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Clashing views color future of stalled N.Korea nuclear talks

To hear a beaming Donald Trump at his June summit with Kim Jong Un in Singapore, the solution to North Korea's headlong pursuit of nuclear weapons, a foreign policy nightmare that has flummoxed U.S. leaders since the early 1990s, was at hand.

Since the remarkable claims made during the first-ever meeting of leaders from the archrival nations, however, there have been recriminations, simmering bad blood — and very little progress. In other words, just what skeptics in Seoul and Washington have come to expect from North Korean nuclear diplomacy.

So even as Trump says he's keen on another summit, possibly early next year, continuing sanctions and pressure from Washington are met with anger and foot-dragging from Pyongyang, which has bluntly stated that an "improvement of relations and sanctions are incompatible."

One of the problems is a matter of wording. The statement hammered out in Singapore, which called for "the complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula," was so vague that it seemed tailor made for a stalemate: Each side can claim to be right when they say that they've done more than enough and it's the other side's responsibility to act.

So where do we go from here?

A second summit seems the most likely answer.

Trump's national security adviser said such a meeting would not be a reward and that the president merely wants to give North Korea "a chance to live up to the commitments they've made at the Singapore summit."

"He's held the door open for them, they need to walk through it," John Bolton said in an interview with NPR. "And this is one more chance for Kim Jong Un who is the only decision maker that matters in the North Korean system to deliver on what he said in Singapore, and that's possible I think some time after the first of the year."

Other diplomatic channels have stalled, including talks between Trump and Kim's main envoys, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his North Korean counterpart Kim Yong Chol.

Pompeo did meet on Thursday in Washington with South Korea's foreign minister in a new attempt to push the process forward. The State Department said only that the two officials "reaffirmed the ironclad alliance between the United States and (South) Korea and pledged to maintain close coordination to ensure the final, fully verified denuclearization of (North) Korea."

Pompeo has traveled to Pyongyang four times this year, but canceled a planned meeting with a top North Korean official in New York last month when the North balked. Tentative plans to reschedule those talks, perhaps as early as next week, remain uncertain.

Meanwhile, Pompeo's invitation for Kim to name a counterpart for his special North Korea envoy, former Ford Motor Co. executive Stephen Biegun, and send that person to Vienna for lower-level working discussions, has gone unanswered.

The views from both Seoul and Washington are complicated.

South Koreans are famous for ignoring North Korean threats, including repeated vows to turn Seoul into a "sea of fire," but there were widespread fears of war last year amid threats and insults between Trump and Kim Jong Un as the North tested a string of increasingly powerful weapons. Even the most jaded would likely say that things are better now.

There has also been curiosity at the warming ties between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim, who have had three summits and agreed on an unprecedented trip to Seoul by Kim, possibly in coming weeks. Among the more stunning sights this diplomacy has spawned has been Moon, who has worked doggedly behind the scenes to orchestrate the various summits, filling a water bottle at a "sacred" volcanic lake in the North, and Kim being spirited across the inter-Korean border, the world's most heavily armed, in an armored limousine, a phalanx of burly bodyguards jogging alongside.

But deep skepticism has always been the go-to mindset for many South Koreans, especially conservatives who have seen Moon's liberal presidential predecessors' engagement efforts with the North eventually fail to meet expectations. North Korea, it is true, has not conducted a nuclear or ICBM test since November 2017, but according to recent reports from private analysts it still is believed to be churning out nuclear bomb fuel and making headway on its missile program at more than a dozen facilities.

Like the others, the latest such report, released on Thursday, is drawn from commercial satellite imagery and shows activity at a previously undisclosed site where the North is believed to be expanding a missile base. "The base is a strong candidate to receive North Korea's newest long-range missiles, including those that can strike the United States," wrote the report's authors at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey.

Although Kim made no promises to halt such work, and U.S. and South Korean officials played down findings they said they were already aware of, analysts say they underscore the difficulty the Trump administration will face in getting the North to provide a full accounting of its programs so that they might be inspected and verifiably dismantled in the event a denuclearization deal is reached.

