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Local News

  • The following is  press release from the Georgia House of Representatives:  ATLANTA – State Representatives Deborah Gonzalez (D-Athens) and Jonathan Wallace (D-Watkinsville) today issued the following joint statement regarding a recent policy change made by the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office:   “As elected representatives of the Athens-Clarke County (ACC) community, we are concerned about a recent policy change made by the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office with respect to turning over undocumented immigrants to U.S. Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) detention. This new policy is especially concerning given the questions that surround the legality of some ICE operations by the Trump Administration and the fact that there is no compelling reason for a change in local policy at this time.   “This is also a surprising reversal of the community policing approach followed by both the Athens-Clarke County Police Department and the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office in recent years. The recent change in policy stands in stark contrast to the community policing approach that is strongly supported by ACC residents.     “Community policing is successful in making communities safer because it treats people as partners rather than adversaries, it increases cooperation with law enforcement and it addresses the underlying issues that affect crime.     “We are not only concerned that routine traffic stops are leading to the detention and deportation of people in our community, but that Athens-area children are terrorized by immigration raids that occur while they wait for the school bus, as some reports now indicate. These events sow the seeds of distrust between people and the police, making us less safe as a community.   “We ask the sheriff to respect the wishes of our mutual constituents and return to a community policing focus that puts local public safety first. If local agencies continue to comply with ICE, we could jeopardize the constitutional rights of individuals, divide our communities and increase costs to tax payers.   “We see no compelling or urgent reason for the Athens-Clarke County Police Department or the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office to proactively participate in carrying out the duties and responsibilities of a federal agency.”   Rep. Wallace added: “When people feel interaction with law enforcement could result in themselves or a loved one being arrested and possibly deported, it shuts down communication and cooperation between the community and its officers and reduces safety for everyone. We urge the sheriff to listen to his constituents and return to a focus on local law enforcement, leaving immigration control to federal agencies.” Rep. Gonzalez added: “After communicating with the various stakeholders, including Sheriff Edwards, Police Chief Freeman, various Athens residents and the Office of Legislative Counsel at the Georgia State Capitol, and after careful review of the law identified by the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office as the cause for the sudden change, it is my assessment that the sheriff’s policy change is purely voluntary and not required by law. Therefore, I ask the Sheriff to reconsider his stance. Continuing this policy change carries risk for Athens-Clarke County because not only could the county be sued for violating the constitutional rights of residents by detaining them without a warrant, but holding people for longer than necessary it is a costly burden on our jail.”   Representative Deborah Gonzalez represents the citizens of District 117, which includes portions of Barrow, Clarke, Jackson, and Oconee counties. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 2017 and currently serves on the Code Revision, Intragovernmental Coordination and Judiciary Non-Civil committees. Representative Jonathan Wallace represents the citizens of District 119, which includes portions of Clarke and Oconee counties. He was elected to the House of Representatives in 2017 and currently serves on the Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight, Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications and Special Rules committees.
  • The Oglethorpe County Sheriff’s Office says one person has been arrested after the discovery of what appears to be a methamphetamine manufacturing lab. From the Oglethorpe County Sheriff’s Office Facebook page…     There is a rumor going around that there was a meth lab explosion in Oglethorpe. In fact deputies and fire fighters responded to a fire call on Dunlap Ext. They found and extinguished a small fire. A possible small meth lab was found during the process. No one is hurt. Three firefighters are being decontaminated for possible exposure as a precaution. Investigators that are experts in meth labs have been called in to process the scene and properly decontaminate if it is found in fact to be a meth lab. There is no danger to the general public. One person is in custody at this time. The scene was evaluated and it was determined this was NOT a working meth lab. 
