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Sony Michel and Georgia’s running back tradition shine bright in Rose Bowl

Sony Michel and Georgia’s running back tradition shine bright in Rose Bowl

Sony Michel and Georgia’s running back tradition shine bright in Rose Bowl

Sony Michel and Georgia’s running back tradition shine bright in Rose Bowl

PASADENA, Calif. — Years from now, when I retell the story of the 2018 Rose Bowl to my grandkids years, I’ll be starting with Sony Michel.

The Bulldogs’ senior tailback and world’s greatest understudy was unquestionably the player of the game — but he almost wasn’t. Just minutes after the 54-48 score was posted, came the announcement over the press box P.A. that Nick Chubb had been declared offensive player of the game.

This made no sense since Michel had rushed for the most yards in the game (181), ran for more touchdowns (3) and scored more TDs overall (4) than anybody. But apparently the determination of Chubb had been made before Michel’s 27-yard touchdown in the second overtime won the game.

“He took it from me, huh?” Chubb deadpanned of his longtime roommate and backfield mate. “Ah, you know, he should’ve been, man. He made plays all game.”

But he’s another reason Michel was player of the game: Her even provided inspiration for the Georgia defense.

There’s a lot of reasons that the Bulldogs played better on the defensive side of the ball in the second half and started getting some pressure on Baker Mayfield, who was sacked five times and three times in the third quarter alone. Great coaching, alignment adjustments, better effort.

But Michel gets an assist, according to his coaches and teammates.

The team is split into offense and defense in the locker room at halftime. But before they went back out onto the field, Michel came over to the defensive side of the room and offered some encouragement.

“Sony came up to us and he was like, ‘y’all keep doing what y’all do. Keep playing. We’ve got this,'” senior linebacker Reggie Carter recounted. “He was keeping everybody composed and let them know that we were still in this game no matter what.”

Several other defensive players mentioned that little incident. Running backs coach Dell McGee did, too.

“He told them, ‘hey, guys, we got y’all. Just keep chopping,'” McGee recounted. “‘Y’all are going to stop them and we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing.'”

There’s not much difference in Chubb and Michel, but that’s one of them. Michel is definitely the vocal one, a trait that has become more exaggerated in his senior year.

Together, what Georgia’s running backs did was combine on one of the best rushing performances these new-fangled College Football Playoffs have ever seen. Before it was over, Michel and Chubb had combined for 326 yards and Georgia had nearly matched the nation’s top offense yard-for-yard. The Bulldogs had a total of 527 to the Sooners’ 531.

And of course, Michel was in the middle of all that. He had a second-half fumble that looked really bad at the time as Oklahoma took it the other way for what at the time looked like a game-turning touchdown.

But he kept chopping as they say, and Michel kept talking and encouraging his teammates. That’s how they say about him, at least. He’s “inspirational,” as Jonathan Ledbetter described.

Michel downplayed his little halftime speech.

“I didn’t really say much,” Michel insisted. “I just came in there and let them know that I have their back, that we have their back as an offense. ‘No matter what happens, just keep fighting.'”

Michel now has 1,129 yards rushing this season. That gives the Bulldogs two 1,000-yard rushers on the same team for the first time in school history. They’re already two and three on the SEC’s and Georgia’s all-time lists. Herschel Walker, who was in attendance Monday, will forever remain No. 1, or so it seems.

In fact, Georgia’s locker room was crowded with great running backs after Monday’s game. And not just Michel and Chubb and D’Andre Swift and the others on the team.

The first person to embrace Michel when he came off the field after the double-overtime victory was Garrison Hearst, the Doak Walker Award winner and Heisman Trophy finalist of the 1992 season. In the locker room, Chubb and Michel were joined by Todd Gurley and Terrell Davis, a couple more running backs who have left a mark or two on the NFL, the latter just recently inducted into the Hall of Fame.

“Watching greatness, watching history in the making,” Gurley, who now stars for the playoff-bound Los Angeles Rams, said of watching his two former UGA teammates. “It was cool, it was exciting. You know, man, we’re Running Back U. We always have the best backs.”

Or certainly of the most really good ones.

At times it has been Chubb that stood out. In the SEC championship it was the freshman Swift who wowed the crowd with a 66-yard back-breaking score over Auburn late in the game.

On this day, it was Sony Michel. The part-time rapper and second-generation Haitian-American from Miami was the biggest difference in the the six-point game that decided one of the two national finalists.

When he broke that initial tackle attempt on that second-and-12, direct-snap sweep, he wasn’t going to be denied. That’s what he said, and that’s what it’s starting to feel like with these Bulldogs, who seemed to have grabbed destiny and started carrying it under their arm like a football.

Less than a week from now, they’ll be taking this party back down to “The Benz,” and with backs like Michel and Chubb and the others behind them and still to come, it’s hard to imagine them losing again at this point.

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Michel said of playing for the national title. “I don’t know when it’s going to sink in. I just know we’re going to have to finish . Whatever we have to do, we’ve got to finish.”

They should did finish the Rose Bowl, much thanks to Michel for sure.

The post Sony Michel and Georgia’s running back tradition shine bright in Rose Bowl appeared first on DawgNation.