As Washington and Pyongyang have drifted further apart, Moon, his popularity numbers hovering around 50 percent, has scrambled to keep the diplomacy alive.

Moon's officials have pushed the narrative — and pushed aside skepticism from critics — that North Korea's suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests and the dismantling of its nuclear testing site are meaningful steps toward an eventual total abandonment of nuclear weapons. They also briefly floated a proposal that Washington consider softer sanctions on the North.

Conservatives in Seoul, however, believe that Kim's outreach is meant to split Seoul from Washington, its military protector, so that it will be harder for the allies to boost sanctions and pressure should diplomacy fail. Any Trump-Kim summit redux, they say, needs to be prefaced with at least a declaration from the North of the extent of its secretive missile and nuclear programs; otherwise, it would just be another concession to a country that has spent years ramping up tension only to reap rewards by seeming to turn to diplomacy.

Still, in a place that has seen regular flare-ups of violence since the near-total destruction of the Korean War in the early 1950s, there's also interest in seeing if Trump and Kim can pursue in another summit a rare opportunity to test the sincerity of Kim's declaration that with his weapons program "complete," he intends to pivot to lifting his country up from poverty.

"With nuclear tensions on the Korean Peninsula dramatically reduced, it is time to find out if Kim's drive to improve the economy will eventually lead to denuclearization," Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear expert who has made regular trips to North Korea's nuclear facilities, wrote recently on 38 North, a website devoted to North Korea studies. "He may determine that his nuclear arsenal poses a significant hindrance to economic development that outweighs the putative benefits it confers. Washington and Seoul should work together to encourage rather than inhibit this potential shift."

___

Lee reported from Washington. Follow him at www.twitter.com/APDiploWriter and Foster Klug, AP's bureau chief for South Korea, at www.twitter.com/apklug .

