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Georgia Greats: D.J. Shockley left Bulldogs with smile and an SEC title
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Georgia Greats: D.J. Shockley left Bulldogs with smile and an SEC title

Georgia Greats: D.J. Shockley left Bulldogs with smile and an SEC title

Georgia Greats: D.J. Shockley left Bulldogs with smile and an SEC title

Georgia-Bulldogs-D.J. Shockley-SEC-Mark-Rict

(Note: This is part of a series of stories on legendary Georgia Bulldogs.)

DULUTH, Ga. – It’s one of the smallest pictures you’ll find on the walls of D.J. Shockley’s basement. And there are a LOT of pictures in his basement. Some are big, some small, some in fancy frames, others just frameless posters. There’s even a life-size banner of Shockley that a friend snagged from the side of Sanford Stadium back in the day.

But this one picture, the little one in the nondescript black frame, is his favorite.

It features a beaming Shockley in the middle, his mouth agape in what must’ve been a full-guttural laugh. To his left in the picture, arm-and-arm in an embrace, is Georgia head coach Mark Richt sporting a giddy smile himself. Teammate Kedric Golston and SEC Commissioner Mike Slive are also in the shot, but they’re in the periphery, both literally and figuratively.

Justin Fields-D.J. Shockley
D.J. Shockley enjoys life these days – especially when he’s at his Duluth home. (Nate Gettleman/DawgNation)

No, this picture is all about those two central figures, Shockley and Richt. It was taken after the Bulldogs’ stunning victory over LSU in the 2005 SEC Championship Game. Shockley, a senior, earned MVP honors. The scene is succinctly summarized with the hand-written inscription from Richt across the bottom.

“I told you you’d leave here with a smile on your face,” Richt wrote. He signed the pic and sent it to Shockley in the mail shortly after that season ended.

Never, Shockley said, has one sentence better summed up a career.

“That tells it all right there,” Shockley said, admiring the pic a thousandth time.

A lot of people know Shockley’s story at Georgia. Or at least they think they know. They know he came to Georgia as the No. 2-rated dual-threat quarterback in America. They know they he came there at a time when David Greene was already running the offensive show for the Bulldogs. They know Shockley competed with and shared time with “Greenie,” and actually had some good moments here and there. But they also know that he could never unseat the quarterback who would leave UGA as the winningest quarterback in NCAA history.

So everybody understands when Shockley explains how he almost left Georgia. Shockley went into Richt’s office after the 2002 season with that expressed intention. But that’s when they had the conversation that Shockley said changed his life. That’s when Richt first uttered those words that are now permanently preserved in black Sharpie on the bottom of a 5-by-7 glossy in the basement of his home.

Mark Richt closes the deal

“I really believe when you leave here, you’ll leave here with a smile on your face,” is the exact way Richt first put it. But as one might expect, those were simply the last words in a long and heartfelt conversation that started with Shockley saying, “Coach, I’m thinking about leaving.”

Shockley recounts it here:

“And he says, ‘Shock, first off I’m going to tell you, we love you. You’re gonna get a great education here. I can’t sit here and say, you’re going to play this many series. I can’t sit here and say I’m going to let you start two or three games. I’m not going to do that to you. I’m going to be honest. I’m going to be straightforward. We want you here, we love you here. And I think you will still have a great career here. And I really believe when you leave here, you’ll leave here with a smile on your face.”

Georgia-D.J. Shockley-SEC Network- quarterback
D.J. Shockey helped UGA and Mark Richt win an SEC title in 2005. (AJC File)

Shockley wasn’t sure if he believed that at the time. He entered Richt’s office that day with his mind pretty much made up that he was going to leave if he wasn’t given certain assurances. Like any other athlete of his ilk, Shockley knew he could play. He’d performed well enough not only in practices but also in games to know that. And he knew “Greenie” could, too, and he didn’t hold that against him. But unless Shockley could get himself into a situation where he could truly showcase his talents, he knew his NFL dreams would wither away.

Meanwhile, there were plenty of other opportunities to be had. His father, North Clayton High School coach Donald Shockley, had been fielding calls right and left. And they weren’t coming in from lower-division or second-tier schools. Maryland’s Ralph Friedgen and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden were telling his dad Shockley “could walk in right now and play.”

“My dad’s like, ‘Hey, you ready to go?’” Shockley recalled with a laugh.

But he wasn’t.

“At that moment, I knew I had to make the decision for me,” he said. “I had to make a decision that I would live with for the rest of my life. Nobody else would live with this decision. I had to look at myself in the mirror every single day.”

