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Latest from Sam Franco

    Sam gives his thoughts on UGA’s beat down of Georgia Tech. 
  • Humility is only a week away… It’s been Kirby Smart’s mantra all season long when talking about the success that Georgia Football has had in 2017. Week in and week out, Georgia has taken care of their opponents with relative ease. The game at Notre Dame was tough, and South Carolina provided a tougher test than most thought they would, but other than that, it’s been smooth sailing for the Dawgs. Well, smooth sailing hit the eye of the storm in Auburn, Alabama on Saturday. The Tigers dominated the Dawgs in every way possible and proved that they have come a long way since blowing a big lead against LSU. Here’s what I saw from an awful performance from Georgia: 1. Well, it was a good start: I wanted to start off on a good note, because the only thing Georgia did well in this game was putting points on the board on their first drive. If you had told me this game would go the way it did after watching the Dawgs’ first turn on offense, I would have said you were crazy. Jake Fromm was 3 for 3 on the drive for 56 yards, including a big third down pass to Javon Wims. The two of them have developed a very good understanding of each other, and Fromm has become comfortable throwing jump balls to Wims because of his ability to come down with a bunch of them. Unfortunately, Georgia never came close to replicating the success of the first drive at any point during the rest of the game.  2. Complete and utter domination: After that first drive, Auburn took control of this game and at no point looked like they would give it back. The Tigers more than doubled up Georgia in terms of total yards and outgained Georgia on the ground 237 to 46 (net rushing yards). Kerryon Johnson alone ran for 167 yards while the trio of Chubb, Michel, and Swift only combined for 66 yards for the Dawgs. In the passing game, Georgia couldn’t keep Jake Fromm upright as he was sacked four times and pressured a bunch more. At times, football is a very simple game. If you keep your quarterback protected, hit/pressure the other team’s quarterback, and control the game on the ground, you’re going to win a lot more than you lose. That was the formula for Auburn in this game, and they executed about as well as I’ve seen any team in the country this season.  3. There’s a first time for everything: Two things that have been a hallmark of Georgia Football this season are discipline and fundamental execution. Unfortunately, both of those were essentially non-existent against Auburn. Georgia kept shooting themselves in the foot with dumb penalty after dumb penalty. One that comes to mind was a late hit out of bounds by Malkom Parrish, but the glaring one was D’Andre Walker’s leaping penalty while trying to block a punt. Georgia’s defense had done a good job to force the punt and get off the field. After the penalty, Jarrett Stidham would hit Darius Slayton on a 42-yard pass for a touchdown. These players are told over and over again what they can and can’t do in those punt block situations, so Walker’s penalty was extra maddening. Another thing we had not seen this season was Georgia missing tackles. Kerryon Johnson did a great job of making defenders miss and might prove to be the best back the Dawgs have faced/will face all season.  4. Second-guessing: One of the more talked about things from this game was the way the Dawgs handled the end of the first half. Instead of taking a few shots into the end zone, Georgia was content with settling for a field goal when attempting to put some points on the board before the half. At the time, Auburn led 16-7 and was going to get the ball to start the 2nd half. Georgia had good field position due to a good Mecole Hardman that put the ball at Auburn’s 26-yard line with about 22 seconds left in the half. Georgia then ran the ball with Sony Michel and spiked the ball to give Rodrigo Blankenship time for the kick, a kick that he would ultimately miss. I actually said to a few people near me in the press box that there was no chance that kick was going to go in. It just didn’t feel like it was the right thing to do in that situation. If you take a few shots at the end zone and then kick, it would have felt much better. It just felt like Georgia was resigned to taking the three, and that was disheartening.  