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The 6 best Georgia football players to this point in the 2019 season
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The 6 best Georgia football players to this point in the 2019 season

The 6 best Georgia football players to this point in the 2019 season

The 6 best Georgia football players to this point in the 2019 season

Welcome to Good Day, UGA , your one-stop shop for Georgia footballnews and takes. Check us out every weekday morning for everything you need to know about Georgia football, recruiting, basketball and more.

The best 6 Georgia football players through the first 6 weeks of the season

6. Eric Stokes, defensive back

The why:We had to include at least one defensive back on this list. And the margin between Stokes and senior safety J.R. Reed is razor-thin. Reed does so much in terms of setting up the defense and he's warranted the label "The Human Eraser."

But after watching what Stokes did against Tennessee, we have to give the slightest of nods to the redshirt sophomore cornerback. While he's yet to snare an interception this season, he's got a team-best 6 pass break-ups. And that's despite missing a majority of the Notre Dame game.

Georgia has been vulnerable at times over the middle of the field. But teams have had very little success when trying to go after Stokes in coverage. If and/or when Georgia goes up against Alabama or LSU, the Bulldogs should feel as comfortable as any team putting Stokes on whichever elite wide receiver he's tasked with covering.

And as he showed against Tennessee, he's very capable of just laying out an opposing player.

The quote:"He's just always working, he's already whenever his number is going to call. We expect him to play and do big things when he's out there." Georgia safety J.R. Reed

The play:

5. Andrew Thomas, offensive tackle

The why:Thomas came into the season with First Team All-SEC honors and he's continued to play at a high level. He's the best offensive lineman on perhaps the best offensive line in the country. The Bulldogs have given up just one sack on the season and also lead the SEC in rushing.

Where Thomas really shines is as a pass blocker. His natural athleticism and long arms allow him to keep opposing players far away from quarterback Jake Fromm. He might not be the punisher that Cade Mays is on the right side of the offensive line, but Thomas has been Georgia's most consistent lineman to date.

Related: Andrew Thomas has grown into a "hometown hero" for the Georgia Bulldogs

If there's one complaint about the offensive line it's been the struggles in short-yardage situations. But that shouldn't keep a player as great as Thomas off this list.

The quote:"He started every game that he's been at the University of Georgia. He's a tremendous leader, person. Charismatic. Doesn't say a whole lot all the time." Kirby Smart at SEC Media Days.

The play:Watch how Thomas keeps the opposing rusher from ever turning the corner and never once forcing Fromm to think about backside pressure as he makes a huge third-down throw to Demetris Robertson.

4. Azeez Ojulari, outside linebacker

The why:There's was a lot of offseason talk about how Georgia needed to create more pressure and get more production out of its outside linebacker room. And so far, Ojulari has helped quell some of those doubts.

He's picked up at least 0.5 sack in four of Georgia's first five games. He really stood out in the Tennessee game, as he picked up 2.0 sacks against the Volunteers. One of them, in the play below, he pretty easily beats 5-star offensive tackle Wanya Morris.

Another reason Ojulari is this high on the list is because he's one of the few Georgia defenders who can realistically be on the field in every situation. He's good enough against the run to merit being on the field on first and second down, and athletic enough to be in on obvious pass-rushing downs.

Related: Azeez Ojulari shows why he's pretty special' in multi-sack effort against Tennessee

Ojulari also gets a bump here because of his leadership abilities. Against Tennessee, he became the first freshman to become a named a captain in the Smart era.

The quote:"Azeez is a great leader for this team. He was a captain for this game, to do that as a redshirt freshman is pretty special. He leads in practice, he plays the right way, he's everything you want in a student-athlete. It's a credit to his family. They did a great job with him." Kirby Smart after the Tennessee game

The play:

3. Rodrigo Blankenship, kicker

The why: In a sport where #collegekickers is a meme, Blankenship is an automatic three points every time he steps on the field. So far this season, he's made all 11 of his field-goal attempts and been named the SEC's Special Teams Player of the Week three times.

Blankenship started his career as a cult figure of sorts because of his rec specs. Then he began to make clutch kick after clutch kick during the 2017 College Football Playoffs and emerged into perhaps the most beloved Georgia Bulldog of the 21st century.

It should also say a lot about Blankenship that he came back after missing a makable kick in the 2018 SEC Championship Game and hasn't missed a field goal since then. It might not be the coolest thing to have Blankenship this high, but he's shown he's possibly the best kicker in the country.

