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The day Bill Belichick personally worked out 4 Georgia linebackers

The day Bill Belichick personally worked out 4 Georgia linebackers

The day Bill Belichick personally worked out 4 Georgia linebackers

The day Bill Belichick personally worked out 4 Georgia linebackers

Bill Belichick-Davin Bellamy-UGA football-pro day

ATHENS, Ga. – It began when Bill Belichick walked to a corner of the Georgia indoor facility. The area cleared, and the four players gathered around him. At first, it looked like it would just be a nice brief opportunity to meet the New England Patriots coach. But then it kept going.

Over the next 20 minutes the coach considered by many to be the most accomplished coach in NFL history personally ran drills with the four Georgia starting linebackers during its playoff run: Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy and Reggie Carter.

“Control the block. Don’t get off it. Control it,” Belichick said, calmly but firmly guiding the four linebackers through one drill.

“Knock it out. Finish. Finish!” Belichick said at another point.

Belichick’s aide during the drill: Matt Patricia, the new Detroit Lions coach who had been the New England Patriots’ defensive coordinator. The occasion was UGA’s pro day, which turned into a public mini-tryout for Georgia’s now-former linebackers with the most recognizable, and accomplished, coach in the NFL.

“It’s crazy. It’s kind of surreal,” Lorenzo Carter said. “Growing up I was a Pats fan. So seeing Bill, having Coach Belichick work us through drills it’s cool. But it’s what we work for.”

It wasn’t a surprise that Belichick, who politely declined an interview request afterward, was in attendance. He’s come before; he personally worked out offensive lineman David Andrews in preparation for the 2014 draft. Andrews went undrafted, the Patriots signed him as a free agent, and Andrews just started a second straight Super Bowl.

This time the star power at UGA was quite evident: Smith headlines a draft class that could be the best in Georgia history, with as many as five players projected to be selected in the first four rounds, including three who could go in the first round.

Four NFL coaches attended: Belichick, Patricia, Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis and Atlanta’s Dan Quinn. So did personnel people, including Falcons’ general manager Tom Dimitroff, who lauded the four Georgia linebackers.

“It’s such a talented group,” Dimitroff said. “They’re big guys who have range. When you talk about Lo Carter or you talk about Roquan, those guys can fly. Their range is so important for our defense.”

“It’s an honor to say we coached them, but it’s even better to see them do what they want to do,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “And to do it in front of a wonderful audience. I mean, who gets to do linebacker drills with Bill Belichick and Matt Patricia?”

The somewhat-impromptu session happened near the end of the pro day. When Belichick has attended in the past he has mostly watched. The NFL draft process is so cloak and dagger, with teams not wanting other teams to know who they’re working out or what they’re thinking.

This, however, was in full view of everybody. Which doesn’t mean the Patriots are about to select one of those four. (They’d have to trade up from their No. 31 overall pick to get Smith.) Smart opined it was just about Belichick wanting to be involved.

“I know he’s got a passion, he loves the game, he loves coaching,” Smart said. “So it’s a chance for him to get out there and coach guys and make them better – and evaluate talent.”

It led to one accidental moment: Smith knocked over Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, who was assisting in a drill in which linebackers are asked to jump from a stance and push off. Bellamy and Carter had done so without incident, but when it was Smith’s turn, he knocked the 68-year-old Pasqualoni to the ground.

“I don’t know what I did, if I hit it a little awkward or anything to make him flip like that,” Smith said. “But I was just trying to get a work in.”

Smith was asked if he apologized.

“No I didn’t apologize,” Smith said with an incredulous smile.

The day wasn’t all about those four starting linebackers and their very public tryout. Georgia had 22 players working out. A few other notables:

  • Javon Wims, the team’s leading receiver last year, said he improved his time in the 40-yard dash, from 4.53 at the NFL combine last month to 4.47 on Wednesday.
  • Punter Cameron Nizialek boomed some punts into the roof at the indoor facility.
  • Tailbacks Sony Michel and Nick Chubb caught some passes but didn’t run or lift.
  • Aaron Davis, the four-year starter in the secondary who was snubbed for an invite to the NFL combine, tried to make up for it, showing scouts his speed and catching ability.

