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College Football

    ATHENS -- Former University of Georgia four-year football letterman and assistant coach John Donaldson died Tuesday in Jesup at the age of 92. Donaldson coached at Jesup High School and Wayne County High at different times in his career around assistant coaching positions at both Florida and Georgia. During his tenures Jesup won state AA championships in 1954 and 59 and Georgia won the 1966 and '68 Southeastern Conference titles.As a player, Donaldson was a mainspring at halfback on Georgia's four straight bowl teams of 1945-46-47-48. A native of Jesup where he was All-State in high school, Donaldson came to Georgia in 1945 after starring with the Jacksonville Navy in 1944. In the Georgia-Tulsa Oil Bowl game on New Year's Day, 1946, he caught a 65-yard TD pass from Charley Trippi. He played with the old Chicago Hornets of the All-American Conference in 1949, then began a coaching career at Jesup High. In eight seasons there his teams won the division title each year and in 1954 they ended a 44-game winning streak by the Valdosta Wildcats. Jesup won the state AA championship in 1954 and 1959. Donaldson joined head coach Ray Graves' Florida staff as defensive backfield coach in 1960 and served in that capacity for three years. He was head freshman coach in 1963 and his Baby Gators were 3-1. Donaldson left Florida in 1964 to coach at the University of Georgia under new head coach Vince Dooley. He coached the offensive backfield for five years (1964-1968) at UGA and also coordinated Georgia's running game from 1967-1968. The Bulldogs were second in the SEC in rushing in 1967 and in 1968, Georgia led the SEC in rushing and scoring en route to the SEC championship. He also was the coordinator of Georgia's off-season weight and running programs. In addition, Donaldson served as the main recruiter for the South Georgia and the Jacksonville areas. Donaldson retired from coaching and entered private business in Jesup until 1971 when he rejoined the Georgia coaching staff as head freshman coach. In 1973, Donaldson became head coach at Wayne County High before retiring in 1982. He was married to the former Ann Coppelman of Jesup. Visitation will be 5-7 p.m. Saturday at the Howard-Jones Funeral Home in Jesup, 777 South First Street. Funeral services will be Sunday at 3 p.m. at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 745 South Palm Street.
  • 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.
  • They haven’t talked all week, and they’re not going to. Not until after the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. “I’ll probably give him a hug, text him, start back everything,” Georgia wide receiver Riley Ridley said. “We’re brothers, you know.” >> Read more trending news  While a lot is being made of the numerous relationships between the coaches, including of Nick Saban squaring off against his former defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, no one in the title game has a stronger bond than Alabama junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley and his younger brother Riley. “I want him to do good … but I want us to win,” Calvin said. Although the brothers say that they’re close, and are usually in touch, they’ve put that on hold. Usually they’re often in contact, either though texts or phone calls, but after what they called a normal Christmas back home in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area, they sort of went their own ways for a bit. >> Visit WSBTV.com for more Georgia Bulldogs news They had enough to worry about in dealing with Clemson and Oklahoma in their respective semifinal games. “It’s been intense,” Riley Ridley said. “Mom doesn’t know who she wants to root for. She’s a little nervous because both of her boys will be on the field at the same time.” Calvin thinks she’ll lean toward Riley because he doesn’t have a national championship ring, and this way both would have one. Regardless, the winner will have lifetime bragging rights. “You better believe it,” Riley Ridley said. Although Riley Ridley was also recruited by Alabama, he opted for Georgia in part to forge his own path — and at his brother’s encouragement. The sophomore reserve has eight receptions for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns this season. >> Visit AJC.com for complete coverage of the national championship game Calvin leads Alabama with 59 receptions for 935 yards and four touchdowns this season. No one else on the Crimson Tide has more than 16 catches. He’s second in Alabama history with 220 catches and 18 receiving touchdowns, and third in receiving yards with 2,749. “Calvin is special,” Nick Saban said during the national championship game media day Saturday morning. Calvin said none of the defensive backs had asked him for advice on covering his brother, but if they asked him he would. “He’s big and he has good hands,” are the keys. Riley (6-2, 200 pounds) is a little bigger and more physical. Calvin (6-1, 190) is more of a technician and isn’t afraid to throw blocks on much bigger defenders. >> More coverage from DawgNation.com As for who is better at getting under an opposing player's skin during a game, they’re not quite in agreement. “We don’t really talk trash,” Riley Ridley said. “It may look like we talk trash, (but) it’s more of ‘Let’s go! That’s all you got?’” “He is probably,” Calvin said. Both thought this matchup was going to happen in this building, but in a different game. Georgia clinched a spot in the SEC championship game early, but then Alabama lost at Auburn — setting up the rematch of the “Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry,” which has been described as like playing your brother. “It’s the perfect stage,” Riley Ridley said.
