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College

    Editor’s Note: From time to time, the staff at DawgNation will answer direct questions from readers about subjects pertinent to UGA football. This installment reflects a very popular reader and viewer question that has come up numerous times. Disclaimer: This blog post would have been a good candidate for the sarcasm or the satire font. If there was such a thing.    Mecole Hardman, Jr. is easily one of the fastest Bulldogs on the team. He might be the fastest. Especially over a span of just 15 yards. Mecole Hardman Jr. is always the first Bulldog through the banner for every home game. Why? (Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) Is that why he’s always the first one through the black “Power G” banner prior to every home game? DawgNation deems this to be the time to unravel this mystery. We’ve proposed that question to three sources with strong internal knowledge of UGA football. Hard hitting. Deep Dives. On-the-record sources. That’s the play call for this topic. We will not be denied on short yardage for this one. Was that part of some secret wink-wink deal he made with Kirby Smart when committed and signed back on National Signing Day in February of 2016 ? Is it now a Bulldog tradition? Superstition? Is that why the Bulldogs have not lost a home game since Georgia Tech in 2016? First and foremost, let’s go to the source himself. DawgNation: Why are you always the first one through the banner every week?  Mecole Hardman: I don’t know. I think last year….Well, my freshman year Dom (Dominick Sanders) used to go through it and then I kind of fell into ‘I wanted to do it’ and I wanted to be the first one to come through it and every since then I don’t know whatever I started but I have always wanted to be the first one to go through it. Nobody has ever come to me and said ‘I’m going to go through it first’ and I guess I’ve done took that role to go through it. It is really hard to open [up] than they think it is. Like the banner. You just can’t run through it. You have got to like really open it so. I like the job. I like doing it so I am going to keep doing it. DawgNation: What if somebody said they want to do it? What would you say?  Mecole Hardman: It would have to be a senior. It would have to be a senior next week [for the Georgia Tech game] for a senior to go through it before me. That’s the only way.  J.R. Reed on Mecole Hardman’s banner-busting ways  J.R. Reed represented the Bulldogs at SEC Media Days. He’s the veteran of veterans on the team. His current streak of 26 straight starts leads the team. That is second only to Lamont Gaillard and his 39-straight starts. He was asked that question about Hardman’s role as the banner buster on this team. Hardman was rated as the nation’s No. 1 athlete coming out of Elbert County and the small city of Bowman in the class of 2015. DawgNation: Why is Mecole Hardman always the first Bulldog through the banner?   J.R. Reed: (Laughing.) That’s just Mecole. That’s something that Mecole likes to do. He likes to be the first one. At everything. It is a Mecole thing. That’s the only thing you can say about that. DawgNation: Hardman said that he’d let a senior go ahead of him next week for Senior Day at the Georgia Tech game. What do you think about that?  J.R. Reed: (Laughing. Again.) Oh, I don’t know about that. I’m pretty sure someone could bully Mecole out of the way to go first if they wanted to. (Laughing.) But I think he wants to go first and I don’t think anyone wants to fight him about that. I don’t have a problem with him jumping out first. I don’t really care who jumps out of the banner first before the game.  Has anyone challenged Mecole Hardman on this banner thing?  We’ve researched this topic. Clearly. The third source we spoke to unearthed that there was a “Beat Mecole to the Banner” movement during that magical 2017 season. Of course, it was a plan that could have only been devised by the specialists. The kicker-punter-holder-long snapper clan is known to come up with certain diabolical schemes of this nature. As it turns out, we have rare visual evidence that Mecole Hardman was not the first Bulldog through the banner for the Kentucky home game during the 2017 season. Hardman was mere steps behind the senior. (Curtis Compton/AJC) Former Georgia punter Cameron Nizialek shared the Intel here. His brilliant Ivy League undergrad degree was a part of the tactics to this caper. It does sound rather elementary. “He’s just the fastest guy,” Nizialek said when asked why Hardman always runs out first. “And he runs [out there] before everybody else.” That was the genesis of that plan during the 2017 