Shockley didn’t give Richt his decision right then and there. The plan was to take same time to think about it. But he didn’t really need it.

“As I left Coach Richt’s office, I knew this was the guy I wanted to play for,” Shockley said. “No matter where I went, if I went somewhere else, who knows what the situation may be? Who knows what the coach would have been like? But I knew exactly where Coach Richt stood and I knew that he cared about me as a person first, and he knew my abilities. Obviously, he cared about me, and was honest enough with me to tell me the truth. That went a long way for me. And obviously, knowing I would get my degree from University of Georgia, being a guy that will live here, born and raised in Atlanta, Ga., that was another part of it.”

Imagine that, Richt kept Shockley at Georgia by telling him exactly what he didn’t want to hear.

D.J. Shockley and Mark Richt celebrate the 2005 win in the SEC Championship. (Getty Images)

True to his word, there wasn’t a drastic change in the way Richt utilized the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks the next season. Shockley played mainly as a backup to Greene.

Eventually they’d establish a rotation; for a while it was every third series. But, generally, Richt went with his gut, changing quarterbacks only when the compulsion or the game dictated it.

Shockley was playing though. He appeared in 26 games for the Bulldogs those first three seasons. He had 24 TD passes and 5 interceptions in that span.

But it was his senior year before Shockley finally started. And he started with a bang.

In the 2005 season opener against Boise State, Shockley established a school record for touchdowns accounted for. He had six – five passes and a run – and the Bulldogs rolled over Boise State 48-13 in a game many of the national pundits had labeled as an upset special.

That game served notice to the college football world that Georgia wasn’t going to fall off the map just because all those All-Americans had left.

All smiles in the end

“Coming into that year, we had a bunch of guys who had been backups for the previous two or three years,” Shockley said. “Greenie left, (David) Pollack left, Thomas Davis. So coming into that season everybody was saying it was rebuilding time for Georgia.”

Thanks to Shockley, it was merely a reload year. The Bulldogs were 6-0 and ranked No. 4 in the country when they rolled into Jacksonville to face Florida. But Shockley had sprained a knee the previous week and couldn’t play.

Shockley led UGA to a 10-3 record in 2005. He went 10-2 as a starter that year. (UGA)

“I didn’t dress out,” Shockley said. “I’m walking around before the game and I notice everywhere I go Charlie Strong (Florida’s defensive coordinator) is following me. He’s literally about 5 yards behind me. He’s watching my gait, seeing if I was going to play.”

Shockley didn’t, and Georgia lost 14-10 with Joe Tereshinski III filling in at quarterback.

“I remember seeing Urban Myer about 10 years later,” Shockley said. “I introduced myself, and he said, ‘Oh, yeah. I know you are. I remember ’05, we were scared to death you were gonna play. I told Charlie Strong, if this Shockley kid plays, we got no chance!’ It was fun to hear that story.”

Georgia dropped a heartbreaker to Auburn in the final seconds the next week, too. But the Bulldogs made it back to the SEC Championship Game, where they were big underdogs to No. 3-ranked LSU. That served as great motivation for Shockley and the Bulldogs.

“Nobody was talking about Georgia. ‘Georgia doesn’t belong here. They shouldn’t be here. They’re going to lose by 20.’ It’s the same thing that we heard all year long,” Shockley said. “I still remember to this day, Coach Richt stood in front of the team before we went out and said, ‘You make sure everybody watching this game, and especially those guys with the yellow helmets on, they know the guys with the G are here to play! We took it to heart.”

The post Georgia Greats: D.J. Shockley left Bulldogs with smile and an SEC title appeared first on DawgNation.