  • A new graduate program from the University of Georgia Terry College of Business will prepare students for high-demand jobs in today’s data-centric economy. The Master of Science in Business Analytics combines courses on big data and strategic decision-making with project management and leadership development. The result is a complementary focus that teaches hard and soft skills that are very attractive to data-driven businesses, said Terry College Dean Benjamin C. Ayers. “Our goal has always been to prepare the next generation of business leaders by providing a market-ready curriculum and equipping our students with a skill set that is highly competitive in the job market,” Ayers said. “The M.S. in Business Analytics is a perfect example of our commitment to deliver the best quality education for our students and positively contribute to the economic growth of our state and nation.” The 10-month program helps students develop expertise in the collection, storage, analysis and interpretation of data, in addition to becoming fluent in the predominant programming languages of the field, such as SQL, R and Python. “We have access to more data than ever before, so it is essential for business leaders to be able to understand and operate within this new paradigm,” said Santanu Chatterjee, who will direct the MSBA along with Terry’s Full-Time MBA Program. “Today’s economy demands that employees have skills that intersect business and technology while also being able to communicate effectively. Our goal is to help students develop those skills today so they are ready not only to contribute but to lead within an organization.” Graduates of the MSBA Program will be ready for jobs in business analytics, statistical modeling and data science, helping to fill the growing demand for workers who can interpret big data in a business context. The MSBA degree will become part of the university’s Double Dawgs Program, which allows students to earn both an undergraduate and a graduate degree in five years or less.
  • Schools around the region—most of them—are open and operating on normal schedules this morning. The snow and ice that made for treacherous travel Wednesday and Thursday has, for the most part, melted away. There are still a handful of school closures around the region: Walton County schools are closed, while Hall, Habersham, and Gwinnett counties are opening their schools on a delayed basis later this morning.  A ribbon cutting that had been scheduled for earlier this week is rescheduled for today: officials will mark the ceremonial opening of the 5,000 square-foot Child Development Center at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center. The ceremony is set for noon at the hospital on Prince Avenue in Athens.  They’re trying to get back to normal at the airport in Atlanta: snow and ice led to the cancellation of another 200 flights Thursday at Hartsfield-Jackson.  Authorities want to know why a 60-year-old GDOT worker from Thomaston pulled into the path of a CSX train Thursday morning in Moreland. Cary Ellerbee was treating icy and snowy roads using his salt truck when authorities say he collided with the train. Coweta County Fire Chief Pat Wilson says he pulled onto the tracks right after another vehicle crossed and was dragged several hundred yards after being hit. He had to be extricated from the mangled wreckage and later died. Nobody on the train was injured. 
  • Tony Eubanks has a campaign kickoff event tonight: the Athens activist says he is running for the District 3 seat on the Athens-Clarke County Commissioner, a post now held by one-term incumbent Melissa Link. Eubank’s campaign launch is set for 7 o’clock this evening at Cine on West Hancock Avenue in downtown Athens. 

Bulldog News

  • The game: Mississippi State at Georgia, Sept. 23, 2017. The moment: Touchdown pass on first offensive play of game for Bulldogs. Key player or players: Georgia’s Jake Fromm, Nick Chubb and Terry Godwin What it meant: Established a tone and mindset for the Bulldogs in a top 25 SEC matchup against an opponent that came in riding high. ATHENS – It was one of those plays the players start getting excited about the moment it’s installed in the game plan. And this one went in early in the week before Georgia played Mississippi State. To appreciate what happened on that play in that game, we have to take into account the dynamics of that matchup. The Bulldogs were just two weeks removed from their dramatic 20-19 win over Notre Dame in South Bend. But there still wasn’t much context to that victory. Nobody could be sure how good the Fighting Irish were, or Georgia, for that matter. UGA (3-0) entered the contest against Mississippi State ranked 11th. Likewise, Mississippi State was coming in walking tall. The Maroon Bulldogs (3-0) had just orchestrated an impressive 38-0 road win over LSU in Baton Rouge and shot into the top 25 rankings at No. 17. Led by Georgia-born quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State entered as a trendy pick