season. “We had a couple of the specialists last year try to be the first ones out,” Nizialek said. “We got up to the front and he just ran past us. He’s just the fastest guy and from then I was the last guy out after that. Because I didn’t want to deal with it.” I’m not sure that any “Ask DawgNation” topic can be covered as thoroughly as this one. We have gotten down to the very Marianas Trench of this one. There you go, DawgNation. Now you know. The post Ask DawgNation: Why is Mecole Hardman the first Bulldog through the banner? appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Around the Dawg House will bring you daily updates from what people and publications are saying about Georgia,  from inside and outside of Athens. Deandre Baker a finalist for best defensive back award Georgia senior cornerback Deandre Baker has been one of the nation’s best defensive backs this season. He’s done an incredibly effective job of locking down his side of the field, and is a big reason Georgia has one of the best pass defenses in the country. On Wednesday, Baker was recognized for his outstanding season as he was named one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, which is given out to college football’s top defensive back. The other two finalists for the award were LSU defensive back Greedy Williams and Notre Dame’s Julian Love. The winner of the award will be announced on Dec. 6 at ESPN’s Home Depot College Football Awards Show, which will be held at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta. On the season, Baker has 2 interceptions and 27 tackles, along with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. His counting stats would likely be much higher if teams targeted him more often in pass coverage. He’s limited a number of the SEC’s best receivers including South Carolina’s Deebo Samuel, Missouri’s Emmanuel Hall and Vanderbilt’s Kalija Lipscomb. Baker likely won’t be tested this weekend against Georgia Tech and its triple option. But if the Bulldogs are going to beat No. 1 Alabama in the SEC championship game on Dec. 1, the senior defensive back will likely play a very big role. ESPN ranks UGA-Georgia Tech game in terms of playoff importance There are a number of games that are critically important to the College Football Playoff. There No. 4 Michigan visiting No. 10 Ohio State. There’s No. 3 Notre Dame playing its last game of the season against USC. And there’s the Iron Bowl between No. 1 Alabama taking on Auburn. ESPN’s Heather Dinich ranked the big rivalry games this weekend, and had the Georgia-Georgia Tech game ranked No. 6. Georgia winning won’t do much for its College Football Playoff chances a loss would make things very interesting for the Bulldogs and for Alabama. “If Georgia loses to Georgia Tech, but beats Alabama to win the SEC title, it could become the first two-loss team to finish in the top four in the playoff era,” Dinich said. “Or … the SEC could be left out in favor of Clemson, Notre Dame, Michigan and Oklahoma. A Georgia Tech win would also entirely change the perception of an Alabama loss to Georgia in the SEC championship, decreasing the chances that the Tide sneak in as the SEC runner-up.” The Bulldogs and Yellow Jackets kickoff at 12 p.m. ET on Saturday. The game will broadcast on SEC Network and on the radio on WSB 750 AM/95.5 FM. Georgia has not beaten Georgia Tech at home since 2012, as the Bulldogs have lost the last two times in Athens. Best stories from around DawgNation Justin Fields named SEC Freshman of the week, earns high praise from national media WATCH: Georgia football WR Demetris Robertson breaks silence, Kirby Smart weighs in Making the case for why Georgia Tech is Georgia’s most important rival Georgia football freshman OG Jamaree Salyer impresses Kirby Smart, grades high Georgia cruises to victory against Illinois State in Cayman Islands Classic opener WATCH: Georgia football coach Kirby Smart downplays added pressure for offensive efficiency Justin Fields named SEC Freshman of the week, earns high praise from national media Georgia football podcast: Former player explains why Kirby Smart will be ready for Georgia Tech Georgia coach Kirby Smart: LB Monty Rice doubtful, OL Cade Mays questionable   The post Deandre Baker named a finalist for Jim Thorpe Award appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart has allowed transfer Demetris Robertson to talk publicly this week, permitting him to take part in a school video featuring the Bulldogs’ receivers. “I feel like the room is a family,” said Robertson, who transferred back to his home-state school after winning FWAA Freshman All-American honors at Cal before an injured derailed his sophomore