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  • ATHENS – Nick Chubb wasn’t himself Saturday. Oh, he ran hard and he gained a lot of yards and he scored some touchdowns. That we’ve all seen before. What we haven’t seen was Chubb celebrating and dancing. Well, sort of dancing. He climbed up on top of the cheerleaders’ platform in front of the UGA student section and celebrated Georgia’s 42-13 win over Kentucky with Sony Michel and the Bulldogs’ other seniors. Arm-in-arm, they sang and cheered and barked and laughed a little and smiled a lot and posed for a few thousand pictures. “Believe it or not, that was my first time ever doing that,” Chubb said in a postgame interview underneath the East End grandstands at Sanford Stadium. “I kind of saved it up for this moment.” Oh, we believe it, Nick. It was unlike anything we’ve seen before from the usually stoic tailback. For 42 games at Georgia, we’ve watched him smile and wave politely to the crowd as he jogged off the field after another one of his 100-yard rushing nights. No matter the gravity of the victory or how much he contributed to it, Chubb was never one to jump up in the stands or even dance some kind of jig. Usually, he’d slap a few hands on his way to the nearest field exit and maybe toss a sweatband or some gloves a kid’s way. “I had to convince him,” Michel, his roommate and backfield mate, said afterward. “It’s hard to convince him to do things like that.” It’s about time the kid showed some emotion. He deserved it. There was much to celebrate on this unseasonably warm and fuzzy Senior Night, much of it Chubb’s on doing. Let’s review. So he busted loose on a 55-yard touchdown run. That was a season-long run and gave Chubb 45 rushing TDs for his career (12 for the season).  That moves him to second on Georgia’s all-time list behind Herschel Walker (52), a theme you’re going to hear a lot in this space. That was Chubb’s second TD of the night, making it the 14th time he’s scored two or more in a game. That run also put him at 151 yards on the evening, making it the 23rd time he’s gone over the century mark. And it also put him over 1,000 yards for the season. He has 1,045 yards this year, so he stands now with Walker as the only two backs in Georgia history with three 1,000-yard seasons. It seems appropriate to interject here that Chubb had 747 yards when his sophomore season ended after five games with a knee injury. Else, he would’ve had four. “It’s an honor,” Chubb said of sharing a few more marks with Herschel. “That’s great company to have. Just to be with him, me and him, man, I’m happy about that.” You might note that it’s now really the only comparison to make with Chubb anymore, him and Herschel Walker. He’s eclipsed everybody else in Georgia history. What’s more, he’s doing it in this day and age. Not to take anything away from Walker or Bo Jackson or Marcus Dupree or any of those guys who thought nothing of carrying the ball 30 times a week. Chubb is doing what he’s doing in an era when SEC defenses don’t fall far down from NFL squads in terms of athletic pedigree and dedication to stuffing the run. And he’s also doing during a time in which coaches prefer their back share carries with others. While Chubb enters the 12th game of his fourth season with 686 carries, his best buddy Michel has 546 himself. That’s what I was thinking about when I asked Georgia coach Kirby Smart if he thought Chubb is underappreciated in terms of national acclaim. Smart went on a rant. “Yeah, I certainly feel like he’s underappreciated,” he said. “I don’t know how you guys feel but I appreciate what he’s done in an era where rushing the ball is really, really hard. It’s gotten harder and harder and harder. I’ve got no statistics to prove it but I’d venture to say Herschel ran for his (yards) in an era where a people were rushing the ball for a lot of yards. I’m not diminishing what Herschel did. I’m just enlightening people to Nick Chubb has rushed for three thousand-yard seasons in the SEC, the toughest conference in the country to run the ball. That’s pretty remarkable. “And he did alongside another back that is maybe just as talented as he is. What would he have done with 30 or 40 carries? Who knows. But I’m sure his body appreciates it.” Everybody is starting to appreciate a little more. It’s kind of like the old adage, you don’t really appreciate something or somebody until they’re gone. Well, Chubb’s not gone yet, but he’s almost out the door. Saturday was his last game in Sanford Stadium. He was one of 31 seniors the Bulldogs honored during Senior Day ceremonies before the game. That, Chubb said afterward, already had him feeling a little different before the game. He blamed Georgia’s slow start Saturday on those emotional proceedings, a rite of passage for seniors playing their last game between the hedges. The Bulldogs finally shook loose from its early doldrums. They needed Jake Fromm to hit a few passes downfield to get the running game going. When it finally did, it was devastating to Kentucky’s overmatched defense. Chubb’s teammates sensed something from him on Saturday. He seemed a little quicker, a little more shifty than usual. He busted through for his first TD on an eight-yard run midway through the third quarter. On the second play of the fourth, Chubb bounced an off-tackle dive outside and down the left sideline. Three Kentucky defenders who seemed to have angles to run him down did not. It was a 55-yard touchdown and gave the Bulldogs a 35-13 lead. “He looked fast on that run,” chirped Michel, who likes to tease