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Local News

  • A mistrial has been declared by Athens Judge David Sweat in the courthouse hacking case involving a Gwinnett County judge. Channel 2 Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Tony Thomas said Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader walked out of court without comment as she remains suspended from the bench on charges that she hired three men to hack into the county computer system amid fears the district attorney’s office was spying on her. After the mistrial, the jury foreperson, Rachel Steahr, told Thomas she was frustrated because basically the evidence didn’t provide any clear answers to what happened. “There was a lot of evidence and it was really good, but either side it wasn't strong enough. They needed more since they didn’t come to a conclusion of how this happened,” Steahr said. She said a majority of jurors thought Schrader was not guilty on count one of computer trespassing, were split on the second charge and wanted to convict on the third charge. Prosecutors said they are now trying to figure out if they want to retry this case. “We are going to continue to reevaluate the case. We are going to be in discussion with the executive director and make a decision,” prosecutor John Regan said. Schrader’s attorney maintains her client is innocent. “I'm always relieved when it's clear our message was heard. She is not guilty,” said defense attorney BJ Bernstein. Prosecutors said it remains unclear when they may retry the case, but they are hoping to make it happen sooner rather than later.
  • We are learning more about the three University of Georgia employees arrested last week on theft charges: Amy Stowers is from Gainesville and was manager of the University’s Vision Clinic. She’s facing felony charges, accused of masterminding a bribery scheme that netted a reported $2,500 from eyeglass vendors. Two other women are facing misdemeanor counts after taking gift cards from vendors, cards said to have been worth several hundred dollars.From Asia Simone Burns, AJC… Amy Stowers, Rita Melville and Jamie Fay Coley were each taken into custody in connection with the investigation.  Police said Stowers, who managed the University Health Center Vision Clinic, orchestrated the bribery scheme. According to the police report, she made a “prohibited” agreement with an optical vendor, who was not named. The vendor would give her gift cards, and in exchange she would lead the vendor to believe it would “influence the performance of her official duties,” the report said.                    Stowers received about $2,550 in gift cards from the vendor, police said.  As part of the same agreement, Melville and Coley, who were opticians in the clinic, received $348 and $404 in gift cards, respectively.  The funds stemmed from the sale of eyewear frames, the report said. The women were able to convert the proceeds for personal use.  Stowers is facing four counts of felony bribery, while Coley and Melville each face six counts of misdemeanor theft by conversion. Stowers was booked into the Clarke County Jail on Wednesday and released the following day on a $44,400 bond. Coley and Melville were both booked into the jail Friday morning and released the same day on $10,100 bonds.
  • The Newton County parents convicted of murder says there is no evidence they killed their 2-week-old daughter.  Both Christopher Michael McNabb and Cortney Marie Bell have filed motions for new trials, according to documents filed in Newton Superior Clerk. Both were convicted of killing baby Caliyah in May 2019.  In his motion filed Monday, McNabb says prosecutors were unable to prove he killed baby Caliyah and that his prior attorney was ineffective during the trial.  “There was no physical or direct evidence produced that demonstrated that Mr. McNabb caused the child’s death. Nor was the State able to demonstrate what actually caused the child’s severe injuries,” McNabb’s motion states. “The thrust of the State’s case was that Mr. McNabb was a bad man that lived in a bad environment.” In her motion for a new trial, filed in late January, Bell also says prosecutors did not prove she was responsible for Caliyah’s death.  “The State did not prove that Ms. Bell caused Caliyah’s death, at best they attempted at trial to prove that she contributed to the circumstances that led to Caliyah’s death,” her motion states.  A jury deliberated about an hour before convicting both McNabb and Bell following a joint trial. McNabb was sentenced to life in prison without parole, Bell to 30 years with 15 to serve. But both parents were adamant they weren’t responsible for Caliyah’s death.  “I’m innocent. I didn’t do it,” McNabb told Judge John Ott before his sentencing. “If you ever find out who did it, they deserve to be under the jail.” In October 2017, Bell reported the baby missing from the family’s mobile home. That night, McNabb angrily demanded the child’s return in front of television cameras. It’s likely that Caliyah was already dead by the time McNabb pleaded for the community’s help in finding her, according to investigators. 
  • Athens Democrats hold a debate watch party tonight, as Democratic presidential candidates take the stage in Las Vegas in advance of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. Tonight’s local viewing is set for 8 o’clock at Little Italy on Lumpkin Street in downtown Athens. The debate—the first to include former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg--can be heard live on WGAU. It starts at 9 o’clock, with television on MSNBC. From Facebook… Join your fellow democratic socialists for some #yallidarity and FREE PIZZA! We'll gather in the back room of Little Italy downtown, and cheer Bernie on as he continues to rise above the fray of the party establishment. It's the first debate featuring American Oligarch and proud stop-and-frisk-er Michael Bloomberg, so it's a must-watch. Come have fun with like-minded folks, and learn more about how you can get involved with Athens Area DSA... we need your ideas and energy!
  • Barrow County state Rep Terry England says he will be a candidate for reelection: Republican England chairs the House Appropriations Committee. He was first elected in 2012. From Facebook… IT'S OFFICIAL: I'M RUNNING FOR RE-ELECTION With your support, I hope to serve another term in the Georgia House of Representatives. I will submit my paperwork on March 2, which is the first day for candidates to qualify. We will formally kick off the re-election campaign after the end of this legislative session. It is such an honor and a privilege to be able to represent the county where I was born and raised! — Terry