  • President Donald Trump is set to arrive in Atlanta on Monday about two hours before the Georgia-Alabama game. >> Read more trending news  The president will fly with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue from the American Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in Nashville and will arrive at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia, at 6 p.m. >> More coverage from DawgNation.com He’ll take a motorcade from there to downtown Atlanta, with plans to arrive at the stadium shortly before 7 p.m. >> Visit AJC.com for complete coverage of the national championship game The fans who paid top dollar to watch Georgia face Alabama at Mercedes-Benz Stadium may not see the president, but his presence should be obvious. >> Visit WSBTV.com for more Georgia Bulldogs news His decision to catch the championship game adds a twist to the biggest college football contest in Georgia’s history — and a host of soon-to-be answered questions. Read more about Trump’s plans to visit the game at Politically Georgia.
  • In celebration of the Georgia Bulldogs’ first championship game appearance in over 30 years, the University will host a viewing party on campus. Stegeman Coliseum has been tapped to host the party, due to the ongoing construction and upgrades in Sanford Stadium. Because of the limited space in the 10,500 seat arena, UGA is limiting admission to students, faculty, and staff only. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, with kickoff set for 8:00 p.m. The Bulldogs punched their ticket to back to Atlanta last Sunday, defeating the Heisman Winner Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma Sooners in the Rose Bowl. Sony Michel had a 28-yard touchdown run in double overtime to seal the victory for Georgia. 
  • Nick Saban’s coaching tree stretches far and wide. >> Read more trending news  At Monday’s national championship game in Atlanta, Kirby Smart will be the sixth former assistant to face Saban as the head coach of an opposing team. Before being named Georgia’s head coach in 2015, Smart spent 10 years on a Saban coaching staff at Alabama, LSU and the Miami Dolphins. >> Related: Saban admits beating Georgia won’t be easy In 11 games against former assistants, Saban is a remarkable 11-0. In those games, Saban teams have outscored opponents an outlandish 427-111. >> Related: The National Championship game: What time, what channel, odds, livestream for Alabama vs. Georgia The list of pupils includes Derek Dooley (Tennessee), Jim McElwain (Colorado State, Florida), Will Muschamp (Florida), Mark Dantonio (Michigan State), and Jimbo Fisher (Florida State).
  • The top 5 National Championship Game storylines Alright, folks. The time for reminiscing on the Rose Bowl has passed (for now). It’s time to focus squarely on what’s next: the National Championship Game against the Alabama Crimson Tide. It seems like we should have more than a week to prepare ourselves for such a monumental matchup, but we get what we get. So let’s waste no more time and get right into it. Here are the top 5 Georgia storylines heading into Atlanta. >> Read more trending news  The Teacher vs. The Pupil— Ever since Kirby Smart was hired by Georgia, college football fans have been anticipating the day he met his mentor and former boss, Alabama coach Nick Saban, on the field. But most folks expected that first meeting to come in an SEC Championship Game, not the National Championship Game. And this first — of possibly many — between Smart and Saban also brings with it the opportunity for Smart to achieve something no former Saban assistant has done before: Beat the man they used to call boss. A potential changing of the guard … or at least a step in that direction — Even if Georgia is able to claim the national title, it will still be the second-best program in the SEC. The four national titles and five SEC titles Saban has won in Tuscaloosa has given the Tide a nice cushion at the top. But considering this is only Smart’s second season at the helm in Athens, the fact it took Saban three seasons to win his first at Bama and the way Smart is recruiting, it’s safe to say the Dawgs have their sights set on becoming the top program in college football. A chance for Georgia’s seniors to go out on top — One of the most important moments of the 2017 season happened eight months before kickoff against Appalachian State. This season wouldn’t have been possible if Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy bolted for the NFL after their junior season. Between their production on the field and leadership off it, they’re the four most important players on this team. They came back to win something big, so it would be fitting if they left Athens after winning the biggest game there is. >> Related: Trump plans on attending Georgia-Alabama championship football game Revenge is a dish best served cold (and dry) — The last time Georgia and Alabama met on the field was on a rainy day at Sanford Stadium in 2015, and the Tide destroyed the Dawgs 38-10. I’m sure there are plenty of members of this Georgia team who haven’t forgotten the misery brought on by both the rain and soul-crushing loss. I sure haven’t. It may be two seasons later, but the National Championship Game will be a chance to serve up some revenge on the biggest possible stage. At the very least it should be dry this time. Home away from home — The only way to improve the setting of the National Championship Game, from a Georgia perspective, would be to play it in Sanford Stadium. But making the 60-mile trip to Atlanta is a close second. Although it ain’t nearly as close as Athens, Tuscaloosa ain’t too far either, and Alabama will be well-represented. Inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it’ll probably be a 50-50 split. But