season. “Coach (Cortez) Hankton shows the way, he’s the leader of the room, he shows us how to be men, how to be good football players,” Robertson said. “He doesn’t take it lightly on us in practice, he gets on us in practice if we mess up, it doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman or senior or a veteran he expects us to play at that high standard.” Robertson caught 9 passes in a game against USC two years ago, but he has yet to catch even one pass this season for No. 5-ranked Georgia (10-1) as it marches into its regular-season finale against Georgia Tech (7-4) at noon Saturday at Sanford Stadium. The speedy Robertson, who many expected to be an impact player, opened the season with a 72-yard touchdown run in the opening game against Austin Peay. RELATED: ESPN analyst sees Robertson as “huge” addition to Georgia Since the opening game, Robertson has three carries for 37 yards and two dropped passes — juggling a ball out of bounds in the 36-16 loss at LSU, and allowing what would have been a 33-yard touchdown pass from Justin Fields against UMass to go through his hands in the end zone. To date, 18 players have caught a pass this season for the Bulldogs, including nine receivers. But Robertson has only been thrown to twice. Several Georgia receivers have emerged under Hankton this season, most notably Jeremiah Holloman and Tyler Simmons. But Hankton has yet to get the best out of Robertson, who had 50 catches for 767 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman at Cal after coming out of Savannah Christian. Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart weighed in on Robertson following the 66-27 win over UMass, explaining the high expectations placed on the former 5-star and Freshman All-American were “outrageous.” “H e had a good week of practice, he had some high GPS numbers coming off the break he’s had where he wasn’t practicing when he was injured,” Smart said, referring to the three games Robertson missed on account of what was widely reported to be a concussion. “He was running really fast so we thought it would be a good game for him to get involved and do some things,” Smart said. “He continues to work, he works really hard, he had the bomb, and then he had the speed sweep, and he was in on some other plays.” Smart indicated earlier in the season that Robertson’s late arrival to Georgia — he missed spring drills — put him behind returning players in terms of conditioning and strength. Smart made it clear he likes the direction Robertson’s season is heading, even if it has been quiet from a statistical standpoint. “D-Rob is a hard worker, guys,” Smart said. “He keeps working and getting better. He’s in a talented room, and I’m glad D-Rob is on our team, he’s a great kid that works hard every day. The expectations some of you guys have or fans may be outrageous, but D-Rob is a great kid that works hard every day.”     “Whenever we’re on the field, we know it’s go time. We honor that and respect that. We know that those are things that are going to separate us from other teams.” Watch as we go behind the scenes with the @FootballUGA receivers. pic.twitter.com/OeJegJoSrH — Georgia Bulldogs (@UGAAthletics) November 17, 2018 DawgNation Georgia football stories Another former 5-star freshman emerging for Dawgs on O-Line Tech, Georgia agree that hedge destruction should cease Kirby Smart downplays offensive pressure, but Jake Fromm knows Nick Chubb and Sony Michel predict Georgia will beat Alabama Georgia opens up as surprisingly big favorite over Georgia Tech Tyler Simmons latest UGA receiver to emerge from deep room Georgia football players react to Justin Fields breakout performance Bulldogs bring No. 5 AP ranking into rivalry game with Georgia Tech Former SEC national title coach explains why option so devastating   The post WATCH: Georgia football WR Demetris Robertson breaks silence, Kirby Smart weighs in appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia football is all about the “Now,” but it’s worth nothing that four of the top five graded players in the Bulldogs’ 66-27 win over UMass last Saturday were freshmen of sophomores. Quarterback Justin Fields generated the most interest with his jaw-dropping 57-yard laser throw to Mecole Hardman, but Coach Kirby Smart also took note of a certain offensive linemen who is emerging and graded third highest.   