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean is referring to it as an 'opportunity' game when the Bulldogs take on SEC powerhouse Auburn. Bruce Pearl looks at it as a 'must-win' for his Tigers. Georgia (12-13, 2-10 SEC) plays against No. 13-ranked Auburn (22-3, 9-3) at 7 p.m. with a sold-out crowd awaiting the tip at Stegeman Coliseum (TV: ESPN2). ' We have tremendous opportunity tomorrow night with Auburn, and the way that they're playing,' Crean said. 'They pose numerous challenges as most everybody else in this league does but especially the way they're playing. 'The way they're getting fouled right now, the way their offensive rebounding the ball, extremely high levels, playing extremely fast, aggressive. They play with great confidence and are playing like a veteran team.' Auburn is coming off a shocking 85-73 road loss to Missouri, a defeat that could be attributed to a 1-of-17 shooting night beyond the 3-point arc. Bruce Pearl's team did, however, get to the free-throw line to attempt an eye-popping 46 free throws. 'I look at it this way: the Georgia game is a must-win if we're going to stay in this conference championship race,' Pearl said. Kentucky is a game up on Auburn with its Tuesday night win over LSU. '(Georgia is a) tough place to play, hard to win on the road, but if we're going to be in this conference championship race, we have to win the game,' Pearl said. 'Strong statement with seven games left, but I've always kept it real with my team.' Georgia expects to have a healthy Anthony Edwards primed for the meeting. Edwards, recently projected by ESPN to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, has been battling flu-like symptoms during the Bulldogs' four-game losing streak. Crean stressed the importance of team focus for the upcoming game. Junior forward Rayshaun Hammonds has shown signs of returning to form after going through a self-admitted slump. Freshman point guard Sahvir Wheeler appears recovered from an ankle injury that slowed him during the team's four-game losing streak the second half of January. If the Bulldogs can get Edwards, Hammonds and Wheeler healthy and playing well at the same time, it would greatly improve the team's chances for a strong finish. 'We just need to focus on playing well,' Crean said. 'Like playing longer stretches together, talking through it, playing with confidence not, you know, not waiting for the bottom to fall out right and that's what happens sometimes with teams it's just keeps playing.' A loud home crowd could go a long way for the Bulldogs on Wednesday night with the team looking to snap out of a funk that's seen it lose eight of the last nine games. Auburn won the first meeting between the teams this season, 82-60, on Jan. 11 in Auburn. The post Georgia basketball braces for Auburn team bringing must-win' mentality to sold-out Stegeman Coliseum appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia football coach Kirby Smart and athletic director Greg McGarity had plenty to say about the Bulldogs adding Clemson to the 2021 schedule on Tuesday. Smart, always an advocate for his players and the UGA fans, pointed to the unique experience the game creates. 'This is another great opportunity to schedule a national non-conference game with a top level opponent,' Smart said in the school release. 'Playing a regular season game in Charlotte will give our fans the opportunity for a completely new experience in a great city and top level stadium. I know our coaches and players will be excited for the challenge to kick off the season in this kind of environment.' Smart said last summer he wanted the Bulldogs on the national stage via scheduling. RELATED: Georgia football schedule boosted with national championship caliber opponent McGarity is already thinking about the national television exposure and branding the University of Georgia will receive coast to coast and perhaps even globally with a game like this. 'The eyes of the nation will be on Charlotte as we start the 2021 season,' McGarity said in the release. 