Chubb about being faster. Chubb sounded very Herschel-esque in describing the sensational play. “It was great blocking,” he said. “I don’t think I got touched. I kind of hit the sideline wide open, so it was great blocking up front.” Same old Chubb there. But we’d learn later it was a different kind of night. There he was, the muscle-bound captain who never mugs for cameras or does touchdown poses, grinning from ear-to-ear and laughing and glad-handing fans and hugging teammates. For a few minutes, he seemed almost like a regular college student. But as we all know, he’s anything but. “It was a great moment,” Chubb said of his uncharacteristic celebration. “I know that’s my last time leaving that field as a Georgia Bulldog. That’s something I can never have back, so I had to enjoy it.” We did, too, Nick. We did, too. The post That was no ordinary Nick Chubb we saw running over and around Kentucky appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – Admit it, Georgia fans. Your Bulldogs had you a little nervous there for a minute, didn’t they? No worries. It was Kentucky that Georgia was playing. The seventh-ranked Bulldogs won 42-13 for their 57th all-time victory over the Wildcats. Only Georgia Tech (67) has lost more times to Georgia. Speaking of Georgia Tech, Georgia improves to 10-1 (7-1 SEC) just in time to face its rival next Saturday in the series that has come to be called “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.” The Yellow Jackets won in overtime last year in Athens. They fell to 5-5 with Saturday’s 43-20 loss at Duke. Saturday was a milestone game for Georgia’s Nick Chubb. With a 55-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter, Chubb had 151 yards rushing in the game, 1,045 for the season and 4,469 for his career. Chubb and Herschel Walker are now the only UGA backs to rush for more than 1,000 yards in three seasons. With the victory, Georgia’s seniors finish undefeated at Sanford Stadium for the first time since 2012, when it last went to the SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs also finished with a perfect record against Eastern Division opponents for the first time in school history. Before all that, UGA found itself trailing in the first quarter for the second straight week and managed just 21 yards on its first two possessions against the Wildcats. But then Kentucky remembered it was Kentucky. The Wildcats roughed Georgia’s punter and the Bulldogs took the ball the rest of the way for a touchdown and a lead they’d never relinquished. Kentucky kept it interesting. It received the second-half kickoff and went 75 yards in eight plays that mostly featured tailback Benny Snell to make it 21-13 on Snell’s 1-yard run. But the Bulldogs answered quickly with a long, scoring drive of their own, and order was restored. Somewhere in between, Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney realized it was not against the rules to pass on first down. After calling runs on nine consecutive first downs, Chaney flipped the switch in the second quarter and turned Jake Fromm loose. The result was three consecutive completions and back-to-back touchdown drives to open up a 21-6. Georgia controlled the game from then on. The post Nick Chubb, No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs run over Kentucky appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – One million, eight hundred and sixty thousand. Dollars. 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.
  • We are on the eve of the final home football game of the Georgia Bulldog season: the seventh-ranked Dogs host the Kentucky Wildcats in tomorrow’s SEC finale. Kickoff for UGA Senior Day is set for 3:30 in Sanford Stadium, with national television on CBS.   The senior ceremony will begin at 3:16 p.m. ET at Sanford Stadium. Kickoff for the Bulldogs’ final home game of the season is set for 3:30 p.m., with the contest nationally televised on the CBS.  The 31 seniors to be recognized are John Atkins, DL, Thomson, Ga.; Davin Bellamy, LB, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Jeb Blazevich, TE, Charlotte, N.C.; Aulden Bynum, OL, Valdosta, Ga.; Lorenzo Carter, LB, Norcross, Ga.; Reggie Carter, LB, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Nick Chubb, RB, Cedartown, Ga.; John Courson, LS, Athens, Ga.; Aaron Davis, DB, Locust Grove, Ga.; Jordan Davis, TE, Thomson, Ga.; Alex Essex, DL, Richmond, Va.; Turner Fortin, RB, Johns Creek, Ga.; Trent Frix, LS, Calhoun, Ga.; Jacob Gross, RB, Thomaston, Ga.; Carson Hall, OL, Dallas, Ga.; Daniel Harper, LB, Atlanta, Ga.; Matthew Herzwurm, LS, Augusta, Ga.; Tim Hill, DB, Atlanta, Ga.; David Marvin, K, Charlotte, N.C.; Miles McGinty, TE, Savannah, Ga.; Sony Michel, RB, Hollywood, Fla.; Cameron Nizialek, P, Chantilly, Va.; Malkom Parrish, DB, Quitman, Ga.; Christian Payne, RB, Athens, Ga.; Brice Ramsey, QB, Kingsland, Ga.; Dominick Sanders, DB, Tucker, Ga.; Dyshon Sims, OL, Valdosta, Ga.;Thomas Swilley, OL, Athens, Ga.; Shakenneth Williams, WR, Macon, Ga.; Javon Wims, WR, Miami, Fla.; Isaiah Wynn, OL, St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • ATHENS — The best thing about what happened to Georgia last week on The Plains and what might happen Saturday against at Kentucky at Sanford Stadium is that the Bulldogs happen to play football with 18-to-22-year-olds. “Kids are more resilient than the adults and the fan base, I can promise you,” explained coach Kirby Smart, talking about the 23-point loss to Auburn on 680 The Fan’s Bulldog Roundtable on Thursday. “They live in a generation of ‘onto the next thing.’ They want 60 seconds; they’re two or three lines on Twitter; they go on SnapChat. That’s all they think about. So for them, it’s onto the next one.” There are some objectives for the Bulldogs beyond just winning the next game. Starting with that ill-fated trip to Auburn, this is the most challenging stretch of the season, and the SEC Championship game awaits, whether Georgia is ready for it or not. It will be paramount that the Bulldogs shore up some things, mentally as well as physically. “It’s important to gain some confidence in how they play, especially early in this game, so that they can get back to believing in themselves. At the end of the day, it’s the next opponent, a good opponent and an SEC opponent, so they’ve got to go out and perform and be ready for a four-quarter battle. I fully expect it to be that way with Kentucky.” Whether it could help or hinder that objective remains to be seen, but the Bulldogs will be honoring a huge group of seniors. They’re led the high-profile foursome of Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, but there are numerous others who have distinguished themselves with their service in games or in practices. A whopping 31 players will be honored during Senior Day ceremonies, which will start promptly at 3 p.m. That group has logged a 37-12 record over the last four years. With a couple more wins, they have a chance to finish among the Top 10 most successful classes of all time in the 125-year history of Georgia football. “These seniors have been a tremendous asset for our staff,” Smart said. “They’re a lot of high-character kids who care a lot about the University of Georgia. We can give back to them and their families by honoring what they’ve done for the university. Here’s what has to happen to send them out the right way: Back to Bulldog Basics The Bulldogs have to find a way to get back to what had made it successful before Auburn humiliated them 40-17. Primarily, that is establish the run and stop the run. Georgia was overwhelmed in both of those respects against the Tigers, recording season lows in rushing on offense and defense. When Nick Chubb leads the Bulldogs with 27 yards rushing, you know it’s a bad day. There is nothing automatic about being able to do that against the Wildcats. They’re actually similar to Auburn statistically when it comes to stopping the run. They’re fourth in the SEC at 121.9 yards, or 3.5 yards more a game than the Tigers’ vaunted defense. So Georgia has to address its newly-exposed issues on the offensive line. The Bulldogs were experimenting in practice this week with big Ben Cleveland (6-6, 340) getting some looks at left guard. On the flipside, Kentucky already has called out Georgia to some degree. Sophomore Benny Snell promised the Bulldogs that he was going to be “bringing it” against them on Saturday. And he has more than a little something to bring. Snell (5-11, 233) is the SEC’s third-leading rusher (101.3 yards per game) and is coming off his third consecutive game in which he has scored three touchdowns. Snell had 114 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia last year when the Bulldogs eked out a 27-24 victory. Throw the ball downfield As much as the Bulldogs need to establish the run, they also have to prove they can throw the football. They’ve done that with some success this season, but not consistently and certainly not in the fashion that makes a defense respect it and change what they’re doing. Georgia’s freshman quarterback Jake Fromm not only has been extremely good at completing third-down throws and occasionally hitting defenses with big plays in the passing game. His yards per attempt continues to be one of the best in the country. But where the Bulldogs are lacking is in a consistent downfield attack that utilizes the middle of the field and give the safeties something else to think about. To date, most of Fromm’s attempts and completions have come on 50-50 plays against one-on-one coverage in the short to intermediate flat and up and down the sideline. That limits the risk of a turnover within the chaos that is the middle of field. If there’s a team Georgia might be able to exploit in this regard, it’s Kentucky. The Wildcats struggle in pass coverage. In fact, they’re last in the SEC against the pass, allowing 282.3 yards per game and giving up 18 touchdowns through the air.It may be time for Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to show more trust in the freshman Jake Fromm and let him try to exploit the middle of the defense. This, in turn, could get the Bulldogs’ impressive group of tight ends more involved in the passing game. Tighten up special teams It could be argued that Georgia has won the special teams matchup in every game it played this season. Well, up until last week’s game at Auburn. Actually, the Bulldogs remained dominant when came to the act of kicking and returning kicks. But they were flagged for two devastating personal-foul penalties on special teams plays, committed a turnover and missed a field goal. That undid all the good work displayed by return specialist Mecole Hardman, who had 183 yards in returns but muffed a punt that led to an early second-half touchdown by the Tigers. Kentucky is decidedly average on special teams, and is especially vulnerable on kickoff returns. This area of Saturday’s matchup is a clear advantage for the Bulldogs, and one of which they need to take full advantage. The post Planning for Opponent: Millennial mentality should serve Dawgs well vs. Kentucky appeared first on DawgNation.