Justin Fields can absolutely sling it. pic.twitter.com/s0Ni65veip — CBS Sports (@CBSSports) November 17, 2018 “The kid that has really gotten better the last two weeks is Jamaree (Salyer),” Smart said. “He’s a heckuva good player at either guard spot.” Salyer, a 6-foot-4, 325-pound true freshman from the Pace Academy in Atlanta, has played in 10 of 11 games this season. He was rated as a   5-star prospect and the No. 1 offensive guard in the country by 247Sports. Smart said freshman guard Cade Mays (shoulder) would not practice Monday and remains day to day, while senior guard Kendall Baker (knee) is likely out this week. RELATED: Georgia football injury report for Georgia Tech Redshirt sophomore guard Ben Cleveland is practicing and cleared to play, but Smart made it clear he doesn’t see Cleveland as being 100 percent yet. That means Salyer could be in line for some key snaps against Georgia Tech in the noon game on Saturday at Sanford Stadium. Freshman Trey Hill got his first career start at offensive guard against UMass, with sophomore Solomon Kindley on the left side. RELATED: Georgia football freshman report It was the fourth different offensive line combination the Bulldogs have had to go with this season on account of injuries. RELATED: Kirby Smart says ‘We’re running out of people’ Hill became the sixth true freshman to start for Georgia this season.   The post Georgia football freshman OG Jamaree Salyer impresses Kirby Smart, grades high appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Don’t have the time to listen to the DawgNation Daily podcast? Receive a 90-second summary of the latest big Georgia football news from host Brandon Adams. On Monday, Adams explains how one Georgia Tech player may have already given Georgia some bulletin board material ahead of the Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate rivalry matchup this Saturday. The post DN90: Georgia Tech player gives Georgia some bulletin board material appeared first on DawgNation.
  • The Georgia Bulldogs will renew their rivalry with Clemson in football three times over the next dozen years. But in men’s basketball, the two schools that reside less than 75 miles from each other will meet much, much sooner. In fact, the Bulldogs and Tigers will square off in the Cayman Islands Classic on Tuesday afternoon with the winner headed to the tournament championship game. That matchup comes as the result of Georgia winning in the Cayman Islands on Monday afternoon. Sophomore forward Rayshaun Hammonds scored a career-high 31 points, as the Bulldogs used a strong first half to beat up Illinois State, 80-68. Hammonds finished shooting 50 percent, going 11-of-22, including 1 for 2 from beyond the arc. He was also nearly perfect at the free-throw line, going 8-of-9. Hammonds was one of two Georgia players in double figures during the 12-point victory. Fellow sophomore Nicolas Claxton registered a career high in points as well with 22 on 8-of-13 shooting. Claxton also recorded his second double-double of the season with a team-high 11 rebounds Monday. The two sophomore forwards combined to score 53 of Georgia’s 80 points. Amazingly, Hammonds and Claxton posted 27 of the Bulldogs’ 33  points in the second half. However, the first 20 minutes featured a much more balanced attack for Georgia that saw the Bulldogs start the game on a 16-2 run. On Georgia’s first offensive possession, Hammonds hit a 3-pointer, and the referees called Illinois State senior Milik Yarbrough for a flagrant foul because he tried to buy an offensive foul with a body hook against Bulldogs center Derek Ogbeidge. The call resulted in Ogbeide shooting two foul shots, both of which he made. In addition to the rare five-point play, the flagrant foul also rewarded the Bulldogs the ball, and Ogbeide hit a jumper to give Georgia seven points after 37 seconds. The Bulldogs never looked back from that point. Because of the stifling Georgia defense, Illinois State didn’t match what the Bulldogs scored in their first two possessions until almost seven minutes into the contest. By halftime, the game was essentially finished, as Georgia led by 21. The final box score indicates an unbalanced offensive attack, but on its way to building that halftime lead, eight different Georgia players scored in the first 20 minutes. The Bulldogs hit 17 field goals, but they passed the ball extremely well, looking for high-quality looks at the basketball. That’s the main reason Georgia shot 54.8 percent in the first half. Offensive rebounding was key as well. About 12 minutes into the game, Georgia had 12 second-chance points and Illinois State had just 13 points total. Taking care of the ball was important too. Georgia only turned it over twice in the first nine minutes. The Bulldogs weren’t as careful with the ball in the final 30 minutes, but just after the 10-minute mark of the first half, they already led by 20. Georgia finished the afternoon with 15 turnovers. The Bulldogs, who improved to 3-1 with the victory Monday, are