'It is yet another opportunity to strengthen our schedule and provide an opportunity for our supporters to enjoy another huge matchup. We will now have at least two Power 5 opponents on our schedule through 2033.' Georgia's previously announced home-and-home series with Power 5 non-conference opponents include: Two with Clemson (2029 at Clemson and 2030 in Athens, and 2032 in Athens and 2033 at Clemson); Texas (2028 at Austin and 2029 in Athens) UCLA (2025 in Pasadena and 2026 in Athens) Florida State (2027 in Tallahassee and 2028 in Athens) Oklahoma (2023 in Norman and 2031 in Athens) Ohio State (2030 in Athens and 2031 in Columbus). The Bulldogs also have three neutral site Power 5 games in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Atlanta's Mercedes Benz Stadium: 2020 vs. Virginia; 2022 vs. Oregon; and 2024 vs. Clemson. The post Georgia football coach Kirby Smart on playing Clemson in Charlotte: completely new experience' appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia football has taken yet another step in beefing up its future schedule, agreeing to open the 2021 season against Clemson. NEWS: Georgia football beefs up 2021 schedule by adding Clemson Tigers Kirby Smart declared last summer 'I want Georgia on the national stage.' And now he has backed it up with what promises to be a much-anticipated, nationally televised showdown. Kirby Smart throws down gauntlet on national scheduling The addition of Clemson to the 2021 schedule indicates that UGA will either buy out or drop the currently slated Sept. 4 opening game at Sanford Stadium against San Jose State. Brett McMurphy reported the Clemson game could take place on Thursday, Sept. 2. The Bulldogs' other non-conference games in 2021 are against UAB (Sept. 11), FCS Charleston Southern (Nov. 20) and Georgia Tech (Nov. 27). CLOSER LOOK: Examining Georgia football future schedules DawgNation reported last spring that Clemson coach Dabo Swinney was eager to schedule Georgia. RELATED: Clemson coach Dabo Swinney wants more Georgia 'We should play Georgia every year if it was up to me,' Swinney said last April. 'We're 80 miles, and they need a game, we need a game. We had to travel to Texas A&M (2018), when we could have gone 80 miles.' Swinney talked exclusively to DawgNation about the rich history of what was once an annual rivalry. 'For years and years and years, Clemson and Georgia played every year, and somewhere along the line that went away,' Swinney said. 'It's a tough game because they are one of the best teams in the country, but it's great game for the fans, and we have to play people. I'd just as soon play them than have to go all the way somewhere else to get a game.' Georgia coach Kirby Smart has talked several times about wanting to increase the Bulldogs' schedule difficulty, likely in anticipation of an expanded College Football Playoff model. 'I just think that's the way football's headed, I'll be honest with you,' Smart said, discussing his desire to add more Power 5 non-conference opponents. 'I think the day of playing more competitive games, there's more parity in our conference. I think going out and playing tougher opponents is a good thing.' The forefathers at Clemson and Georgia were in agreement. UGA and Clemson played every year from 1897-1916, and all but two seasons from 1962 to 1987. Upon SEC expansion in 1992, Georgia had home-and-home series with Clemson in 1990-1991, 1994-1995, 1998-1999 and 2002-2003. Clemson plays in-state rival South Carolina as a non-conference home-and-home every season, just as Georgia is saddled with in-state non-conference opponent Georgia Tech annually. UGA and Clemson will also open their respective 2024 seasons against one another on Aug. 31 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The teams have a home-and-home series scheduled for 2029 and 2030. The Bulldogs play at Clemson in 2029. The Tigers will play the return game in Athens in 2030. 'I don't run from that competition,' Smart said. 'I think it's the best thing for the game.' 2020 Non-conference opponents Sept. 7 vs. Virginia in Atlanta Sept. 12 East Tennessee State Sept. 26 Louisiana-Monroe Nov. 28 Georgia Tech SEC opponents Sept. 19 at Alabama Oct. 3 vs. Vanderbilt Oct. 10 vs. Auburn Oct. 17 at Missouri Oct. 31 at Florida, at Jacksonville Nov. 7 at South Carolina Nov. 14 vs. Tennessee Nov. 21 at Kentucky 2021 Non-conference opponents TBA Power 5 opponent Sept. 4 San Jose State Sept. 11 UAB Nov. 27 at Georgia Tech SEC opponents Arkansas at Auburn Florida at Jacksonville at Tennessee Kentucky Missouri at Vanderbilt South Carolina 2022 Non-conference opponents TBA Non-Power 5 opponent Sept. 3 vs. Oregon in Atlanta