But the highlight was the four linebackers working with the legendary head coach. They were what Smart called “recognition drills” that are more standard for a team practice, and typically aren’t done at the combine. Belichick was very hands on, running with the players during part of the drills.

When it ended, the four linebackers gathered around, and Belichick extended his hand.

“Thank you. Thank you,” Belichick said, shaking each of their hands.

Smith later played the session off as no big deal. (“My job is to get the work done, and that’s end of it,” he said.) And so did Bellamy.

“Everybody’s going to be like, ‘Whoa, that’s Bill Belichick.’ But at the end of the day he’s here to work me out,” Bellamy said. “And any coach here that’s here to work me out I’m going to give 110 [percent] for. So I was just locked in and giving it all I had.”

The post The day Bill Belichick personally worked out 4 Georgia linebackers appeared first on DawgNation.

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  • ATLANTA (AP) - The Baby Braves are all grown up. It's almost time to celebrate. With another gutty performance that pushed Atlanta to the brink of its first NL East title since 2013, the Braves bounced back from Ronald Acuna Jr.'s defensive blunder with a five-run seventh inning that carried them past the Philadelphia Phillies 6-5 Friday night. Ozzie Albies sparked the comeback with a two-run homer and Johan Camargo finished it off with a two-out, two-run single, giving the youthful Braves a chance to celebrate as soon as Saturday afternoon with one more victory over the second-place Phillies. 'Man, this might be doable,'' manager Brian Snitker deadpanned. Acuna misjudged Wilson Ramos' liner to left in the top half of the seventh, turning what should have been an out into a two-run double. Pinch-hitter Jose Bautista tacked on a run-scoring single, giving the Phillies a 4-1 lead. It didn't last long. Tyler Flowers led off the bottom half with a single off Pat Neshek (3-2), and Albies followed with a drive into the right-field seats for his 23rd homer. Dansby Swanson walked and Lucas Duda followed with a pinch-hit single before Neshek finally got an out - on a grounder that bounced off the third-base bag and was backhanded by Asdrubal Cabrera, who threw home to get Swanson trying to score. That was only a brief respite for the Phillies. Luis Avilan surrendered a run-scoring double by Ender Inciarte into the right-field corner. With two outs and the bases loaded, Camargo came through on a 3-2 pitch by lining a single to left to put the Braves ahead for the first time all night . 'There's an 'it' factor with teams,' Snitker said. 'You don't know how they get it. But when they've got it, it's really something special.' Acuna and Inciate celebrated at home plate, while Camargo pumped his fist emphatically at first, knowing he had pushed the Braves another step closer to the postseason. The Phillies dropped 7 1/2 games behind the Braves, while the Washington Nationals were eliminated from the division race. After their last NL East title, the Braves went through a massive rebuild that led to three straight 90-loss seasons. With some of baseball's brightest young stars, including 21-year-old Albies and 20-year-old Acuna, they're pushing for the playoffs far sooner than most people expected. Julio Teheran and Freddie Freeman are the only holdovers from Atlanta's last playoff team. 'We were talking about it the other day,' Teheran said. 'It's been a while since the last time we did this. We're excited. We have a new team. I'm excited to see the guys do it for the first time. It's going to be different for me. I was a rookie the last time we did it.' After giving up a leadoff homer to Cesar Hernandez, Teheran turned in one of his best outings of an inconsistent season. He didn't allow another hit until pinch-hitter J.P. Crawford started the sixth with a triple off the right-field wall. Teheran escaped that jam by striking out Roman Quinn, getting Hernandez on a grounder to second and retiring Rhys Hoskins on a fly ball to right. But the Braves defense let Teheran down in the seventh. With one out, Justin Bour walked and Carlos Santana singled before Ramos sent a liner to left field for what should have been the second out. Acuna completely misjudged the ball, however, realizing too late that it was over his head. After a futile leap, the rookie had to go all the way to the wall to retrieve it, as both runners raced home to break a 1-all tie. Jonny Venters (4-0) claimed the win by getting the final two outs in the seventh. A.J. Minter earned his 15th save despite giving up a run in the ninth , striking out Quinn to end the game with a runner aboard. ROUGH OUTING After a very effective season, Neshek had one of his worst outings. The side-arming right-hander was charged with four runs while recording just one out, bouncing his ERA from 1.16 to 2.66. Neshek claimed home-plate umpire Gerry Davis missed several pitches that should have been called strikes. 