averaging 17.25 turnovers per game this season. That’s an area coach Tom Crean will likely want to continue to work on moving forward. Georgia-Illinois State Game Notes & Thoughts Coach Crean shrunk his rotation a little bit Monday, but eight Bulldogs players still received at least 10 minutes. Freshman Tye Fagan started for the first time this season and played 36 minutes, finishing with 8 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal and 1 block. Senior forward E’Torrion Wilridge played the most of any Georgia bench player with 22 minutes, but he only attempted two field goals, hitting one. The Bulldogs hit two of their first three 3-point attempts, which helped them build a 20-point lead in the first 10 minutes. But after that, Georgia shot 2-of-9 from the 3-point line. In the early Cayman Islands Classic game on Monday, Clemson built a 7-point halftime lead and held on to beat Akron, 72-69. Clemson sits at 4-0 and is ranked No. 16 in both the AP and Coaches Polls entering Tuesday’s contest. The post Georgia cruises to victory against Illinois State in Cayman Islands Classic opener appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — If it’s up to the respective schools, there won’t be any hedges harmed this year even if Georgia Tech pulls off another upset of Georgia in this year’s renewal of the rivalry at Sanford Stadium. Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity said Monday he has had conversations with Todd Stansbury, the Yellow Jackets’ athletic director, and they’ve agreed that no more property will be destroyed on either team’s field in the event that the visiting wins. “That tradition will cease,” McGarity said on Monday. It has long been a Tech tradition for its players to rip of pieces of Georgia’s hallowed hedge and parade around with twigs clenched in their when it wins at Sanford Stadium. The Yellow Jackets have had occasion to do that on their last two trips to Athens in 2014 and ’61. The No. 5 Bulldogs (10-1) will play host to Tech (7-4) again this Saturday. Conversely, Georgia players have been known to rip up sections of turf on Grant Field at Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium in retaliation. However, that didn’t happened last year when the Bulldogs won 38-7. McGarity had discussed the situation with Kirby Smart beforehand and the Georgia coach assured his AD that his players would not destroy anything if they won. “And they didn’t,” McGarity said. “We took the high road. Our players celebrated with our fans in the stands, then ran to our locker room to celebrate as a team.” This news might come as a disappointment to Tech’s Brad Stewart. The senior wide receiver just this week, “It was a good feeling tearing those hedges at the end, so I want to do that again.” Georgia players heard that proclamation loud and clear, and they were already bowed up about defending their hallowed hedges. But the plan is to do that by winning the game. “I’m excited to win this one and make sure those hedges don’t get touched,” junior tight end Isaac Nauta said. “It’s been the history of (the rivalry), but we’re going to make sure it doesn’t happen this year by handling business when they’re on the field.” That’s not to say that Smart and the Bulldogs won’t use the past destruction of the hedges as motivation. Strength and conditioning coach Scott Sinclair has video footage of the Jackets ripping up the hallowed hedges playing on a loop on television screens in the Bulldogs’ weight room. “There’s pictures all around the facility, there’s videos going around,” Georgia senior defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter said. “We work out, we’re squatting, and when you’re doing a squat you got something right in front of you. It’s stuff like that that gets you fired up and ready to play.” Said senior wideout Terry Godwin: “Me, personally, I don’t need to be reminded. It’s stuck there in my mind vividly, like it was just yesterday, seeing them guys do that. That’s something you don’t want on your own field, so we’re going to try to take care of business.”   