5. Taming the savages: For me, this was the most shocking part of this game. Georgia’s defense has been DOMINANT all season long, but they were the exact opposite of that against Auburn. Auburn moved the ball seemingly at will against the Dawgs, whether it was through the air or on the ground. I’ve already mentioned how Kerryon Johnson could not be stopped, but neither could Jarrett Stidham. I was talking with Coach Donnan about this game, and he made a great point: It’s hard to have a consistent pass rush against a team that constantly runs RPOs (run-pass options), especially if you have a quarterback that is good a pre-snap reads. Stidham called a great game in that regard, and constantly had Georgia’s defense guessing.  6. Roadblock in Lee County: The two strongest elements of Georgia’s team this season have been the defense and the run game. I just talked about how Auburn’s offense dominated Georgia’s defense, and you can flip the words “offense” and “defense” there and the same held true. Two of the best backs in the country (Sony Michel and Nick Chubb) had no room to run against the Tigers. The offensive line was flat out horrible in this game. As soon as Georgia’s backs would hit the line of scrimmage, they were met with a host of blue jerseys. There just weren’t any holes for Chubb and Michel to operate in. D’Andre Swift has also been a big part of Georgia’s offense this season, particularly in catching passes out of the backfield. He had zero catches against Auburn and only ran for 18 yards on four carries (which resulted in a yards per carry average that was two yards better than either Chubb or Michel). When you’re a team that leads with the run and can’t run, it’s not going to be a good day for you.  7. Keep Chopping: Was this a bad result for Georgia? Absolutely. A lot of the national media had been questioning Georgia in the lead up to this game, and those doubters were given a lot of ammunition as a result of it. That being said, Georgia still has everything in front of them. If they win the last two games of the regular season against Kentucky and Tech and go on to win the SEC Championship, they WILL be in the College Football playoff. This is where Coach Smart’s “keep chopping wood” slogan comes in handy. Georgia just has to keep working hard and preparing well for each opponent. Even if Georgia doesn’t win the SEC Championship this season, they are still well set up to be in a good bowl game and are ahead of where I thought they would be at this point in Kirby Smart’s tenure as head coach. The future is bright for this program with the recruiting classes the Dawgs are building, but let’s not give up on this season just yet as a lot of different scenarios could still play out. During his press conference this week, Coach Smart spoke very little about the Auburn game, as he, his staff, and his team have moved on to Kentucky. I suggest all of you in DawgNation do the same. There’s still A LOT left to play for and that starts against the boys from the Bluegrass on Saturday.  
  • Sam gives his thoughts on Georgia’s destruction of Florida in Jacksonville
  • Sam gives his thoughts on another big Georgia win, this time against Mizzou
  • Sam gives his thoughts on UGA’s domination of Vanderbilt. 
  • Sam gives his thoughts on UGA’s beat down of the Vols. 
  • Sam gives his thoughts on Georgia’s blowout victory over Mississippi State.
  • Sam gives his thoughts on Georgia’s historic win over Notre Dame in South Bend. 
  • Sam’s thoughts on Georgia starting the season off with a dominating win over App State. 
  • According to a report in the Palm Beach Post, former UGA football coach Mark Richt will pay $1 million of his own money towards an indoor practice facility for the University of Miami. During his tenure in charge of the Bulldogs, the indoor practice facility topic was one that caused a lot of angst, and this will certainly grab the attention of UGA fans. Check out the story from the Palm Beach Post. 
  • Sam Franco

    Morning Show Co-Host

    An ATLien by birth, Sam makes no apologies for being a long-suffering Atlanta sports homer. Having grown up in Decatur, a short ten minute drive from downtown Atlanta, he's seen the good (the 1995 Braves World Series triumph), the bad (the Hawks years under Lon Kruger and Terry Stotts), and the ugly (the Falcons for, well, most of his life on this earth).

    Sam is a proud Double Dawg who earned his bachelor of arts degree from the Grady College at UGA in Broadcast News in 2009 and his Master's degree in Sports Management at UGA in 2014. In addition to his work here at The Ref, Sam is also the Public Address Announcer for UGA Men's and Women's basketball, Baseball, and Soccer.

    When he's not working, you can probably find Sam at a concert or festival, as he is an avid live music fan. Last, but certainly not least, he is very proud of his Hispanic heritage, as his father was born in Ecuador.

    Read More

Georgia Sports News

  • Devon Gales, the former Southern University football player who was paralyzed in a 2015 game against UGA, is returning to football. Gales has been hired as an assistant football coach at Jefferson High School, per accessWDUN.com’s Bo Wilson. The new job will be around 20 miles away from UGA. Former UGA recruiting coordinator Bob Pittard is a social studies teacher at the high school. Per the website, the hiring of Gales was the idea of Jefferson superintendent Dr. John Jackson. It was after Gales shared his story with the Jefferson senior class. “It was brought to our attention upon meeting this wonderful family that Devon missed the game and practices and being part of a football team in the game he still loved so much,” Jefferson coach Gene Cathcart told the website. “Dr. John Jackson had the idea of getting him involved in our program in some way and how our young men would benefit from his living example, character, strength in facing adversity and perseverance.” UGA donors and fans raised funds to build a handicapped-accessible house in Jefferson for Gales and his family. The post Devon Gales makes his return to football appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart has emphasized several times in several ways that championship football requires all units working together. Indeed, much of the Bulldogs’ offensive and defensive scheming is predicated on Smart and his staff analyzing strengths and weaknesses and game arriving at core alignments and plays. The sooner Georgia knows itself, the better, and that makes the Bulldogs’ 15 spring practice dates pivotal. Here’s a way-too-early positional group ranking, an order that could be affected by an updated injury report or the emergence of a newcomer. 1. Offensive line The lock: Junior left tackle Andrew Thomas, Outland Trophy candidate. The question: Sophomore Cade Mays, where does he fit in? 2. Defensive backs The lock: Senior safety J.R. Reed, team leader of defense. The question: Sophomore Tyson Campbell, will skills match elite speed and ideal length? 3. Specialists The lock: Senior kicker Rodrigo Blankenship. The question: Can Georgia adequately replace Mecole Hardman? 3. Quarterbacks The lock: Junior Jake Fromm, third-year starter, offense on his shoulders. The question: How much of the offense can freshman Dwan Mathis pick up? 4. Linebackers The lock: None. The question: Can senior Tae Crowder become the playmaker Georgia lacked last year? 5. Running backs The lock: Junior tailback D’Andre Swift, Hesiman Trophy candidate The question (s): Will production match 5-star ratings of James Cook and Zamir White in 2019? 6. Receivers/tight ends The lock: Junior receiver J.J. Holloman is the go-to target. The question: Can graduate transfer tight end Eli Wolf fill the void left by Isaac Nauta? 7. Defensive linemen The lock: None. The question: Will sophomore Jordan Davis become an SEC dominator? More Georgia football spring 2019 Georgia linebackers: most improved unit? UGA running backs 4 spring football questions 5 questions for UGA spring football, it’s Jake Fromm’s team Does Georgia have championship level Defensive line? Questions 4 questions for Georgia football O-Line 3 pre-spring football questions on Georgia QB situation Kirby Smart provides preview on young receivers  Georgia secondary still best in the SEC? The post Georgia football: Way-too-early team spring position group rankings appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Best I can tell, it has been my task to cover college football spring practices for about 26 of the 31 years that encompass my sportswriting career. There were a few years that I wasn’t covering college football. There were a few more that I bounced around and saw a little bit of a lot of different teams. Most of time, though, I’ve been charged with covering all of Georgia’s spring practices. There have been times those practice sessions have been pretty interesting, some times that they’ve been incredibly dull and all over the place between. I’m anticipating the Bulldogs’ spring practice this year to be fairly intriguing. There are a lot of reasons for that, but the main one is the influx of new players. Early enrollment was a fairly new concept in the 1990s and still a bit of a rarity then. Quarterback Eric Zeier was one of the first high-profile recruits to do it and it served him very well that first year. Zeier served notice at the 1991 G-Day Game that he was going to be a factor that season, and boy was he ever. Since then, early enrollment has become a regular part of the recruiting process. Nowadays, everybody everywhere has at least a hand full of signees that come in early and get embedded with their respective teams since the first week of January. But it remains somewhat rare to see as many new players come in early — 14 — as Georgia has this year. Fourteen is a lot. The most ever for the Bulldogs. They had 13 in that 2013 class that included 30 total signees (and experienced some of the worst attrition ever for Georgia football). It’s not the most in college football. Alabama had 16 enroll early out of its 23-man recruiting class this year. But 14 is a bunch of new Bulldogs, no matter how one slices it up. That in and of itself cranks up the competition factor. Georgia has several areas in which it’d love to get some impact from from some of these early arrivals. Quarterback, linebacker and defensive back immediately spring to mind. I’d say receiver, too. But, oddly enough, the Bulldogs weren’t able to bring in any of their wideout signees early Dominick Blaylock happens to attend a school in Walton High that doesn’t allow it. Georgia has experienced the same thing with players it has signed out of Pace Academy, including Jamaree Salyer, Andrew Thomas and Trey Blount. But that’s where spring ball has changed a good bit over the years. It’s much more competitive over the course of 15 practices than it used to be. Those sessions can go a long way to determining who is going to be starter in the fall. Not always, but often. The ideal situation is getting as many positions locked down and decided in the spring, so those guys can work together as a unit as much as possible on a volunteer basis over the summer. That way they hit the ground running in preseason practice. No doubt you’ve read numerous accounts of what various people believe the be the most pressing priorities of the spring for the Bulldogs. As for me, the order of importance goes this way: Determine a receiver rotation; Identify a backup quarterback; Establish a starting center; Settle on a right cornerback; Figure out who else will help on defense. Going with the receivers first is an easy call for me. It has been well-documented that the Bulldogs lost 106 catches and 20 touchdowns from last year’s wideouts, the majority of those being compiled by juniors Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman. But that number actually goes up by 35 catches and 3 touchdowns when tight end Isaac Nauta and running back Elijah Holyfield are included. So the emphasis on throwing and catching the ball in spring practice is going to be heavy. It’s usually that way anyway this time of year, because it is rare for teams to pound on each other a lot this far away from the actual season. That said, Georgia will need to mindful of Jake Fromm’s arm health and be careful not to overthrow him. To that end, the Bulldogs would like to come out with a good idea who is going to be Fromm’s primary backup. I wrote extensively on Sunday about redshirt sophomore Stetson Bennett coming back via junior college and giving Georgia an immediate competent presence with regard to already knowing the offensive system. But freshman Dwan Mathis remains an intriguing figure, and one can he sure that the Bulldogs will work hard and fast to determine exactly what they have in this 6-foot-6 athlete who has run a 10.8 100 meters. Trey Hill leads the way to succeed Lamont Gaillard at center, but that’s not a given. As always, Sam Pittman probably suffer brain cramps from exploring all possibilities for determining the combination that results in the best five across the board. The competition to succeed Deandre Baker at right cornerback certainly will be intriguing. But starting with elevating Tyson Campbell there as Georgia did in the bowl game is the first in what are all positive alternatives at all the secondary positions. If early enrollees such as JUCO transfer D.J. Daniel or Tyrique Stevenson end up winning out, all the better. Same with outside linebackers. The recruiting at this position has been other-worldly. Between the 5-stars that are coming back and the ones coming in, something is going to have Conversely, that’s why I don’t list inside linebackers here. Certainly the Bulldogs want higher-level play than it got from the returnees last season. But I believe all the existing alternatives to be better than adequate and not necessarily paramount to Georgia’s cause.  And as exciting a prospect as is Nakobe Dean, ranked the No. 1 inside linebacker in America, I always think back to Roquan Smith’s struggles as a true freshman and how it was late in his sophomore season before he emerged as the star he actually was. Same on the D-line, same on the O-line, same in the offensive backfield, same on special teams. The rest of it is very much organic. That is, it’ll come together naturally through the teaching of concepts and fundamentals. The Bulldogs seek competition and improvement, but they’ll be able to go to war with they’ve got. What you’re NOT going to see is running back D’Andre Swift get much in the way of contact. I highly doubt you’ll see Zamir White get any at all. White, the heralded 2018 signee known as Zeus, is less than seven months removed from a second knee surgery that came eight months after the first. The Bulldogs will be very interested in seeing what the former No. 1 back in America can do, but that can wait until late summer, when he will have had a year to rehab and recover. Maybe the most important factor will be the Bulldogs getting used to some new voices and concepts from the coaching staff. For the first time since Kirby Smart has been head coach, somebody other than Jim Chaney or Mel Tucker will be putting together the practice script for the offense and defense, respectively. That said, I suspect it won’t change significantly from what Georgia has been doing the last four years. That’s why James Coley, Dan Lanning and Glenn Schumann were appointed coordinators. They’re going to give Smart what he wants, which is more of the same. But it’s that — the newness factor — that’s going to make this spring so fun and interesting. And then, of course, they’ll tear up all the depth charts and start from scratch in August. The post Newness factor is what makes Kirby Smart’s 4th spring practice his most interesting at Georgia appeared first on DawgNation.
  • KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) - Atlanta Braves right-hander Julio Teheran is set to make his sixth straight start on opening day. The Braves said Monday that Teheran will face the Phillies on March 28 in Philadelphia. Teheran's run ties Hall of Famer Warren Spahn (1957-62) for the longest in Braves' franchise history during the modern era. Teheran is 1-1 with a 2.73 ERA on opening day. Earlier this spring, it had been thought Mike Foltynewicz might start on opening day for the Braves. But he's likely to be out until at least mid-April with a sore right elbow. New Phillies slugger Bryce Harper is expected to make his debut in the opener. He's had a lot of career success against Teheran, going 18 for 40 (.450) with eight homers and 19 RBIs. Teheran went 9-9 last season with a 3.94 ERA in 31 starts.