Sept. 24 Kent State Nov. 26 Georgia Tech SEC opponents at Mississippi State Auburn Florida (Jacksonville/Athens Jax contract runs through 2021) Tennessee at Kentucky at Missouri Vanderbilt at South Carolina 2023 Non-conference opponents TBA Power 5 opponent TBA Non-Power 5 opponent TBA Indiana State Nov. 25 at Georgia Tech SEC opponents Ole Miss at Auburn Florida(Jacksonville/Gainesville Jax contract runs through 2021) at Tennessee Kentucky Missouri at Vanderbilt South Carolina 2024 Non-conference opponents Aug. 31 vs. Clemson in Atlanta TBA Non-Power 5 opponent TBA Non-Power 5 opponent Nov. 30 Georgia Tech SEC opponents at Texas A&M Auburn Florida(Jacksonville/Athens Jax contract runs through 2021) Tennessee at Kentucky at Missouri Vanderbilt at South Carolina 2025 Non-conference opponents Aug. 30 at UCLA TBA Non-Power 5 opponent TBA Non-Power 5 opponent Nov. 29 at Georgia Tech SEC opponents LSU at Auburn Florida(Jacksonville/Gainesville, Jax contract runs through 2021) at Tennessee Kentucky Missouri at Vanderbilt South Carolina 2026 Non-conference opponents Sept. 5 UCLA TBA Non-Power 5 opponent TBA Non-Power 5 opponent Nov. 28 Georgia Tech SEC opponents at Arkansas* (projected rotation beyond official schedule through 2025) Auburn Florida(Jacksonville/Athens Jax contract runs through 2021) Tennessee at Kentucky at Missouri Vanderbilt at South Carolina 2027 Non-conference opponents Sept. 4 at Florida State TBA Non-Power 5 opponent TBA Non-Power 5 opponent Nov. 27 at Georgia Tech SEC opponents Alabama* (projected rotation beyond official schedule through 2025) at Auburn Florida(Jacksonville/Gainesville Jax contract runs through 2021) at Tennessee Kentucky Missouri at Vanderbilt South Carolina 2028 Non-conference opponents Sept. 2 at Texas Sept. 16 Florida State TBA Non-Power 5 opponent Nov. 25 Georgia Tech SEC opponents at Ole Miss* (projected rotation beyond official schedule through 2025) Auburn Florida(Jacksonville/Athens Jax contract runs through 2021) Tennessee at Kentucky at Missouri Vanderbilt at South Carolina 2029 Non-conference opponents Sept. 1 Texas Sept. 15 at Clemson TBA Non-Power 5 opponent Nov. 24 at Georgia Tech SEC opponents Mississippi State* (projected rotation beyond official schedule through 2025) at Auburn Florida(Jacksonville/Gainesville Jax contract runs through 2021) at Tennessee Kentucky Missouri at Vanderbilt South Carolina 2030 Non-conference opponents Aug. 31 Clemson TBA Non-Power 5 opponent TBA Non-Power 5 opponent Nov. 30 Georgia Tech SEC opponents at LSU* (projected rotation beyond official schedule through 2025) Auburn Florida(Jacksonville/Athens Jax contract runs through 2023) RELATED: Greg McGarity clarifies new Georgia football rivalry schedule with Florida Tennessee at Kentucky at Missouri Vanderbilt at South Carolina The post Georgia football schedule in 2021 adds Clemson in neutral site opener appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Add Austin Blaske to the list of signees in the 2020 Georgia football signing class that won a state championship during their senior year. The South Effingham (Guyton, Ga.) didn't win his on the football field, though. The 6-foot-5, 305-pound future interior offensive lineman at UGA slimmed down some 20 pounds to be able to wrestle in the heavyweight division of the Georgia High School Association's Class 5A state tournament. The 5A state meet, which concluded this past weekend in Macon, ended with Blaske's arm held high. The 3-star prospect finished the 2020 cycle rated as the nation's No. 41 OT and the No. 526 overall prospect on the 247Sports Composite ratings. In the wake of Sam Pittman taking over the head coaching position at Arkansas, it saw the Bulldogs lose OT commitment Josh Braun to Florida. The Bulldogs worked quickly with the evaluation of new line coach Matt. Luke and sought to add both Blaske and New Jersey native Devin Willock to the offensive line room during the early signing period. RELATED: Austin Blaske signs with Georgia Blaske, a life-long Georgia fan, de-committed from a long pledge to N.C. State soon after receiving his offer from Luke. He then signed with the Bulldogs on the first day of the early period. It was actually a bit of an upset. 