The quote: "Hot Rod does a great job. He does everything he's asked. He's a great leader for our team, and he's very consistent. He has an approach to the game and an approach to his method of doing things that is unique to him. He believes in it. We trust him a lot, and he's been a tremendous leader, you know, just in this room with our team because people see how hard Rod works. So it's an honor to have him on here, and he works really hard." Kirby Smart

The play:

2. D'Andre Swift, running back

The why:So far, Swift only has a single 100-yard rushing game this season. Against Tennessee, he posted a season-worst 4.24 yards per carry. But the reason Swift is so high is that even though he hasn't matched the torrid pace he set at the end of the 2018 season, it's clear he's a better player this year than he was a season ago.

One only has to look to the Notre Dame game to see Swift show that in addition to being able to run by you, he's also able and willing to run through opposing defenders now as well. And even though the Tennessee game was his worst rushing output of the season, he caught a season-high 4 passes for 72 yards.

Related: D'Andre Swift shows he can be the thunder and the lightning in Georgia offense

As a junior, Swift has become a complete player. He can do just about everything that's asked of him, even if he isn't great in short-yardage situation's at the moment. When an offense is as reliant on its ground game as Georgia is, it really helps to have a running back that impacts the game in as many ways as Swift does.

The quote:"He is a great running back and a great player. He is an explosive, big back and a guy that is just competitive as well. He is tough for anyone to match up against." Notre Dame safety Alohi Gilman

The play:

1. Jake Fromm, quarterback

The why:In Fromm's last six quarters, he's completed 33 of his 43 pass attempts for 414 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those games came against a top-10 team in Notre Dame and on the road against Tennessee. After turning a corner during the Florida game last year, Fromm has continued to improve his game.

Fromm will never get a chance to put the statistical numbers that Tua Tagovailoa or Justin Fields do. But Fromm is asked to do so much for Georgia in terms of pre-snap adjustments that it's almost Peyton Manning-esque.

It is unfortunate for Fromm that's he's at his absolute apex when Georgia is running its hurry-up offense. As the Tennessee game showed, he can be deadly when he gets to operate at the pace. But Georgia can't play fast all the time, as that runs counter to Smart's belief in wearing down an opponent over the course of the game. This also shows just how special Fromm is as a leader in that he's willing to sacrifice elements of his own game in order to better help the team succeed.

Guys like Thomas and Swift might be more talented than Fromm. But no player has been a bigger reason for Georgia's unbeaten start so far than Fromm. And that's why he's been the best player on Georgia's team to this point in the 2019 season.

The quote:"Jake takes things that are broke and fixes them, and he makes wrong right. He's a leader, he's a commander in chief, the guy makes good decisions." Georgia coach Kirby Smart.

The play:

*Just missed: Georgia safety J.R. Reed, Georgia defensive tackle Tyler Clark, Georgia wide receiver Lawrence Cager, Georgia linebacker Tae Crowder