to pull off an upset. FLEA FLICKER! Fromm ➡️ Godwin. Just like that… 7️⃣-0️⃣ @FootballUGA. pic.twitter.com/YMH0bGHmTu — SEC Network (@SECNetwork) September 23, 2017 Georgia dispensed with that idea quickly. Georgia anticipated that Mississippi State’s defense, under the direction of former UGA defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, would be coming hard to stuff the run, so the Bulldogs decided to run a flea-flicker on their first play from scrimmage. Mississippi State received the game’s opening kickoff, so Georgia’s offense would have to wait. But not long. After forcing State into a three-and-out and punt, Georgia took over at its 41-yard line at the 12:47 mark. On first-and-10, freshman quarterback Jake Fromm handed off to tailback Nick Chubb at right guard, same as he does most every game. But instead of running the ball into the hole behind Solomon Kinley, Chubb stopped, about-faced and tossed the ball back to Fromm about nine yards behind the line of scrimmage. Facing zero pass pressure, Fromm calmly delivered a high-arcing pass to wide receiver Terry Godwin, streaking toward the East end zone just inside the right hash mark. Facing man coverage, Godwin had gotten behind Mississippi State senior cornerback Tolando Cleveland by a couple of yards, hauled in the football basket style with two hands and cut hard to left to ensure that he would remain untouched, which he did. Ten seconds after the snap of the ball and 2:23 into the game, Georgia led 6-0. Sanford Stadium exploded in celebration. The home-standing Bulldogs did not look back on the way to a 31-3 blowout victory. It was the second of what would be six consecutive lopsided victories by an average of 24 points. Turns out that the play, while called by offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, actually had been suggested by head coach Kirby Smart. “I had gone to Jim and told him I’d like to open with that, and he said they had been talking about the same thing,” Smart said after the game. “We felt like their players would be peeking in the backfield, and Terry got behind them.” Said Mississippi State linebacker Braxton Hoyett, “It’s just something we should have expected honestly. We knew coming into the game they were going to try something. I felt like we were prepared for it, but it happened. I can’t even make an excuse for it. They came out with a trick play and they were gone.” Fromm went 9-for-12 for 201 yards passing and two touchdowns in the game. Chubb had 81 yards rushing and scored twice, and Godwin had one other catch and finished with 80 yards receiving. The Bulldogs improved to 4-0 before heading to Knoxville to take on Tennessee. The post Top 10 moments of 2017: The flea-flicker against Mississippi State appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – “It takes a village to raise a child.” That’s thought to be an ancient African proverb. The fact is, nobody has been able to fully validate the origins of that well-used phrase. What is certain, however, is the maxim fully applies to the story of Montezuma’s Roquan Smith. Before it’s all over, Smith may be considered the greatest linebacker to ever don the red and black of the Georgia Bulldogs. We’ll have to give that legacy more time to percolate. Without question, however, he leaves Georgia as one of the program’s most successful and decorated defensive players in modern history. The winner of the 2017 Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker, Smith piled up 124 tackles last season and led a defense that paved the way for the Bulldogs’ run to the College Football Playoff championship game. On Jan. 8, Georgia (13-2) lost to Alabama in the finals 26-23 in overtime and finished with a No. 2 national ranking. One week later, Smith declared for the 2018 NFL Draft. While he waited until the last day for underclassmen to declare – he’s a junior – it was pretty much a foregone that Smith would turn pro. All logic and reasoning dictated that he should. “The decision to leave is not easy, but I know it is the right one,” Smith said. Yes, it was. Smith is considered an almost certain first-round pick. Some projections – including ESPN’s Mel Kiper — place him among the top 10 selections. For some perspective, the No. 10 pick in the 2017 draft, Patrick Mahomes, signed a contract worth $16.5 million and received a $10 million signing bonus. That said, everybody around Smith insists he struggled with the decision. “It was hard on him because he really loved being at UGA,” said Larry Harold, Smith’s coach when he was Macon County High School. As it is Smith is now preparing to become a pro. He signed on with CAA Football and is currently training for the NFL combine at EXOS Sports Performance in Phoenix, Ariz., according to his agent, Brian Ayrault of Atlanta. “He’s doing great,” Ayrault said Wednesday from Phoenix. “He’s here working out as we speak.” Ayrault said Smith was unavailable to talk but will be soon. We don’t need to hear from Smith to know that where he is at the