'When you leave it in thee ump's hands, that can happen,' Neshek said. 'It just didn't go my way.' TRAINER'S ROOM The Braves will likely want former closer Arodys Vizcaino to pitch in back-to-back games before deciding whether he deserves a spot on a postseason roster. Vizcaino has allowed three hits and two runs in three innings since returning from the disabled list a week ago, but he had his most impressive performance with a scoreless inning against the Phillies in the series opener Thursday. The hard-throwing right-hander had 15 saves before he went on the DL with shoulder inflammation. He missed 55 games. UP NEXT The Braves are skipping LH Sean Newcomb's spot in the rotation, moving up RH Mike Foltynewicz (11-10, 2.90 ERA) to make Saturday's start against Phillies RH Jake Arrieta (10-9, 3.77 ERA). Newcomb has a 7.44 ERA over his last seven starts, endangering his spot in the possible playoff rotation after he spent much of the season as one of Atlanta's most effective pitchers. Newcomb will be available out of the bullpen for the remainder of the weekend but could still make another start in the final week of the regular season, according to Snitker. ___ Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry ___ For more AP baseball coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
  • FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) - Atlanta running back Devonta Freeman will miss his second straight game with a knee injury, and the Falcons also will be without starting defensive end Takk McKinley when they host the New Orleans Saints on Sunday. Coach Dan Quinn declared both players out Friday, extending a rash of injuries that have plagued the Falcons (1-1) already this season. Freeman went down with a bruised knee in a Week 1 loss to Philadelphia, while McKinley sustained a groin injury that kept him off the field in the closing stages of last weekend's 31-24 victory over Carolina. Tevin Coleman took over as the primary running back against the Panthers, rushing for 107 yards, and rookie Ito Smith also was effective. The loss of McKinley means Brooks Reed will likely move into a starting role vs. the Saints. The Falcons also will be missing backup end Derrick Shelby, ruled out with a groin injury, and reserve linebacker Corey Nelson (calf). Atlanta already has lost safety Keanu Neal and offensive guard Andy Levitre to season-ending injuries. Linebacker Deion Jones (foot) will have to miss at least eight games after going on injured reserve. ___ For more AP NFL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NFLfootball and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • Georgia football fans can get their statistical fix each week with By the Numbers — a stats-based look at how UGA coach Kirby Smart is doing in his attempt to keep the Bulldogs on top of the SEC and continue the program’s pursuit of a national championship. This week’s edition of By the Numbers looks at Georgia’s missing pass rush through three games and how that could improve before season’s end. Georgia’s defense hasn’t had much success getting to the quarterback this season. A fact that hasn’t been a problem yet for the Bulldogs, but could be an issue before season’s end if it doesn’t improve. UGA — as has been widely discussed — is last in the country through three games with just one sack. However, coach Kirby Smart apparently isn’t too concerned. “I’m looking more at total yards per completion and how many points they put on the scoreboard. That’s what matters to me,” Smart said when asked about not getting quarterback pressure on Middle Tennessee State last Saturday. “I know everybody wants sacks. Everybody wants pass rush, but if you put a stop watch on it and you take the whole [MTSU] offensive line off the field and don’t block anybody, I don’t know that we could’ve got there.” Smart probably has a point in that regard. The Blue Raiders did get rid of the ball quickly vs. UGA, and the stats Smart says he’s monitoring closely — yards per completion for opposing offenses and points allowed — are areas in which UGA’s excelled. The Bulldogs are tied for second in scoring defense (allowing 8 points per game) and tied for sixth in passing yards per attempt allowed (4.8). Yet that analysis ignores an obvious point. Simply put, national championship contenders sack quarterbacks. UGA made the Playoff in 2017 with 34 sacks, but dating back to 2014, 11 of the 15 other teams who’ve made the Playoff