The Chinese privet hedges that surround the field at Sanford Stadium and have given birth to the concept of  “playing between the hedges” were there when the stadium was dedicated in 1929. They were only a foot high then and planted inside a wooden fence. Ninety years later, the same hedges are still there. Of course, they’re not the exact same hedges. But they are, quite literally, related. As legendary Georgia coach and Athletic Director Vince Dooley once said, the current hedges are “the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren” of the original hedges. UGA has gone to great lengths to see that they were. Each time the hedges have had to be removed or replaced — such as for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games or West End construction last year — the school sends the uprooted hedges to two or three different nurseries (for security and assurances sake) and has them propagated into new hedges. Georgia’s hedges had to be replaced or repaired the last two times the Yellow Jackets visited. Huge sections were ripped out after Tech’s 30-24 overtime win in 2014 and its 28-27 victory in 2016, Smart’s first season. It’s a Tech tradition that goes back to 1984. That’s when quarterback John Dewberry — who transferred to Tech from Georgia — first broke off  a limb and posed with it clenched in his teeth for television and still cameras. The Yellow Jackets have had six other occasions to do that in the 34 years since. As part of its postgame routine deploys dozens of security officers behind the hedges around the field with a strong concentration behind the visitor’s bench. However, they’re instructed to not engage opposing players or coaches physically. Their marching orders are only to detain fans trying to come over the hedges to enter the field of play. McGarity said UGA simply views the situation as a matter of good sportsmanship. “Georgia was just as guilty as Tech was when our guys are down there ripping up turf,” McGarity said. “That’s not what we’re about, and that’s not what Tech is about. So that should no longer exist in this rivalry. There’s enough passion and juices flowing that we don’t need to throw gas on the fire. “I respect Todd and I consider the matter closed.” The post Tech, Georgia agree that hedges or other ‘property destruction’ will no longer be part of rivalry appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart knows the importance of grabbing an early lead against Georgia Tech’s triple-option ball control offense, but he’s not looking to put any added pressure on his offense. “ I always want to put people down by multiple scores, don’t you? I don’t know a game you go say, well, let’s keep this one tight for a while,” Smart said. “I would love to get a lead ….but that doesn’t put any more pressure to say that we have to have it. “You’ve got to play the game you’ve got and you’ve got to do a good job managing whatever it is, whether you’re behind, ahead, doesn’t matter.” The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (10-1) play host to the Yellow Jackets (7-4) at noon on Saturday at Sanford Stadium (TV: SEC Network; Radio: WSB 750 AM, 95.5 FM). RELATED: Georgia football injury report, linebacker “probably” out this week Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm understands the sense of urgency the offense needs, as far as making the   most out of what figures to be a limited amount of possessions. The Bulldogs had seven first-half possessions against UMass in a 66-27 win last Saturday, while Alabama had just four in battling an option-oriented team in The Citadel to a 10-10 halftime tie. Indeed, in addition to leading the nation in rushing (353.7 yards per game), Georgia Tech ranks fifth in time of possession (34:12). “It’s different, the amount of possessions we had tonight it gets cut down almost in half,” Fromm said. “For an opposing offense it’s not the funnest to play because you just don’t have that many opportunities to score, so you have to be extremely efficient playing teams like this.” Smart just wants to make sure his players stay relaxed and not psych themselves out too much. “ I don’t think you ever panic, I think you take advantage of your opportunities, you just may have less opportunities,” Smart said. “I think panic comes from within. It comes from pressing, trying to do things you don’t do, normally. “I think the number of opportunities or series or drives you may have may be less. Realistically it may be less, we may have less than most people because we have been a ball controlled time possession offense. Maybe not to the extent Tech is, but we understand those games. And every offensive possession is critical, but when is it not? It’s always that way.” Georgia football coach Kirby Smart   DawgNation Georgia football stories Nick Chubb and Sony Michel predict Georgia will beat Alabama Georgia opens up as surprisingly big favorite over Georgia Tech Tyler Simmons latest UGA receiver to emerge from deep room Georgia football players react to Justin Fields breakout performance Bulldogs bring No. 5 AP ranking into rivalry game with Georgia Tech Former SEC national title coach explains why option so devastating     The post WATCH: Georgia football coach Kirby Smart downplays added pressure on offensive efficiency appeared first on DawgNation.