moment is a long, long way from Montezuma, both literally and figuratively. Montezuma is located in south-central Georgia in the middle of Macon County and in the middle of nowhere, really. It’s mainly an agriculturally based community, with peaches being the No. 1 crop but also soy beans, cotton, peanuts and garden vegetables. There’s also a large pulpwood industry there. It’s also home to the armory of Bravo Company of the Georgia Army National Guard. Otherwise, not much else. The median income of the area is listed as $23,022, according to the local government’s website. Smith spent his last year of living in Montezuma working part time on a crew digging wells for farm irrigation systems. From his sophomore to senior years at Macon County High School, in addition to playing football at a very high level, he was considered a model citizen. Not so much before that. Smith grew up with loving parents, Roderick Smith and Shaquana Thomas. But like a lot of people in that area, they had their hands full making a living. When Roquan was growing up, his father lived about an hour away in Macon where he worked construction. His mother lived in Oglethorpe, the next town over from Montezuma and just a short distance away but commuted a half-hour away each day to her full-time job at Fort Valley State University. With both parents gone to work each day, that left a lot of unsupervised time for Roquan and his siblings. Those include an older brother by a year, Rod Smith; and a younger sister and brother, Tyanna and Omar Richards. Smith allegedly wasn’t always making the best use of his idle time. That’s when Gloria Story stepped in to help out. “When I got there (to Macon County High School) at the end of his freshman year, I didn’t know too much about his home life,” said Harold, who is now the head coach and athletic director at Central High School in Macon. “But I know Gloria stepped in when there were some issues about helping with him. She took him in and provided a stable home life. They have a great home, her and her husband, Richard Story. They gave him everything he needed and not necessarily what he wanted. I feel like that was a life-changing moment in his life.” To this day, Smith refers to Story as his aunt, although she’s actually not. There were plenty of others around lending a hand, as well. His grandfather, Nathaniel Lamb, his grandmother Betty Smith, and his aunt, Shaquanda Baker, all contributed to Smith’s upbringing. There were other benefactors as well, such as Harold, Macon County principal Rickey Edmond and family friend Roy Yoder. But make no mistake about it. It’s Roquan’s mother who has his heart. “Oh, now he loves his Mama,” Harold said. “It’s for her he does everything he does.” In addition to his tremendous athleticism, Smith’s work ethic helped distinguished him at Georgia. His work in the training room – and at the training table – took him from 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, his size when he reported to UGA, to 6-2, 225, the size at which he’ll leave. Remarkably, Smith was able to do that without losing his tailback-worthy speed. He routinely has been timed at 4.5 seconds in the 40-yard dash but says he has been timed at — and plans to again be timed — in the 4.4s. His goal for the combine is to clock a sub-4.5. Regardless of what time he runs, Smith’s speed was on display week after week this past season for the Bulldogs and their opponents as Smith yanked down ballcarriers and receivers from sideline to sideline. Coach Kirby Smart called him the perfect inside linebacker for defending today’s run-pass-option-based spread offenses. “A tackling machine,” Smart called him. “Sideline-to-sideline, relentless, athletic, tough, competitive, leads, talks when needs to, quiet when he needs to be. He has impeccable character. I’m just proud of how hard he works and that he buys into what we believe.” Such offenses are also becoming more prevalent in the NFL. That’s why Smith continues to command such a high draft grade, even though he’s not the traditional size of pro linebackers. So whenever and wherever Smith eventually gets drafted, it’s clear he is going to fulfill his dream of becoming a professional athlete. It’s something that Harold says Smith communicated to him the first time they met at Macon County High School as coach and player. “I can’t wait to see him playing pro ball on TV,” Harold said. “He always talked that, about going to school, getting his degree and going on to the next level. Everything he talked about when he was in high school he has achieved. It’s just great to see. He’s come a long, long way. Not just as a football player. He’s matured so much, became more of a leader, more vocal. It’s just great seeing a kid like that go from a boy to a man.” Smith is scheduled to graduate with a degree in communications in December. Or at least he was before he decided to take this alternate route. But he should be fine. With a few million in the bank and at least few years in the NFL guaranteed, Smith