outside it’ll be all Dawg. Every Bulldogs fan in the metro area, and many out of it, are gonna show up to the Benz in hopes of maybe scoring a ticket, or at least being in the vicinity when and if the Dawgs make history. MORE: Want this roundup in your inbox every morning? Sign up here! Recoup and recover Between the physicality of the Rose Bowl, the length of the game, the emotion toll of a hard-fought victory and the cross-country flight from California to Georgia, I’ve been a bit worried about how drained Georgia’s players will be by the time Monday rolls around. Count Kirby Smart in that camp as well. From Chip Towers of DawgNation: “I talked with the players immediately afterward about not burning any more emotion or energy on that game and keep moving on,” Smart said on a College Football Playoff championship teleconference call Tuesday afternoon. “Alabama had a little more sound victory, so they probably didn’t burn quite as much emotion, although I know it was emotional to beat a team that beat them last year. The focus going forward will be on preparing for Alabama and a great program that Coach Saban has got.” … >> Related: The National Championship game: What time, what channel, odds, livestream for Alabama vs. Georgia “You emphasize rest, recovery. You emphasize what we talk about all the time, which is getting your sleep, getting your dark hours, getting off your phone,” Smart said. “… We’re starting school this week, too, so that’s another deal on top of our kids that they get to deal with. When you start dealing with a lot of outside influences on your kids’ time, you’ve got to be smart as a coach and understand you’ve got to get the most out of them, but we’ve got to be smart with our practice time and our recovery time.” A special season As amazing as Sony Michel and Nick Chubb played as lights out as the defense was in the second half of the Rose Bowl, neither was the ultimate difference in defeating Oklahoma. That would be special teams. Three special teams plays completely changed Georgia’s chances: Tae Crowder’s quick move on the squib kick, Rodrigo Blankenship’s 55-yarder and, of course, Lorenzo Carter’s blocked field goal. >> Related: Alabama’s Nick Saban admits beating Georgia will be very difficult But the Dawgs’ special teams prowess wasn’t limited to just the Rose Bowl. Their improvement in that facet of the game over last year is one of the major reasons they find themselves on the cusp of a national championship. From Seth Emerson of DawgNation: Read more here.
  • President Donald Trump is planning to attend the national college football championship game between Georgia and Alabama on Monday in Atlanta, according to three people with direct knowledge of his plans. >> Read more trending news  Nick Ayers, a Georgia native who is Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, and his wife Jamie Ayers will host the Trumps. First Lady Melania Trump is also expected to attend the game, which will be held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium under stepped-up security. It’s not immediately certain whether two other top Trump allies in Georgia – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Sen. David Perdue – will join them. Trump and his aides have focused their attention on the college football playoffs even as he continues a war of words with the NFL over players who protest social injustice during the national anthem. >> Related: Who is Mary Beth Smart, Georgia football coach Kirby Smart’s wife? White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders opened her press briefing Tuesday by congratulating the SEC schools “from two great states, both in the heart of Trump country” for bowl victories that propelled them to the championship. Trump carried both states in 2016 – Alabama by nearly 30 points and Georgia by about five. But Alabama voters dealt Trump a blow in December by electing Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate over Republican Roy Moore, who Trump endorsed. When pressed on Moore’s defeat, Sanders said she was simply trying to congratulate “two great football teams in the greatest conference in the country.” >> Related: Nick Saban on wife Terry: ‘I don’t know why she puts up with me, but I’m very fortunate’ As the room erupted into laughter, she added: “Which I’m sure that most of you will all agree, even those that don’t live in one of those lucky states.”
  • As soon as he finished his postgame news conference after a Mississippi State game last year, Alabama coach Nick Saban made a beeline to the most important person in his life. >> Read more trending news  It was brief, but Saban and his wife, Terry, shared a kiss and a couple of words before the coach darted from the room to rejoin the team. Terry attends Saban’s news conferences on the road. If you’re close enough, you can hear her quietly cheering when Nick makes a point she agrees with. Saban said he appreciates the support she’s given him through the years. “Well, I think that’s the thing you have to have appreciation for,” Saban said. “Sometimes when — you probably don’t even know what an old, rusted-out Volkswagen is, like 19-whatever that would have been — 60s — and go through the struggles you go through, personally and professionally. And to have a partner that has been supportive and an asset to the organization in every way is something that is really appreciated. >> Related: Saban has a remarkable record against former assistants “She’s been a great partner. I don’t know why she puts up with me, but I’m very fortunate.” >> Related: Who is Mary Beth Smart, Georgia football coach Kirby Smart’s wife? The Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Georgia Bull Dogs in the NCAA Championship Monday night at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.