had more sacks than that. The average number of sacks for a Playoff team over that span: 39. Quarterback pressure is also among most predictive metrics for determining a team’s success in another crucial area: turnover margin. Stats guru Bill Connelly uses “sack rate” in his formula for his S&P+ rankings because as Connelly explains, “sack rates are one of the only reliable, non-random factors that contribute to a team’s turnover margin.” Smart could be forgiven if he ignores that logic. Despite not getting many sacks, collecting turnovers hasn’t been a problem for UGA yet. The Bulldogs have recovered two fumbles and intercepted three passes through three games — good enough for a +1 turnover margin (tied for 18th-best in the country). However, history says that might not be a pace UGA can continue for the rest of the season. Six of the last nine SEC teams to finish in the top three in the conference in turnover margin were also in the top three in sacks. The blunt truth is UGA’s pass rush needs to improve, and the good news is that’s entirely possible to happen. Improving the pass rush is something Smart’s been doing since he arrived in 2016, and he’s done it without having to blitz often — which can put the secondary in a disadvantageous position. “That’s one of the big things we’ve tried to improve,” Smart said of his pass rush last August. “You can improve your pass rush by bringing more guys, or you can rush four better. Obviously, I like to rush four better than bringing more guys. So we’ve tried to find ways to do it. It’s not always been exactly what we wanted — what we want to create — but it’s certainly improving.” Smart’s words proved prophetic. UGA’s 34 sacks last season were five more than the Bulldogs recorded in 2016, and 13 more than UGA had in 2015 — Mark Richt’s final year as UGA coach. One of the factors that could raise UGA’s sack total by season’s end is the emergence of freshmen such as outside linebacker Brenton Cox — a former 5-star recruit from the Bulldogs No. 1 rated 2018 signing class. Cox has played in every game thus far for Georgia without making much of a dent in the stat sheet. That could change soon. “Brenton has grown and progressed,” Smart said this week. “He probably hasn’t shown up in games as much as he has in practice. He hasn’t had many opportunities to get out there and flash and do what I think he can do… He’s getting better with each and every game. He’s a competitor.” As Cox’s competitive fire allows him to become more of a part of the defensive game plan the Bulldogs’ stats could benefit, and it isn’t inconceivable UGA could end up coming close to the sack total it amassed last season. Saturday will be the Bulldogs fourth game. Through that same span in 2017 UGA had just seven sacks. If Georgia creates any sacks vs. Missouri it won’t be too far off the pace it set a year ago. But as Smart has said, it can’t chase sacks at all costs because pressuring Tigers quarterback Drew Lock can be tricky. CFB Film Room tweeted this week that Lock has an adjusted completion percentage (which accounts for drops and throw aways) of 64.3 percent when facing pressure. That means if the Bulldogs come after him, they better get to him. Otherwise, he can make them pay. Ultimately, Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker know UGA needs more pressure on quarterbacks, and regardless of how either might downplay the stat, they’d love to get sacks. However, neither wants to dial up blitzes to accomplish that. It’s probably the correct philosophy — especially against Lock. What many UGA fans are hoping for is a glimpse of improvement — either from Cox, or a veteran presence like D’Andre Walker, the only Bulldogs player with more than one quarterback pressure so far. If that improvement comes against Missouri, UGA could be well on its way to re-establishing the credentials that made it Playoff-worthy in 2017. The post By the Numbers: Still plenty of time for UGA pass rush to improve appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ST. LOUIS — Georgia football coach Kirby Smart loves to talk about his big, physical offensive line and how it wears out defenders. Opponents, like Missouri coach Barry Odom, dread the challenge the Bulldogs’ offensive front presents. “I think they’ve got as talented of a run-oriented system when they decide to go run the ball   as we’ve seen,” Odom said. “If you are out of your gap or out of your assignment a little bit, it will get exposed quickly.” The No. 2-ranked Georgia football program will taken on Odom’s Tigers in a noon (Eastern) kick on Saturday in Columbia in a battle of unbeaten SEC teams. As much attention as quarterbacks Jake Fromm and Drew Lock draw, the line of scrimmage could ultimately