will be able to come back to UGA to finish his education. And those closest to him fully expect Smith will. They’ve all had a hand in getting him to where he is. Seeing him get from here to there has left no doubters in Montezuma. “There have been some great athletes come through Macon County, and not a lot of them make it out,” Harold said. “He came from a loving community and a loving family that did everything they had to do to make sure he was able to achieve his dreams. He’d tell you the same thing.” We’ll be hearing from Smith soon enough. The post Montezuma lifted up Roquan Smith, and now UGA’s star linebacker will return favor appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are literally best friends and I’m sure they honestly don’t care, but it’s going to be very interesting to see which of the Georgia running backs is picked first in the NFL draft. They’re also very competitive with each other, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there might be a friendly wager involved. I’ll say this, though: I expect both of them to be selected by the end of the second day of the April 26-28 draft at least. And, regardless, I predict NFL success for both of these guys. The general consensus coming out of this season seemed to be that Michel will be the first of the Dogs’ duo to go off the board. The narrative is that Michel is the more versatile of the two backs. That’s an assertion that Chubb didn’t necessarily disagree with. He told me as much at one of the College Football Playoff media days. He said that Michel was probably a little better catching the ball out of the backfield. Certainly statistics back that up. At the end of their careers, Chubb had 30 catches for 362 yards and 4 touchdowns while Michel basically doubled him up had 64 receptions for 621 yards and 6 scores. But it’s not like Michel was a part-time flanker or anything like that. He had nine catches for 96 yards and one touchdown all season, with the lone TD catch not coming until the playoffs. And Chubb was actually utilized more in that fashion as a freshman while he was sharing time with Todd Gurley. Kind of forgotten from that season was that Chubb had 18 catches for 213 yards and scored twice via the pass that year. So, it could be argued that disparity was as much a function of role as it was anything else. Which is another thing I always liked about these two guys. I always thought they were at their best when they were interviewed side-by-side. That’s when their personality differences were the most stark. In case you weren’t paying attention, Chubb was the quiet and reserved one while Michel was (slightly) more talkative and certainly more flashy from the standpoint of his alter-ego as rapper flyguy2stackz. But they were also a mutual admiration society. Michel never begrudged Chubb always being the starter in the rotation. He joked that meant that Chubb had the harder role, coming out Saturday after Saturday against defenses that were jacked to stuff the run and would be selling out like a flea market on run blitzes. “He’s the one that has to take all that contact,” Michel said earlier this past season. “He was softening them up for me.” That trend was reflected in their rushing stats each of the last two seasons. Michel averaged more yards per carry than Chubb both years, 5.5 to 5.0 as juniors and 7.9 to 6.4 as seniors. And that might ultimately tip the ledger in Michel’s favor when it comes to their draft prospects this spring. Without question, Michel arrives at this juncture with less wear-and-tear on his body. Chubb had 740 carries in his career with the Bulldogs while Michel had 591. And it was Chubb that had to have his left knee rebuilt after that awful incident in Knoxville in 2015. Michel has had his own share of twists, pulls and bruises. And he actually played in one more game (47) than did his roommate in college. This much is certain: Together they were nearly an unstoppable force for the Bulldogs. They’ll go down as one of the most prolific running back duos of all time. Separately, they finished as the second and third rushers of all time at Georgia, with 4,744 and 3,638 yards, respectively. Between them, they scored 90 touchdowns, with 51 of those in Chubb’s column. Only Herschel Walker, with 52, had more. Wrap your head around that for a minute. And that’s what NFL executives are going to have to ponder between now draft day. Which one of these guys goes first and how high will they be taken? That’s anybody’s guess at this point. The theory is that the running back position has been devalued by the proliferation of passing in the NFL game over the years. But backs keep getting drafted in the early rounds, including the first. LSU’s Leonard Fournette went on the fourth pick last year and made good on it with 1,040 yards rushing and nine touchdowns this season. Christian McCaffrey was also a first-round selection and eight backs were selected in the first three rounds. Included in that bunch was Toledo’s Kareem Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing this year with 1,327 yards and was named rookie of the year. And we all know what Georgia’s Todd Gurley has done for the Los Angeles Rams. Chubb and Michel’s former running mate had 1,305 yards rushing, 2,093 total yards and 19 touchdowns this past season. He said at the Rose Bowl he expects believes Chubb and Michel will both make great pros. As for their draft projections, they’re all over the board. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is the consensus pick to be the first running back selected, followed by LSU’s Derrius Guice. Chubb and Michel generally are projected a little behind those guys, almost always close together and with no consensus as to which might be selected first. Of the different rankings I perused, Michel’s highest rating among draft-eligible backs was fourth by draftwire.com (which had Chubb fifth). WalterFootball.com had Michel fifth and Chubb sixth, while CBSSports.com have Michel sixth and Chubb seventh. But then, ESPNInsider had Chubb seventh and Michel ninth and DraftTek.com had Chubb sixth and Michel eighth. Then there was ESPN’s well-known draft expert Todd McShay, who had Chubb fourth and did not include Michel in his Top 10. Wrote McShay: “Chubb rushed for more than 100 yards in 13 straight games before tearing several knee ligaments (not including his ACL) in 2015. He didn’t have the same explosiveness in 2016 coming off the injury, but he has quick feet for his size (listed at 5-foot-10, 228 pounds). Right now, he projects as a Day 2 pick, but he could move up the boards if he can regain some of that agility.” If you know Chubb like I do, I’m sure he’s busy “regaining that agility” as we speak. But same for Michel. These two Dogs spent the last four years trying to out-do each other in the weight room and on the practice field and in games. Maybe one team will take a page out of Georgia’s book and draft both of these guys. Wouldn’t that be something? The post Nick Chubb or Sony Michel: Who goes first in NFL draft not a sure thing appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – So Roquan Smith and Trent Thomson have packed their bags and joined Georgia’s giant pack of seniors in heading on down the road. This is what makes college football so great. This is also what makes it so hard. Georgia’s toughest task will be in finding another inside linebacker that can have near the impact that Roquan Smith did this past season. (Perry McIntyre Jr./UGA) College football, by and large, is cyclical. That works to varying degrees for different programs, but because of the constant ingress and egress of players due to graduation and attrition, achieving sustained, championship-level success is next to impossible for any program not currently named Alabama. To me, that’s what makes it fun and somewhat unpredictable from year to year. Alabama, at this place in time, is the exception. I know it’s still awfully soon in these parts to be offering the Crimson Tide any kudos but — those egregiously bad calls aside — Bama did, in fact, make it back to the penultimate game for a third year in a row. The past decade under coach Nick Saban has been, in a word, astonishing. The Tide has won five national championships in that span and more games than any team in America. Maybe the next 10 years will be similarly grand for Georgia. But that’s where coach Kirby Smart will have to distinguish himself as different from coaches that have preceded him. As we all know, Georgia is a very proud and successful football program by its own right. It is, after all, third all-time in number of bowl appearances with 53. Only Bama (66) and Texas (54) have more. But historically speaking, the Bulldogs have been the very the definition of cyclical when it comes to high-level success. Again, only Alabama (26) has won more SEC football championships than Georgia (13) over the years (the Bulldogs are tied with Tennessee). But as one might suspect, those have been few and far between in what we’d call the modern era, which would begin with Vince Dooley’s tenure back in 1964. Georgia won six SEC championships in 25 seasons under Dooley, or roughly one in every four seasons. Neither Ray Goff nor Jim Donnan were able to hoist the conference crown. Mark Richt won two in 15 seasons, while playing for it five times. Now Smart is a sporty 1-for-2. But that’s all about league titles. That’s no longer the ultimate measurement. Now it’s all about getting into the playoff. As Alabama can attest, you can do that without being a conference champion. Judging Georgia’s success more from the perspective of having good years – that is, winning a lot of games and playing in a good bowl – the Bulldogs’ cycle looks more like this: Dooley 12 of 25 seasons, or about half; Goff one in seven; Donnan one in five; Richt eight in 15 (I’m not counting the 10-win seasons that resulted in Taxslayer and Belk Bowl bids). Taken as a whole, that’s about 42 percent of the time Georgia has been in for a really fun and exciting season. We