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  • ATHENS Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken has yet to call his first play, but it's safe to say the 53-year-old already knows he's walking into a better situation than a year ago. RELATED: Todd Monken a Statement hire' by Kirby Smart Monken's differences on the Cleveland Browns' staff with first-year coach Freddie Kitchens were well-documented from the onset. Many close to Kitchens have said Monken was not even the head coach's choice for the job. It's no wonder Monken was quoted as referring the Cleveland franchise a 'total mess.' It was an accurate description. Receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry were a handful. The Myles Garrett helmet swing incidentreached epic proportion. Georgia football is anything but a total mess. Monken arrives in Athens knowing he was Kirby Smart's top choice. Smart hasn't announced it, but it's a good bet Monken will assume the playcalling duties. It's something Monken has said before is important to him. RELATED: Why Todd Monken is a proven OC, and the Smart choice The best-case scenario for Georgia and Monken next season is a national championship. At the very least, a fourth-straight trip to the SEC Championship Game. The Georgia defense is that good. Nine of 11 Sugar Bowl starters return. It was a unit that led the nation in scoring defense and run defense, and finished third in the country in total defense and 8h in pass efficiency defense. Smart will be looking for an offense that makes more explosive plays while maintaining a reliable run game. But the bottom line for Smart was and is offensive efficiency and consistency. If Monken's offense can score 24 points in each game next season, it's hard to project the Bulldogs losing a game. That said, Georgia has its share of challenges on offense. Chief among those hurdles are growing an inexperienced receiving corps, and developing and scheming for a new quarterback. Georgia rising sophomore George Pickens is the key to the receiving corps. He's coming off a Sugar Bowl MVP performance, making 12 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown in the Bulldogs' 26-14 win over Baylor. Pickens, however, was hit with two suspensions his freshman campaign. The first involved an unspecified violation of team rules. The second came by NCAA rule after his well-publicized tangle at Georgia Tech. RELATED: Pickens apologizes to team for costly SEC title game suspension Pickens' growth and development as a person and potential leader will factor into Monken's future game plans where skill position players are concerned. Georgia has other receiver options returning and promising incoming freshmen. But none appear to have the game-changing dynamic Pickens presents. Georgia is also green in the backfield. Zamir White enters spring drills battling Kenny McIntosh for first-team reps. Rising junior James Cook and incoming freshman Kendall Milton have breakout talent. To this point, none of the backs have shown the dynamic game-breaking ability departing back D'Andre Swift flashed his first two seasons. It doesn't mean they won't, but expectations should be kept in check, Swift was special. The ultimate challenge, however, is at quarterback. Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman is considered the favorite to win the job in spring drills. Newman is coming to Georgia to throw more, and the Bulldogs are excited to have a quarterback who can run and scramble effectively. The two sides will meet somewhere in the middle, with Newman gaining experience in an offense that can transition into the NFL. Georgia also has redshirt junior Stetson Bennett, redshirt freshman D'Wan Mathis and incoming freshman Carson Beck in the quarterback room this spring. The final piece for Monken's success is the fit in the offensive meeting room, and the trust and chemistry he builds with Smart. Unlike Cleveland, Monken will be handed the keys, and he'll be surrounded by an all-star staff that includesJames Coley, Matt Luke and run game coordinator Dell McGee. Georgia football, unlike the NFL's Cleveland Browns, doesn't mess around. Georgia football offseason Kirby Smart lands Air Raid guru Todd Monken LSU DC Dave Aranda reveals UGA offensive game plan Mark Richt gives scout on FSU grad-transfer Tre Mckitty UGA provides status update on James Coley Numbers game: Comparing Jamie Newman to Jake Fromm Bulldogs' safety headed for Ole Miss RELATED: Cade Mays makes stunning Rocky Top Hop Projected starting Georgia lineman returning from injury PODCAST: Brandon Adams discusses Todd Monken addition The post New Georgia OC Todd Monken trades total mess' for championship quest appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Former Georgia football safety Otis Reese announced on Twitter that he's headed for Ole Miss after entering his name in the NCAA transfer portal two weeks ago. Reese, a 2018 signee, has three years of eligibility remaining. He would have to sit out a season unless granted an NCAA waiver. Reese a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder from Leesburg, Ga., saw action in all 14 games for the No. 4-ranked Bulldogs last season. Most all of Reese's opportunities were on special teams, however, as he finished with just three tackles. It has been a busy offseason of comings and goings by way of transfer for the Bulldogs. Georgia has scored big additions with Wake Forest QB graduate transfer Jamie Newman and Florida State TE grad transfer Tre' Mckitty. Cade Mays has been the biggest departure, shunning a starting spot with the Bulldogs' championship contender to return to his hometown of Knoxville where his father player. RELATED: Cade Mays makes stunning Rocky Top Hop Reese's situation is clearly about playing time and opportunity. Georgia's elite defense was stacked in the secondary last season with Thorpe Award finalist J.R. Reed at one safety position, and rising star Richard LeCounte at the other. Freshman safety Lewis Cine, like Reese a top 100 prospect in high school, won the starting job for the Sugar Bowl when Reed pulled out of bowl preparation with a foot injury. WATCH: Lewis Cine knows his time is coming, putting in the hard work Cine had six tackles in the 26-14 win over Baylor and appeared to be the perfect partner to the playmaking LeCounte. Christopher Smith was also competing for reps at safety during bowl prep New Orleans. Rising sophomore Tyrique Stevenson figures to fit into the mix moving forward. Reese entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal after LeCounte made it public that he planned on returning to the Bulldogs. Reese was ranked the No. 87 player in the nation by the 247Sports composite