'Beefy' entered the state meet after a third-place finish in the 5A sectionals. The South Effingham standout was credited with four pins in the state meet, including one in the second round which secured the state title. Don Heath of the Savannah Morning News reported that Blaske finished his senior season with a 45-3 record on the mat. #SoHam boys did their best to hang with the crew from @bowdonrecruits today. Best performance of the day was @AustinBlaske hitting 5005 #SouthStrong pic.twitter.com/kpoQVN14Y9 Mike Pfiester (@Coach_Pfiester) December 11, 2019 Blaske has great lower beg strength and overall agility to play the position. Georgia signed four All-American offensive linemen among its seven-member class for Luke's room in 2020, but he is an impressive athlete in his own right. Blaske is every bit a character in his own right. Check out a tweet that highlighted his mood after a South Effingham game earlier this season. pic.twitter.com/GEvyMM99cm T. Andrew 'Coach' Blaske (@blaske_t) February 9, 2020 He was also channeling professional wrestling Steve 'Stone Cold' Austin heading into the state meet. Almost that time pic.twitter.com/wZ3BM6zChq Austin Blaske (@AustinBlaske) February 15, 2020 The post WATCH: 2020 Georgia football signee Austin Blaske wins state heavyweight wrestling title appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS The 2020 NFL Combine is just more than a week away, but you can bet it can't get here soon enough for at least three of Georgia's highest-projected players. RELATED: The 10 Georgia football players invited to 2020 NFL Combine Andrew Thomas, D'Andre Swift and Jake Fromm, expected to be picked as early as the first round in that order, have trailed off in recent NFL mock drafts. In one sense, that's somewhat logical considering all three are underclassmen who did not have the benefit of a Senior Bowl or East-West Shrine Game all-star appearance to boost their stock. Thomas elected to sit out the Sugar Bowl, where he could have impressed going up against Big 12 Player of the Year James Lynch. Swift, meanwhile, was limited in the postseason after getting knocked out of the Georgia Tech game with a bruised shoulder. But there's also a shell game of sorts taking place. It's common for NFL teams to hide their interest in a player right up until draft day, to the extent some get selected by teams that didn't interview them during the process. Still, a recent mock draft from CBSsports.com analyst Chris Trapasso raised eyebrows when it excluded Swift as a projected first-round pick. Swift has almost universally been projected as the top tailback in the NFL draft with most predicting he will be selected in the first round by Miami with the 18th overall pick, if not the Dolphins' selection at No. 26 in the first round. Trapasso has stood firm on Andrew Thomas, however, keeping him at No. 10 to the Cleveland Brown while a handful of others have recently dropped Thomas. ESPN analyst Todd McShay dropped Thomas and Swift from his first mock draft in December to his most recent one earlier this month. McShay originally had Thomas going No. 7 overall to the New York Jets, the first offensive tackle off the draft board. But in his most recent mock early this month, McShay projected Thomas No. 18 overall to Miami, as the fifth offensive tackle selected. McShay also dropped Swift a spot, from a projected No. 21 overall landing spot at Tennessee, to No. 22 to the Buffalo Bills. RELATED: D'Andre Swift compared to two top NFL backs McShay has been vocal in his support of Fromm, saying he has first-round talent. But McShay still doesn't project a team selecting Fromm in the opening round. RELATED: Two projections Jake Fromm lands with NFL team in South NFL.com analyst and former NFL scout Bucky Brooks doesn't have Fromm ranked among the top five quarterbacks in his most recent offering. Brooks does have Swift ranked as the top tailback prospect, but he has Andrew Thomas slotted as the No. 3 offensive tackle. DawgNation: Georgia in the NFL draft Jake Fromm evaluation, comparison, per former Super Bowl scout ESPN labels Georgia a 'loser' in NFL early entry process Evaluating Andrew Thomas, why he's a first-round lock Eli Wolf, Charlie Woerner, Brian Herrien, Tyrique McGhee shine in all-star games Todd McShay projects Georgia QB Jake Fromm to have first-round talent Closer look at Jake Fromm's decision, factors and faith The post Top Georgia NFL prospects see pre-combine dip in draft status projections appeared first on DawgNation.