don’t need to discuss how it often it has played for the ultimate prize (OK, four times in 37 years, but I’m not discussing it). Back to the here and now, part of what makes it so difficult to regularly get your program “in the hunt,” as it were, is that cyclical tendency of the college game. If your team is good enough to compete for a championship, conference or national, then two factors are probably going to apply: One, it featured a lot of extremely talented players; two, it was veteran-laden and experienced. In both cases, they’re usually followed by an exodus. That was definitely the case for Georgia in 2017. As was well-chronicled all year, the Bulldogs featured a total of 31 seniors. Seventeen of those seniors were on scholarship. Fifteen of those would fall in the category of major contributors. At least four or five of them could be first or second-day NFL draftees. Then you add in the losses of the juniors Smith and Thompson to the NFL draft – a relatively light number given the level of success Georgia enjoyed — and you begin to get a sense of the talent deficit the Bulldogs are going to have to replenish if they are to have similar success in 2018. As for Smith, I don’t have to tell anybody who watched Georgia this season what kind of an absence he’s going to leave. He was a once-a-generation player, to be sure, as some of these Top 10 and 15 draft projections suggest. And Thompson, even though his junior season was less productive than the previous one, is a unique physical talent that will be difficult to replace. All told, that’s six starters off your offense, nine off the defense and two specialists. If not for junior Jonathan Ledbetter’s decision to return, it could’ve been a 7-for-7 loss of Georgia’s front seven. This is not to sprinkle doom-and-gloom over the prospects of next season for the Bulldogs. That’s just a little reality check on the challenge that’s in front of Smart and his staff. But as evidenced from this past season, I definitely believe they’re up for it. You can start with recruiting, where Smart is in the midst of building his third straight Top-10 class, each one better than the last. The current group is ranked No. 1, with only a handful targets remaining on the board after that smashing experiment that was the first year of an early-signing period. Georgia already has netted 20 actual signees, with at least five more on the way. None of which has slowed down the charge of Smart and his staff. Since the championship game ended, they hardly have even come up for air. They’re laser-focused on the remaining targets, all the elitist of the elite, while concentrating hard on prospects for 2019 and even ’20. It’s a luxury the Bulldogs can afford with the current state of affairs being what it is. But replacing seasoned veterans with unproven talent is always a risky proposition. Certainly it helps when they have a lot of stars by their name, but that’s no guarantee. Hopefully Georgia will get a nice blend of contribution from brilliant newcomers, developing lettermen and established stars. That certainly came to past this last season, though finding leadership to rival the group that just left will be the ultimate challenge. Of all this, Smart is well aware. He comes from a place that has been able to put all that back together on the regular. And he’s bringing all that knowledge to a place that’s been doing pretty doggone good as it is. Nobody has won more than Alabama over these last 10 years, games (125) or national championships (5). But Georgia hasn’t been all that far behind. The Bulldogs stand ninth in victories over that span with 96. The key is keeping those lows high and the highs at the very top of the mountain. Smart has given the Bulldogs a peek of that view. Everyone seems to be in agreement that they like it. Now, to find the next Roquan. … The post Greatest coaching challenge for Georgia’s Kirby Smart awaits him in 2018 appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Every year we see a handful of prospects drastically improve their NFL draft stock with huge bowl game performances. This season, no player’s stock was helped more by a huge postseason than Georgia’s Sony Michel, according to a report by NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah.  Jeremiah polled a handful of NFL executives, asking which player helped himself the most in bowl season, with three of the five executives naming Michel as the biggest winner. One called Michel a “three-down back,” while another took things a step further by saying that Michel “separated himself from [Nick] Chubb.”  In his two College Football Playoff games, Michel totaled 320 yards from scrimmage and 4 touchdowns. His performance against Oklahoma was particularly monstrous, as he ran for 181 yards and 3 touchdowns on just 11 attempts, while also adding 4 catches for 41 yards and another touchdown.  At the moment, Michel is likely to go in Round 2 or 3, though he could continue to improve his stock with a big NFL combine or Georgia pro day.