coming out of Lee County High School. He chose UGA over Alabama, Clemson, LSU and Auburn, among others, per his recruiting profile. Georgia is expected to start offseason conditioning next week with spring drills likely to begin after UGA's spring break. The Bulldogs open next season playing Virginia in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Monday Sept. 7. Even in my darkest times, I have always believed, the light would shine & it's TIME!!! @OleMissFB , @Lane_Kiffin , @CoachCPartridge COMMITTED pic.twitter.com/NkFdvkKxPo O Dog.. (@otisreese13) January 18, 2020 The post Former Georgia football safety Otis Reese announces he's headed for Ole Miss appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia coach Tom Crean always talks to his team about 'taking what the game gives you,' but on Saturday night at Mississippi State, UGA might need a different approach. Indeed, Crean's young and undersized team will have to take even when the game isn't giving them any breaks or advantages. Coach Ben Howland's maroon-clad Bulldogs lead the SEC in rebounding margin, the very area Crean's vertically challenged canines are most often challenged to measure up. 'I mean, every game we come in here talking about how important the rebounding is and now we're playing the league leader,' said Georgia coach Tom Crean, who has just two players 6-foot-9 or taller. 'That part of it is tough.' Mississippi State features two starters who are even taller, center Abdul Ado (6-11, 255) and power forward Reggie Perry (6-10, 250). The teams tip off at 8:30 p.m. (TV: SEC Network) at the so-called 'Hump.' Officially known as Humphrey Coliseum, Mississippi State's arena which some say resembles a cake from the outside has a smaller, intimate setting similar to Stegeman Coliseum with a capacity of 10,575. Georgia brings an 11-5 overall mark and 1-2 SEC record into the action. Mississippi State is 10-6 and 1-3 in league play. UGA is looking for what would be its first consecutive league wins under Crean, who is now in his second season. Georgia is also looking to play its way into NCAA tournament contention, and it will likely take a .500 record in league play or better for that to happen. It's Crean's first trip to Starkville, and he may be forced to make it without the playing services of Sahvir Wheeler, who fellow freshman Anthony Edwards refers to as 'the heart of the team.' Wheeler suffered an ankle injury in the second half of Georgia's resounding 80-63 blowout win over Tennessee. Crean made it clear on Friday that Wheeler is questionable, having just managed to walk through the Thursday workout. 'You just have to deal with it, and if he can't it is what it is,' Crean said. 'You just go. Right? That's why you try to develop and try to get multi-dimensional versatile guys. Obviously he's a huge factor.' If Wheeler is out, Georgia will rely more heavily on senior graduate transfer Donnell Gresham along with Edwards at the point. Edwards, named a second-team, mid-season All-American by the Sporting News earlier this week, is averaging 19.1 points per game this season, second in the SEC. Georgia, with its size deficiency, will also need another signature performance from 6-9, 245-pound junior Rayshaun Hammonds. Hammonds is averaging 14.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game, and he's coming off a 21-point, 5-rebound in the win over the Vols. Mississippi State represents UGA's fifth-straight game against teams that played in the NCAA tournament last season. The Bulldogs are 2-2 in the past four, winning on the road against then-No. 9 Memphis 65-62 on Jan. 4 and hammering Tennessee in Athens on Wednesday night. The losses were to No. 13 Kentucky (78-69) and then-No. 5 Auburn (82-60). Last year's home loss to Mississippi State featured one of the most bizarre endings in Stegeman Coliseum history. WATCH: Stuffed bulldog triggers decisive technical foul in UGA home loss A small stuffed bulldog toy was thrown on the court in the final moments, resulting in a technical foul that helps swing the game State's way, 68-67. Georgia had rallied from 17 down to tie the game at 67-67. DawgNation Georgia Basketball Anthony Edwards puts the squeeze on Tennessee in blowout win Georgia falls in first SEC road game of season at Auburn Anthony Edwards says UGA didn't play tough enough vs. Kentucky Georgia basketball delivers signature Top 10 win at Memphs Freshman Anthony Edwards discloses injury, status Sahvir Wheeler on clutch game-winner, 'been there a ton of times' Tom Izzo on Georgia: 'That was an incredible comeback' Anthony Edwards lights up Michigan State for 37 in 93-85 loss Rayshaun Hammonds wrecks Georgia Tech Anthony Edwards draws standing ovation in opener Georgia freshman already making basketball history The post Georgia basketball looks to get over the hump at Mississippi State appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Georgia football is the No. 1 topic every day on DawgNation Daily the daily podcast for Georgia Bulldogs fans. Catch up on everything happening with UGA athletics with host Brandon Adams and the DawgNation experts as they break down the latest Georgia football recruiting news and discuss coach Kirby Smart's quest to return the Bulldogs to the top of the SEC. On episode No. 1,112 (Jan. 17, 2020) of the podcast, Georgia fans can hear a discussion about Georgia's new offensive coordinator Todd Monken. Georgia football podcast: What the Todd Monken hire means for UGA Beginning of the show: News of Todd Monken's hiring broke right as DawgNation Daily began Friday. I'll discuss my thoughts on Monken on the show including how his recent stops as an assistant with the Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Bucs and as a head coach at Southern Miss could influence his play calling at UGA. 10-minute mark: DawgNation's Connor Riley joins the show to react in the moment, and I take comments from DawgNation Daily listeners and viewers. 20-minute mark: DawgNation's recruiting insider Jeff Sentell joins the show to react to Monken's hiring and preview a major UGA recruiting weekend including a visit by five-star quarterback Brock Vandagriff. 45-minute mark: I take a look at other SEC headlines including LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda leaving the Tigers to become Baylor head coach, more fallout from Odell Beckham Jr.'s dreadful post-national championship celebration and Tennessee hyping former UGA offensive lineman Cade Mays' presence on campus. 50-minute mark: I preview a busy weekend for UGA athletics beyond football. End of show: I share the Gator Hater Updater. The post Georgia football podcast: What the Todd Monken hire means for UGA appeared first on DawgNation.