decide the outcome as both teams look to stay in favorable down-and-distance situations. The key to that is often first down production, and Odom knows the Bulldogs love to dictate the flow with their power run game. “Once we encounter one of their big dudes up front, we have to do a great job using our hands playing through and off the blocks,” Odom said this week, “because there’s times — the way they play and get to the next level of defenders, which would be our linebackers and sometimes drop down safety — that they can overwhelm you a bit with the way they play in the run game.” Georgia is averaging 272 yards per game on the ground, 13th-best in the nation, and fourth in the SEC. The Bulldogs offensive line leads the way, from left to right: • LT Cade Mays (6-foot-6, 318 pounds) • LG Solomon Kindley (6-4, 335) • OC Lamont Gaillard (6-2, 308) • RG Ben Cleveland (6-6, 335) • RT Isaiah Wilson (6-7, 340) “Our offensive line is   physical, they’re big, they lean on you,” Smart said. “It just wears on you.” The Bulldogs are splitting the carries at the tailback position four ways between leading rusher Elijah Holyfield (200 yards, 9.1 yards per carry), D’Andre Swift (119 yards, 5.0 yards per carry), James Cook (105 yards, 4.8 yards per carry) and Brian Herrien (91 yards, 7.0 yards per carry). Holyfield broke a 66-yard run against Middle Tennessee, and his hard-charging, physical style of play has impressed Smart and Odom. “He practices tough, physical; every day for him is physical,” Smart said. “He’s not a guy you have to motivate. He loves the game. He practices hard …. He likes contact, and he’s a bowling ball. He’s hard to bring down. He’s really tough.” Odom has seen plenty of film of No. 13, too. “He’s a strong runner, he’s got really good quickness on making his first initial jump cut, and then getting back vertical,” Odom said. “.Strong, strong power runner, really good in block protection when they throw the ball when he’s in there, he’s an impressive guy.” Odom said the Tigers, who rank 74th in the nation in total defense (379.7 yards per game) have a challenge on their hands. “We need to tackle well, we need to make sure that we play assignment sound,” Odom said. “When they do throw the ball we have to be good in our coverage zones, either n zone or man to man, we have to have really great eye discipline.” Elijah Holyfield is a physical runner. Photo: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images The post Georgia football run game ‘can overwhelm you,’ per Missouri coach Barry Odom 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 cast of DawgNation experts as they break down the latest Georgia football recruiting news and discuss UGA coach Kirby Smart’s quest to keep the Bulldogs on top of the SEC. On episode No. 787 (Sept. 21, 2018) of the podcast, Georgia fans can hear a discussion about Georgia coach Kirby Smart and the upcoming game vs. Missouri. Georgia football podcast: Kirby Smart’s search for ‘one defining moment’ could come vs. Missouri Beginning of the show: Georgia coach Kirby Smart has spoken before about his belief that UGA needs to overcome some adversity at some point this season if the Bulldogs are to be as good as they were in 2017 and have the same quality of leadership displayed along the way to the College Football Playoff. I’ll talk on the show today about whether the Missouri game will provide that opportunity for UGA. 10-minute mark: I’ll share the Kroger Checklist and discuss the emergence of safety Richard LeCounte. 15-minute mark: DawgNation’s recruiting insider Jeff Sentell joins the show. Some of the topics covered include… 4-star defensive lineman Derick “Rambo” Hunter’s recently released top five Reaction to 4-star defensive lineman — and Florida State commit — Quashon Fuller’s recent tweet about UGA Whether turmoil at Auburn hurts the Tigers’ chances of swaying 5-star wide receiver Jadon Haselwood’s UGA commitment And the latest on 5-star offensive lineman Clay Webb 30-minute mark: I take a look at other SEC headlines including wide receiver Nate Craig-Myers decision to transfer from Auburn, Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher’s attempt to become the first former Nick Saban assistant to beat his old boss, and a look at the hype building for the Florida-Tennessee game. 35-minute mark: I discuss why freshman outside linebacker Brenton Cox could emerge as a major contributor for UGA by the end of the season. End of show: I update the Gator Hater Countdown and discuss the likelihood of seeing another stadium emptied early by a dominant UGA performance on the road. The post Georgia football podcast: Kirby Smart’s search for ‘one defining moment’ could come vs. Missouri appeared first on DawgNation.