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Georgia Sports News

  • ATHENS — New Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean has finally pulled the trigger on naming a second assistant basketball coach. Joe Scott, most recently an assistant coach at Holy Cross, sports 16 seasons of head coaching experience at three Division I schools. He joins Chad Dollar on the Bulldogs’ staff. “I’m excited to welcome Joe, Leah, Ben and Jack to our Georgia Basketball family and the entire UGA community,” Crean said in a statement released by the school. “Joe is known nationally as someone who excels at coaching, teaching and competing. He has tremendous respect of his peers who have gone against him and those who have worked along side him. He will bring many different elements to our program, but overall and he will help our young men get better every day.” Said Scott, also in a statement: “My family and I are extremely excited to be joining the Georgia family. The University of Georgia is a special place. This is a tremendous opportunity to help Coach Crean implement his vision and make Georgia Basketball special. I cannot wait to get started coaching our players to develop and get better every day.” Scott was tabbed one of the nation’s top-20 “Xs & Os” coaches in a survey of his peers by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman in 2013. He was head coach at Air Force for four seasons, Princeton for three campaigns and Denver for nine seasons. He also has served as an assistant coach at Monmouth, Princeton and Holy Cross. All told, Scott sports 27 years of collegiate coaching experience. Before breaking into the head coaching ranks, Scott was an assistant coach at Monmouth during the 1991-92 season and at Princeton from 1992-2000. While at Princeton, Scott helped the Tigers to five consecutive postseason appearances, with trips to the 1996, 1997 and 1998 NCAA Tournaments and the 1999 and 2000 NITs. The Tigers won three Ivy League titles from 1996-98, including perfect 14-0 records in the final two seasons. Princeton upset defending national champion UCLA in the 1996 NCAA Tournament and ranked as high as No. 7 nationally in 1998 en route to earning a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, the highest ever for an Ivy League team. The post Georgia’s Tom Crean finally settles on a second assistant coach appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Georgia basketball and Tom Crean have hired a second assisstant coach, this time in former Princeton head coach Joe Scott. The school released a statement on the hiring, with a statement from Crean. “I’m excited to welcome Joe, Leah, Ben and Jack to our Georgia Basketball family and the entire UGA community,” Crean said. “Joe is known nationally as someone who excels at coaching, teaching and competing. He has tremendous respect of his peers who have gone against him and those who have worked along side him. He will bring many different elements to our program, but overall and he will help our young men get better every day.” In addition to serving as the head coach at Air Force, Scott also has head coaching experience at Princeton and Denver. As an assistant Scott has worked at Monmouth, Princeton and Holy Cross, where he spent the past two seasons. Scott is a Princeton alum. “My family and I are extremely excited to be joining the Georgia family,” Scott said. “The University of Georgia is a special place. This is a tremendous opportunity to help Coach Crean implement his vision and make Georgia Basketball special. I cannot wait to get started coaching our players to develop and get better every day.” Scott will join assistant Chad Dollar in helping Crean. Dollar’s hire was announced earlier in April. Crean replaced Mark Fox, who had been the coach at Georgia since the 2008-09 season. The post Georgia basketball announces hiring of assistant coach Joe Scott appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Georgia held their final actual practice of the spring at the Woodruff Practice Complex on Thursday. Under clear skies and relatively cool temperatures, the Bulldogs were working out in shorts and helmets and were scheduled to for about two hours. The next time they get together and play as a team will be during G-Day Saturday at Sanford Stadium (4 p.m., ESPN, News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB). Actually, it will as two teams. UGA on Thursday released its split rosters for the Red and Black squads for Saturday’s intrasquad game. This year, Georgia’s No. 1 offense, led by quarterback Jake Fromm, will be the Red team. The Black Squad will be led by the Bulldogs’ No. 1 defensive unit — and freshman quarterback Justin Fields, of course. Fromm’s Red squad will be protected by the first-string offensive line — which included both Solomon Kindley and Kendall Baker to play left guard. It will also feature juniors Elijah Holyfield and Brian Herrien at tailback and Terry Godwin, Riley Ridley and Mecole Hardman at wideout and Isaac Nauta and Charlie Woerner at tight end. Fields’ No. 2 offensive unit will have walkons Prather Hudson and Ian Donald-McIntyre in the backfield and will feature a receiving corps of Ahkil Crumpton, J.J. Holloman, Kearis Jackson, Matt Landers and Tyler Simmons. Of course, the Black team will be hanging its hat on a defensive team led by Tyler Clark, DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, Jonathan Ledbetter, Julian Rochester and Malik Herring and inside linebackers Juwan Taylor, Tae Crowder and Nate McBride. D’Andre Walker, Robert Beal and Walter Grant will man the outside linebacker positions. The secondary for the Black squad has Deandre Baker and Tyrique McGhee at the corners, William Poole at star and J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte III at the safeties. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs appeared to be going through normal drill work and play-polish in the early portions of practice on Thursday. Following are a few observations: Senior Terry Godwin was going through regular drill work with the receivers but appeared to be a bit gimpy in doing so. He had a reinforced brace on one knee and a regular sleeve on the other. Cornerback Mark Webb was not practicing after suffering a knee injury of undisclosed severity on Tuesday. Indications are it’s not a “major” injury. D’Andre Swift was going through bag drills with the running backs and did not exhibit noticeable limitations. He is dealing with a groin injury, according to coach Kirby Smart. Defensive tackle Michael Barnett (knee) was not at practice again, assuring that he’ll miss G-Day. Justin Young, who missed practices last week due to a minor knee sprain, has been able to practice and might be able to play. One area lacking depth that has not been much discussed is deep snapper for special teams. The Bulldogs technically have just one on the roster in redshirt freshman Oren Morgan of Toombs County. But senior fullback Nick Moore also snaps to the kickers. Former tailbacks Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were watching Thursday’s practice from the sideline and having a good time commenting on what they say. Asked which tailback they expected to be the leading rusher for the G-Day Game on Saturday, they simultaneously said “Prather Hudson.” Hudson is a redshirt sophomore walkon from Columbus. Recently-matriculated receiver Javon Wims was also at practice watching his position group. All of them plan to attend on Saturday, with Chubb conducting an autograph-signing at the bookstore.   The post Practice report: Jake Fromm to lead Red against Justin Field’s Black squad on G-Day appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Don’t be surprised if you see players being shuffled around a lot and playing in somewhat unfamiliar positions Saturday, especially on defense. Spring practice is a highly experimental time as it is, but injuries have forced Georgia’s hand in some key areas on the football field. As a result, you’re likely to see some defensive ends playing tackle, some tackles playing nose guard and some safeties playing cornerback when the Bulldogs conduct their annual G-Day spring intrasquad game at Sanford Stadium (4 p.m. Saturday, ESPN, News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB). Georgia has been hit with injuries along the defensive line and in the secondary this spring. Defensive end Justin Young and tackle Michael Barnett have been out for most of the spring with what coach Kirby Smart calls “minor” knee injuries. This Tuesday, cornerback Mark Webb suffered what’s characterized as a non-serious knee injury, but he won’t be available for game simulation on Saturday. He’ll be joined on the sideline by senior safety Jarvis Wilson, who has a sprained foot. As a result, Georgia will have to do some mixing and matching in order to keep a competitive 22 players on the field at all times. The Bulldogs have 111 players on their spring roster, but that includes six kicking specialists or holders and 36 walk-ons, including three quarterbacks not named Stetson Bennett. The point is, not all of those players are going to play and many won’t get significant amounts of time. Junior David Marshall, who played in 14 games at defensive end last season and started three, has been playing inside at tackle. Likewise, defensive tackle Julian Rochester has been cross-training at nose guard. Just a week ago, the Bulldogs moved redshirt sophomore Chris Barnes from offensive guard to the defensive line to shore up depth. “We’re just a little short,” said Marshall, who logged 52 tackles and 3 1/2 quarterback sacks last season. “But it’s next man up around here, so we’ve got to tough it out.” Smart hasn’t been thrilled with the end result. At different times this spring he has complained about the defense not being “stout enough” against the run. “We’ve certainly got to get better at defending [the run], especially against big, physical people like our offense,” Smart said. “But the way to do that is you’ve got to have big people to combat big people with, and we don’t have a lot of big guys. So, we’re looking to recruit. We’re trying to find 290-[pound]-plus guys that can help us become more stout. For us to play the way we want to play we’ve got to have physical guys in there.” In terms of interior defensive linemen that are on scholarship, Georgia has just eight. Freshman signees Jordan Davis and Tramel Walthour won’t join the team until this summer. Smart said he’d like to sign four in the Class of 2019. Georgia also is missing Deangelo Gibbs and is down to 10 scholarship players in the secondary for the scrimmage. By specialty, it breaks down to five corners and five safeties. As always, some from both groups work at the “star” or nickel back positions. Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker also could pluck a linebacker to play in the back third. That has required proven veterans such as junior safety J.R. Reed and senior cornerback Deandre Baker to do a lot of on-field coaching when they’re facing off against Georgia’s high-octane offense. “It’s always good to see these young guys grow,” said Reed, who started all 15 games at strong safety last season. “My goal is to really mold these young guys and really get them up to almost be where I’m at and to get these guys that don’t know a lot to learn more.” While Georgia is expected to receive an infusion of talent when elite signees Tyson Campbell, Nadab Joseph and Otis Reese enroll in June, G-Day will be especially important for their predecessors. Sophomores Ameer Speed, Eric Stokes and William Poole and redshirt freshmen Tray Bishop and Latavious Brini have much to prove. “It’s their time,” Smart said, “and they have to step up or they’ll be replaced by the people coming in.” Low numbers overall are not unusual for spring games. After all, the majority of the incoming recruiting class hasn’t joined the team yet. In Georgia’s case, it has 17 more players on the way. In the meantime, the players that are present and accounted for aim to give the expected crowd of 78,000 a show of some sort. “We like to see all the fans come out and support us,” Marshall said. “We’re going to come out and show great effort hopefully we’ll see how the season will go this year.” The post Injuries have left Bulldogs a little light on defense heading into G-Day appeared first on DawgNation.