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Georgia Sports News

    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.
  • ATLANTA (AP) - Montrezl Harrell doesn't mind trailing on the road when the Los Angeles Clippers still have a chance in the fourth quarter. 'It definitely builds your character,' he said. 'We got the ball to the guys we wanted to get the ball to. We keep playing. We keep fighting.' Harrell had 25 points and 11 rebounds, Lou Williams added 16 points and a season-high 11 assists, and the Clippers rallied past the struggling Atlanta Hawks 127-119 on Monday night to win their fifth straight game. Tobias Harris scored 24 points and Mike Scott had a season-high 18 on six 3-pointers for the Clippers, who erased a 15-point deficit in the second half for the second consecutive game. The Clippers, playing without second-leading scorer Danilo Gallinari, improved to 11-5. At this point last season, after winning in Atlanta, they were 5-11. Trae Young scored 19 of his 25 points in the first half, and Taurean Prince had 21 points for the rebuilding Hawks, who dropped to 3-14 and have lost eight in a row. 'I know everybody in Atlanta wants us to win now,' Young said. 'It's tough because we're right there. It's just that finish, and we're going to get it done.' Los Angeles trailed 87-72 in the third quarter, but went on a 20-4 run to take a 97-96 lead early in the fourth. Young lost the ball on the Atlanta end, and Williams whipped a pass across the baseline to Scott for a 3 that prompted the Hawks to call a timeout. Atlanta quickly regrouped, taking the lead back when Prince, who missed the previous two games with an Achilles injury, dunked on the ensuing possession. A 3-pointer by Alex Len put the Hawks up by five. It was all Los Angeles from there. Scott hit a 3 off an assist from Williams to give the Clippers the lead for good with 4:08 remaining. Williams fed Harrell for a strong reverse layup and a three-point play, and Harrell followed by knocking away Young's pass before Scott hit another 3 to make it 117-110. Williams, in his 14th season and second with the Clippers, knows his younger teammates depend on him to set the tone as the leader off the bench. 'I've seen a lot in this league,' he said. 'I have probably been in every single position that you could be in. Whether it's being almost an All-Star, starting or coming off the bench, I have a lot of experience, and when I talk, guys listen.' Gallinari was sick and unable to play for the first time this season. Avery Bradley started in his spot after missing the last six games with a left ankle sprain, finishing with five points in 20 minutes. The Clippers have won seven of eight. Atlanta has dropped 12 of 13. Harris scored 12 points in the first period, but the Hawks were ahead by five entering the second. Young gave Atlanta its biggest lead at eight with a fast-break layup. Los Angeles went on a 15-3 run to take a 50-44 lead on Patrick Beverley's fast-break layup before the Hawks' 14-3 run put them up by seven on DeAndre' Bembry's free throws. Harris ended the first half with a long 3 that made it 64-61. 'We keep putting ourselves in holes, which is too dangerous,' Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. 'This is a really fun team to coach.' SOLID RETURN John Collins, in his second game back for Atlanta after missing the first 15 this season with a left ankle injury, had 18 points, six assists, three rebounds and five fouls in 21 minutes. Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce had Collins on a limit of playing in bursts of 3-4 minutes before coming out. HURTING Hawks forward Omari Spellman started but left after four minutes with a bruised right hip. POOR TIMING Beverley was called for a technical in the third after disputing a foul call with official Courtney Kirkland, and Atlanta scored the next 11 points to take an 87-72 lead. Early in the fourth while he was on the bench, Beverley and Rivers made gestures of disbelief that Kirkland called a foul on Scott even though Len had his arms around him. Beverley did not return to the game. UP NEXT Clippers: Visit Washington on Tuesday. Hawks: Host Toronto on Wednesday. ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • ATLANTA (AP) - Montrezl Harrell doesn't mind trailing on the road when the Los Angeles Clippers still have a chance in the fourth quarter. 'It definitely builds your character,' he said. 'We got the ball to the guys we wanted to get the ball to. We keep playing. We keep fighting.' Harrell had 25 points and 11 rebounds, Lou Williams added 16 points and a season-high 11 assists, and the Clippers rallied past the struggling Atlanta Hawks 127-119 on Monday night to win their fifth straight game. Tobias Harris scored 24 points and Mike Scott had a season-high 18 on six 3-pointers for the Clippers, who erased a 15-point deficit in the second half for the second consecutive game. The Clippers, playing without second-leading scorer Danilo Gallinari, improved to 11-5. At this point last season, after winning in Atlanta, they were 5-11. Trae Young scored 19 of his 25 points in the first half, and Taurean Prince had 21 points for the rebuilding Hawks, who dropped to 3-14 and have lost eight in a row. 'I know everybody in Atlanta wants us to win now,' Young said. 'It's tough because we're right there. It's just that finish, and we're going to get it done.' Los Angeles trailed 87-72 in the third quarter, but went on a 20-4 run to take a 97-96 lead early in the fourth. Young lost the ball on the Atlanta end, and Williams whipped a pass across the baseline to Scott for a 3 that prompted the Hawks to call a timeout. Atlanta quickly regrouped, taking the lead back when Prince, who missed the previous two games with an Achilles injury, dunked on the ensuing possession. A 3-pointer by Alex Len put the Hawks up by five. It was all Los Angeles from there. Scott hit a 3 off an assist from Williams to give the Clippers the lead for good with 4:08 remaining. Williams fed Harrell for a strong reverse layup and a three-point play, and Harrell followed by knocking away Young's pass before Scott hit another 3 to make it 117-110. Williams, in his 14th season and second with the Clippers, knows his younger teammates depend on him to set the tone as the leader off the bench. 'I've seen a lot in this league,' he said. 'I have probably been in every single position that you could be in. Whether it's being almost an All-Star, starting or coming off the bench, I have a lot of experience, and when I talk, guys listen.' Gallinari was sick and unable to play for the first time this season. Avery Bradley started in his spot after missing the last six games with a left ankle sprain, finishing with five points in 20 minutes. The Clippers have won seven of eight. Atlanta has dropped 12 of 13. Harris scored 12 points in the first period, but the Hawks were ahead by five entering the second. Young gave Atlanta its biggest lead at eight with a fast-break layup. Los Angeles went on a 15-3 run to take a 50-44 lead on Patrick Beverley's fast-break layup before the Hawks' 14-3 run put them up by seven on DeAndre' Bembry's free throws. Harris ended the first half with a long 3 that made it 64-61. 'We keep putting ourselves in holes, which is too dangerous,' Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. 'This is a really fun team to coach.' SOLID RETURN John Collins, in his second game back for Atlanta after missing the first 15 this season with a left ankle injury, had 18 points, six assists, three rebounds and five fouls in 21 minutes. Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce had Collins on a limit of playing in bursts of 3-4 minutes before coming out. HURTING Hawks forward Omari Spellman started but left after four minutes with a bruised right hip. POOR TIMING Beverley was called for a technical in the third after disputing a foul call with official Courtney Kirkland, and Atlanta scored the next 11 points to take an 87-72 lead. Early in the fourth while he was on the bench, Beverley and Rivers made gestures of disbelief that Kirkland called a foul on Scott even though Len had his arms around him. Beverley did not return to the game. UP NEXT Clippers: Visit Washington on Tuesday. Hawks: Host Toronto on Wednesday. ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • 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.
  • FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) - Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons can't afford to lean on Matt Bryant's powerful right leg this week. Field goals won't be enough to keep pace against the high-scoring New Orleans Saints on Thursday night. Bryant's four field goals provided all of Atlanta's scoring until Julio Jones caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Ryan with less than two minutes remaining against Dallas on Sunday. That touchdown tied the game before the Cowboys won 22-19 on Brett Maher's 42-yard field goal as time expired. The Saints (9-1) have won nine straight . They led the NFL with their average of 37.8 points per game through Sunday's games. 'Field goals against them isn't going to cut it the way they're putting points up,' coach Dan Quinn said Monday. The Falcons (4-6) already have lost one shootout against the Saints, 43-37 in overtime on Sept. 23. 'When we get our chances, we have to convert,' Ryan said Monday. 'We've been doing a good job of that for the most part of the year. ... We've got to be aggressive with our plays when we get our chances.' Quinn said the Falcons can win a high-scoring game, even against the Saints. 'We are. We're equipped,' Quinn said. 'Certainly when you're going against another team that's high scoring, it was no surprise to see that in the first game, either.' Jones has touchdown catches in three straight games, but the Falcons are in a scoring slump. They rank ninth in the league with their average of 26.3 points, but they've been held below 20 points in four games this season, including back-to-back losses to the Cowboys and Cleveland. Atlanta led Dallas 6-3 at halftime despite being held to 110 yards. For the game, the Falcons had 354 yards, their third-lowest total of the season. The two straight losses were devastating to Atlanta's playoff hopes after it won three straight to reach .500. Quinn said the Falcons shouldn't be worried about their fading playoff hopes. 'Right now we have no luxury of looking at anything big picture,' Quinn said. 'Right now there's one picture and that's New Orleans and that's Thursday.' Atlanta managed only 80 yards rushing against Dallas. Tevin Coleman had only eight carries for 58 yards, even though he gained 11 or more yards on four runs. The eight carries were his second fewest of the season. Quinn said 'it's going to be important' to establish the run. But he said he was only seeking balance, not a greater commitment to the run. 'When you're in the red zone against them you better finish with it in the end zone because they're certainly able to score and they've shown that this year,' he said. 'Whether it's in the run game or it's in the pass game, it's about being able to find explosive games and being able to score. That's the name of the game when you're facing a team with an explosive offense like them.' NOTES: The Falcons are attempting to determine if linebacker Deion Jones will play this week. Jones came off injured reserve last week after missing two months with a broken right foot but was inactive against Dallas . Quinn said Jones did not participate in the team's walkthrough practice on Monday, but instead was scheduled for work after the practice 'so we'll get a better assessment of where he's at.' Quinn said the goal was to 'keep pushing and develop to see where he's at with his confidence level with his foot.' ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • A year and a half after the first pitch at SunTrust Park, Cobb has yet to account for tens of millions of dollars in stadium construction work and officials haven’t independently confirmed a final price tag on the county’s largest, most controversial public works project. The seeming lack of interest in tracking the true cost of a county-owned asset built with massive public investment reflects what some see as a lack of basic oversight by Cobb officials. The Braves, who managed the stadium construction, say at $684 million, the ballpark exceeded its budget, with the team covering more than its share. But Cobb only has invoices covering $536 million, meaning there are roughly $148 million in construction costs for which Cobb officials have not reviewed receipts. “We have invoices for all work that was the county’s responsibility to pay for,” the county said in a statement. Determining the stadium’s final cost and the percentage paid by the county and the Braves is vital to understanding taxpayers’ role in a project touted as a win-win partnership when officials announced it five years ago. The contract inked with the Braves stipulates that if the project came under budget, the savings may be applied toward “mutually agreed upon” stadium improvements or a capital maintenance fund — both expenses that taxpayers must help cover. The lack of a clear accounting means the county is at a disadvantage to verify if there were any savings and hampers public scrutiny of what the Braves claimed as a stadium expense. Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce said the remaining invoices don’t matter because Cobb’s contribution to the stadium is fixed and it won’t change, regardless of the final tally for construction. In 2016, Boyce rode a wave of voter discontent over the stadium deal to defeat former chairman Tim Lee. Part of his platform was a call for greater transparency with regards the ballpark. Boyce now dismisses concerns over the county’s book-keeping, saying he has no leverage anyway to compel the Braves to provide more documentation. A provision in the contract allows either side to audit the project. “We’ve paid our bills,” Boyce said. “Both sides are now in agreement that we have fulfilled all our obligations.” Ongoing costs at SunTrust Park and who pays for them are hardly a settled matter. In September, the county and the Braves resolved a legal dispute over $1.5 million in sewer infrastructure. Previously, the Braves successfully argued that certain road improvements around the ballpark did not count toward the county’s $14 million stadium transportation obligation, forcing Cobb to dip into its water fund to reimburse the team. No ‘pointed questions’ In statements to the public as recently as this year, Braves and county officials have consistently emphasized that the team was paying the lion’s share of the ballpark construction, budgeted at $672 million. Those figures were always potentially misleading. In fact, the development agreement the county signed in May 2014 put the stadium budget at $622 million, with the Braves kicking in another $50 million in “discretionary” funds if they wanted. Public funds accounted for $392 million of the up-front costs, in addition to $35 million in capital maintenance over 30 years. The Braves were obligated to pay at least $230 million in construction costs on the front end, and will reimburse Cobb an estimated $92 million through rent payments over the next three decades. The team was also responsible for any cost overruns. But the Braves were in control of much of the planning and construction, placing the onus on the county to watch-dog the actual costs. Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who has been a consistent skeptic of the Braves deal, said there is little appetite on the board to damage the relationship with the team by asking “pointed questions.” As a result, she doesn’t believe the taxpayers are being protected as they should be. “Throughout this time, there has been no record or documents forwarded to the board on a regular or periodic basis to show how these things are being accounted for,” Cupid said. “There have been other costs above and beyond what the county has said our contribution should be.” The county’s most recent summary of stadium invoices, updated in June, totals just $536 million for stadium construction costs. Of that, $155 million is identified as having been paid by the Braves. A line item on the summary lists another $95 million as coming from Braves “outside” construction accounts, but there are no details about these charges and Cobb has not received invoices for those billings, county officials said. In response to the AJC’s questions for this story, Greg Heller, the Brave’s executive vice president and chief legal officer, told the county’s legal department that the team has spent $292 million on the stadium. “All payments by the Braves were made in accordance with the terms of the Development Agreement, which permitted direct payments of invoices,” he wrote in an email. Assessing stadium impact Despite Cobb’s incomplete accounting of the project, some county officials have been quick to tout the economic benefits of the ballpark, citing a study released in September by the Center for Economic Development Research at Georgia Tech. Funded by the county’s chamber of commerce and unveiled at the Battery, the study predicts the stadium complex will have a positive fiscal impact to the county government and the school system. It estimates the Cobb government will take in an average of $4 million a year over expenses, and the school system will reap another $14.9 million a year over the next 20 years. The study’s predictions are largely based on projected revenue from rising property values in the area and the Braves’ mixed-used development, The Battery. Without that development, the stadium itself has a negative impact on the county finances, the report concludes. “[T]hat is why The Battery impact is so important,” the study’s author, Alfie Meek, wrote in an email. “You simply can’t use the old ‘traditional wisdom’ for stadium financing for this deal.” But J.C. Bradbury, a sports economist at Kennesaw State University who reviewed the study, expressed skepticism about its findings. “This is just ripe for cherry picking,” Bradbury said. “The halo effect is way overstated.” He also pointed to Meek’s role in assessing a public-private partnership between the Braves and another metro county. Ten years ago, Meek was the economist for Gwinnett County when it agreed to finance a new $64 million stadium for the Braves’ triple-A minor league team. The deal was bolstered by Meek’s analysis that the ballpark would generate $15 million a year in new economic activity. A decade later, the Gwinnett stadium struggles to attract fans and hasn’t sparked the explosion of development taxpayers were promised. Meek said he stands by both stadium studies. ‘This is public money’ The extent of the stadium’s influence on Cobb’s rising property values is subject to debate. But by any measure, the project has been costly to the Cobb government’s bottom line. According to the county’s most recent analysis, Cobb spent about $18 million on SunTrust Park in the 2017 fiscal year, including $6.4 million out of its general fund property taxes and $11 million from other taxes and fees. That doesn’t include $11.8 million Cobb paid, mostly from its water fund, to satisfy the disputed transportation obligation. The revenue directly generated by the project didn’t come close to covering the county’s expenses. The Battery complex brought in $404,000 in property taxes and the Braves paid $3 million in stadium rent to the county. The ballpark also generated $1.6 million in county sales tax, but those funds can’t be used to pay down the debt because they are earmarked for education and transportation. In an attempt to off-set some of the unforeseen costs, including $840,000 in police overtime, commissioners recently amended the Cumberland hotel/motel tax to divert more money for public safety around SunTrust Park—money that would have otherwise gone to fund the Cumberland circulator, stadium debt service or promoting Cobb tourism. This year, Cobb’s stadium debt service and capital maintenance contributions increased, as did rent payments from the Braves. Larry Savage, a Cobb resident who has filed several unsuccessful legal challenges to the stadium deal, sees Cobb’s failure to provide an accurate, durable accounting of total project costs is indicative of the way the ballpark has been handled from the beginning. “The whole thing is just misinformed and a very one-sided deal,” Savage said. “This is public money and they’re supposed to be accountable for it.”

Georgia Sports News

  • 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.
  • ATLANTA (AP) - Montrezl Harrell doesn't mind trailing on the road when the Los Angeles Clippers still have a chance in the fourth quarter. 'It definitely builds your character,' he said. 'We got the ball to the guys we wanted to get the ball to. We keep playing. We keep fighting.' Harrell had 25 points and 11 rebounds, Lou Williams added 16 points and a season-high 11 assists, and the Clippers rallied past the struggling Atlanta Hawks 127-119 on Monday night to win their fifth straight game. Tobias Harris scored 24 points and Mike Scott had a season-high 18 on six 3-pointers for the Clippers, who erased a 15-point deficit in the second half for the second consecutive game. The Clippers, playing without second-leading scorer Danilo Gallinari, improved to 11-5. At this point last season, after winning in Atlanta, they were 5-11. Trae Young scored 19 of his 25 points in the first half, and Taurean Prince had 21 points for the rebuilding Hawks, who dropped to 3-14 and have lost eight in a row. 'I know everybody in Atlanta wants us to win now,' Young said. 'It's tough because we're right there. It's just that finish, and we're going to get it done.' Los Angeles trailed 87-72 in the third quarter, but went on a 20-4 run to take a 97-96 lead early in the fourth. Young lost the ball on the Atlanta end, and Williams whipped a pass across the baseline to Scott for a 3 that prompted the Hawks to call a timeout. Atlanta quickly regrouped, taking the lead back when Prince, who missed the previous two games with an Achilles injury, dunked on the ensuing possession. A 3-pointer by Alex Len put the Hawks up by five. It was all Los Angeles from there. Scott hit a 3 off an assist from Williams to give the Clippers the lead for good with 4:08 remaining. Williams fed Harrell for a strong reverse layup and a three-point play, and Harrell followed by knocking away Young's pass before Scott hit another 3 to make it 117-110. Williams, in his 14th season and second with the Clippers, knows his younger teammates depend on him to set the tone as the leader off the bench. 'I've seen a lot in this league,' he said. 'I have probably been in every single position that you could be in. Whether it's being almost an All-Star, starting or coming off the bench, I have a lot of experience, and when I talk, guys listen.' Gallinari was sick and unable to play for the first time this season. Avery Bradley started in his spot after missing the last six games with a left ankle sprain, finishing with five points in 20 minutes. The Clippers have won seven of eight. Atlanta has dropped 12 of 13. Harris scored 12 points in the first period, but the Hawks were ahead by five entering the second. Young gave Atlanta its biggest lead at eight with a fast-break layup. Los Angeles went on a 15-3 run to take a 50-44 lead on Patrick Beverley's fast-break layup before the Hawks' 14-3 run put them up by seven on DeAndre' Bembry's free throws. Harris ended the first half with a long 3 that made it 64-61. 'We keep putting ourselves in holes, which is too dangerous,' Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. 'This is a really fun team to coach.' SOLID RETURN John Collins, in his second game back for Atlanta after missing the first 15 this season with a left ankle injury, had 18 points, six assists, three rebounds and five fouls in 21 minutes. Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce had Collins on a limit of playing in bursts of 3-4 minutes before coming out. HURTING Hawks forward Omari Spellman started but left after four minutes with a bruised right hip. POOR TIMING Beverley was called for a technical in the third after disputing a foul call with official Courtney Kirkland, and Atlanta scored the next 11 points to take an 87-72 lead. Early in the fourth while he was on the bench, Beverley and Rivers made gestures of disbelief that Kirkland called a foul on Scott even though Len had his arms around him. Beverley did not return to the game. UP NEXT Clippers: Visit Washington on Tuesday. Hawks: Host Toronto on Wednesday. ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports