense, but his teams were always known more for their scoring. But when asked about the short-term vs. long-term on Friday, Crean didn’t commit either way. He said he thinks he’ll have a “much better indication” in a few months after seeing how hard the players work. He also made clear he’s already been studying his new team closely. “I’m not one of those coaches to say, no we’re not looking at last year. Because we’ve already looked at last year. I’ve been watching it all year. And I’m going to do it even more so,” Crean said. “And we’re going to have a real good gauge on where they’re at based on what we see, and keep starting to put those details in to help. But the foundation is here, we’ve just got to build it up.” The post Tom Crean won the press conference at Georgia, but how quickly will he win games? appeared first on DawgNation.
  • MILWAUKEE (AP) - The Milwaukee Bucks pushed the pace and kept their composure late in the fourth quarter. The Atlanta Hawks struggled to regain their footing in the closing minutes after their best ball-handler fouled out. Giannis Antetokounmpo and his teammates capitalized for a 122-117 win on Saturday. Antetokounmpo had 33 points and 12 rebounds, and Khris Middleton added 23 points for Milwaukee, which finished off the worst team in the Eastern Conference with a game-ending 11-5 run. 'We just trust one another, and we focused on our strengths,' Antetokounmpo said. 'Then we were able to make some shots and then get multiple stops in a row.' Two key stops late ended with lob passes downcourt to point guard Eric Bledsoe, who handed off the ball each time to teammates for easy transition buckets. The Hawks didn't have an answer after Dennis Schroder fouled out with 2:46 left. To make matters worse for Atlanta, Schroder was called for a technical foul after exchanging words with an official on the way to the sideline. Middleton hit the free throw that started the run. The Hawks looked rushed on their next two possessions with a turnover and a blocked shot. Trailing by 13 at one point, Atlanta put up a spirited fight before losing its 50th game of the year. 'It's (Dennis') sixth foul, it's a shooting foul. You compound it with getting a technical,' coach Mike Budenholzer said. 'Just giving up points when it's that close, when it's that tight. It's hard. It's a learning experience for all of us.' Taurean Prince tied a career high with 38 points on 13-of-26 shooting, while Schroder finished with 18 points. But his technical foul turned out to be a turning point in the game. 'It can't happen. I've just got to be quiet and go to the bench and be better,' Schroder said. The Bucks needed this victory to keep up in the crowded Eastern Conference playoff race after an ugly loss on Wednesday at 49-loss Orlando, with the Cleveland Cavaliers up next on Monday. 'That's important at the end of the day, closing the game out and getting the win,' coach Joe Prunty said. Milwaukee had the early comeback, rallying from an 11-point deficit to take a 56-50 halftime lead after figuring out Atlanta's effective pick-and-roll game. TIP-INS Hawks: Second in the league in forcing 15.6 turnovers a game, Atlanta got Milwaukee to cough up just 12 on the night. ... Prince had averaged 28.3 points over his previous three games. ... F John Collins left in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle. Bucks: C Tyler Zeller missed the game with lingering back soreness. ... G Brandon Jennings played 17 minutes and scored two points in his first home game since being signed by his former team to a 10-day contract last week. ... Parker was assessed a technical foul late in the second quarter after appearing to get in the face of Atlanta's John Collins after dunking over the forward. Parker had 11 points off the bench in the first half on 5-of-9 shooting. FLAGRANT FOUL Collins got hurt after landing on Antetokounmpo's right leg while attempting a 3. Officials called a flagrant foul on Antetokounmpo, who said after the game there was no intent on his part. Antetokounmpo had his back turned on Collins to watch the ball, and he did not appear to move when Collins landed on Antetokounmpo's right foot. 'I think it's just the rule this year, when you are going to contest,' Budenholzer said. 'I don't think it was anything intentional by Giannis. It's just one of those unfortunate plays.' JUST JABARI Jabari Parker added 15 points off the bench for Milwaukee and tormented the Hawks with two thunderous dunks in the first half. Five weeks after returning from a knee injury, the fourth-year forward is showing that he can once again serve as Antetokounmpo's frontcourt running mate. 'I'm just playing like I'm practicing,' Parker said. 'Right now, I know where my shots are going to be. ... It hasn't been easy, but it has been working.' UP NEXT Hawks: The second stop of a six-game trip takes them to Utah on Tuesday. Bucks: Visit the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday. ___ More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball