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Same decision, different draft scenarios for Georgia juniors Roquan Smith, Trent Thompson
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Same decision, different draft scenarios for Georgia juniors Roquan Smith, Trent Thompson

Same decision, different draft scenarios for Georgia juniors Roquan Smith, Trent Thompson

Same decision, different draft scenarios for Georgia juniors Roquan Smith, Trent Thompson

georgia football-nfl draft-pro day-decisions-roquan smith-trent thompson-kirby smart

ATHENS — Their situations are decidedly different. Then again, they’re much the same.

Both Roquan Smith and Trent Thompson are juniors, so both had a year of eligibility at Georgia remaining when they decided to turn pro in January. As we understand it now, Smith toiled terribly over the decision. Thompson, by contrast, never really had a doubt.

Yet, as they sit a month away from the NFL draft, it’s only Smith who seems assured of NFL riches. Nobody seems to be sure what to make of Thompson’s fortunes. He’ll get drafted, certainly, but how long he may have to wait is a matter of much debate.

The buzz at Georgia’s pro day on Wednesday was that Thompson is looking at a third- or fourth-round call at best. Smith, by contrast, has been invited to the NFL draft ceremonies in Arlington, Texas, and projects as a top-15 pick.

That was pretty much the feedback Smith, the 2017 Butkus Award winner, received when he filled out his underclassman evaluation application from the NFL back in December. Yet he insists his decision wasn’t the no-brainer that many of his Georgia teammates described.

“Top 15 is pretty special,” said Smith, who led the SEC in tackles and the Bulldogs in sacks and tackles for loss, as well. “I knew I’d pretty much be a first-round pick; that’s what they were telling me. But, at the end of the day, it wasn’t even about that for me. It was more about the things I enjoy [at Georgia] and what we did together. It was special, very special. It’ll definitely be something I miss, but life goes on and you have to do what’s best for you.”

Lorenzo Carter, Nick Chubb, Davin Bellamy and Sony Michel all chose to return in 2017 for their senior seasons for much the same reason. However, none of them received the level of draft grade that Smith did. Their feedback was similar to what Thompson heard.

But these decisions aren’t based solely on draft grades and contract potential. There also can be extenuating factors.

Thompson, a 6-foot-4, 295-pound defensive tackle from Albany, has been inundated with injuries throughout his college career. He had shoulder surgery a year ago and struggled with knee injuries last season. He also had a rather high-profile medical episode in February 2017 that resulted in his hospitalization and withdrawal from school.

Not only did the incident create health concerns for Thompson, it also put him in a hole academically. Whether he would have been eligible to play another season for the Bulldogs is unclear. But most believe it was time for the player affectionately known as “Big Jolly” to make the jump to the pros, anyway.

“Everybody has their own things going on,” said Bellamy, who also worked out for scouts Wednesday. “We don’t know what’s going on at home for a guy that may influence their decision. For Roquan, man, it was a no-brainer. I kind of felt like with him there was nothing else to prove. But I’d say the same with Trent, really. He was a three-year starter here. He put his body on the line for his team. It gets to a point where you have to be a little selfish, thinking about yourself and your career.”

Thompson certainly arrived at UGA with more fanfare. In fact, when he signed with the Bulldogs out of Albany’s Westover High, he was the No. 1 overall prospect in the country, according to the composite rankings compiled by 247Sports.

Thompson lived up to that billing at times. By the end of his sophomore year, he was almost unblockable. He definitely was for the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, earning both overall and defensive MVP honors with 8 tackles and 3 sacks. He’d finish the season with 56 total stops.

But between recovering from shoulder surgery and battling a knee sprain, Thompson’s snaps decreased in 2017. He ended up alternating with sophomore Tyler Clark, who emerged as a star in his own right. Thompson missed two games and finished with 38 tackles, 3.5 of those for loss.

“He’s been pretty beat-up,” Bellamy said of Thompson. “But he has three years of good film in the best conference in America and he’s been dominant all three of those years. I think he’s going to do pretty good at the next level.”

Most everybody agrees about that.

In all these cases, Georgia players who are considering making the jump early consult Kirby Smart as well as their position coaches. But they also look to sources outside the football program. The key is arriving at an informed objective opinion.

“I tell them whatever that ask,” Smart said. “We’re advocates for our players and we want to do a great job for them. Trenton’s certainly done tremendous job for us since being here. He’s pushed through a lot of injuries and he’s a great kid. We wish him nothing but the best.”

Smart was asked whether he thought Thompson would benefit from another year in college. “That’s not my decision,” he said. “Our job as coaches is to get them information. That’s what I always try to do. Whether they decide to go or decide to stay, it’s the same thing. You arm them with ammunition. I’ve got to give them all the information. Information is power. And then they do with the information what they want. That’s the best thing we can do as coaches.”

Thompson seemed to struggle through some of his drills Wednesday. He appeared to be favoring his right leg whenever was asked to do timed runs and dummy step-overs, as well.

Smith had a nearly flawless workout, even though his status indicated he need not even bother with participating. He didn’t do any of the physical testing but went through position drills with Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Lions coach Matt Patricia presiding.

For as much fuss that is being made about him now, it’s hard to believe Smith ever considered coming back to Georgia one more year.

“He was real close,” Smart said. “He had several moments where he was leaning toward coming back, several moments he was leaving. Again, that’s not my decision. All we do is give them the information we get and try to educate them with that information. He did a great job of handling it.”

The post Same decision, different draft scenarios for Georgia juniors Roquan Smith, Trent Thompson appeared first on DawgNation.

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Local News

  • A University of Georgia student was killed overnight while driving his car on I-20 just west of Atlanta. The Fulton County Medical Examiner's Office identified the victim as 20-year-old William Whitaker, of Carrollton. Whitaker was driving in the westbound lanes on I-20 when a tractor trailer crashed with two cars in the eastbound lanes. Debris from the wreck was sent into the westbound lanes, striking two vehicles, including the car driven by Whitaker,  who died on the scene.  The driver of the truck has been identified as Mario Polier, 53, of Hialeah, FL. He now faces numerous misdemeanor charges including second degree homicide by vehicle  
  • It's a mild start to Friday but big changes are coming this weekend.  Most people are experiencing fog and light rain this morning. A Dense Fog Advisory has been issued for most of north Georgia until 10 a.m. Some areas have visibility of less than a quarter mile. Severe Weather Team 2 Meteorologist Brian Monahan said that on Saturday, we have a chance to see rain, storms and the coldest temperatures this year. 'As we head through the next 24 hours or so, we've got rain moving into north Georgia, we've got a chance for storms moving into north Georgia and then the coldest air of the season moving in,' Monahan said.
  • Athens-Clarke County Commissioners meet for a rare Friday afternoon work session: they say fair housing is the topic of talk in the session that starts at 1 o’clock at the Government Building on Dougherty Street.  The city School Board in Jefferson signs off on the purchase of a new emergency alert system, one that will be used on all four Jefferson schools. The price tag is $165,000.  There is a new City Administrator in Statham: Statham’s Mayor and City Council has signed off on the hiring of Mai Chang. Chang worked previously as City Clerk in Statham. She takes over for former City Administrator Michelle Irizarry. 
  • Deangelo Gibbs’ time in Athens has been up since December, when Georgia coach Kirby Smart said the defensive back was no longer with the team prior to the Sugar Bowl. And now it seems that he will be taking his talents to another SEC East program.  DawgNation can confirm that Gibbs is enrolled at Tennessee and will move to the other side of the ball and play wide receiver for the Vols. The news was first reported by 247Sports’ Grant Ramey. Gibbs was a major recruit coming out of Grayson High School, as he was rated as the No. 49 overall player in the 247Sports Composite. But he struggled to find playing time at Georgia and he was away from the team last spring as well.  Gibbs has a cousin on Tennessee’s team in safety Nigel Warrior. Another one of Gibbs’ cousins is J.R. Reed, who has become a standout safety for the Bulldogs since transferring from Tulsa. Reed made the decision to return to Athens for his senior season, bolstering what should be a strong secondary, even without Gibbs.  Gibbs had reportedly put his name in the transfer portal, as did Georgia safety Tray Bishop. In Georgia’s 2019 recruiting class, the Bulldogs brought in 4-star safety Lewis Cine, who is rated as the No. 61 player in the class.  Tennessee is coached by Jeremy Pruitt, who was the Georgia defensive coordinator from 2014-15.  Georgia visits Tennessee on Oct. 5. The Bulldogs beat Tennessee 38-12 in Athens last fall.
  • A former Athens-Clarke County police officer is suing the police chief who fired him last June. Former Chief Scott Freeman terminated officer Taylor Saulters for hitting a suspect with his patrol car, but a state investigation later cleared him. It happened after a police pursuit on Athens’ east side. Saulters, his lawsuit, is seeking financial compensation for what he says is emotional distress and slander. He is now working as a part-time reserve deputy in Oglethorpe County. 

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS — Georgia sacks leader D’Andre Walker has pulled out of the Senior Bowl, not yet ready to compete on account of what has become a nagging groin injury. Walker has been projected as a third-round NFL Draft pick, but the Senior Bowl offered him an opportunity to improve his draft stock competing against top talent in the annual all-star event. The Bulldogs will be represented by defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter and long snapper Nick Moore. Practices and drills begin on Tuesday before the watchful eyes of hundreds of NFL coaches, scouts and general managers. Unfortunately, I won’t be attending the Senior Bowl. I will be getting a second opinion on my groin this week to ensure I’ll be ready for the combine. I am very disappointed because it’s such a great opportunity to showcase my talent. — D’Andre Walker (@DAndreWalker15) January 21, 2019 Walker was injured early in the fourth quarter of the SEC Championship Game against Alabama with Georgia leading 28-21. The 6-foot-3, 245-pound senior from Fairburn, Ga., was enjoying an MVP performance against the Tide before suffering the injury. Walker had five tackles, two TFLs, two QB hurries a forced fumble and a deflected pass in three quarters, wreaking havoc in the Alabama backfield. Georgia’s backup outside linebackers weren’t able to have the same sort of success. The Bulldogs young outside linebackers lost contain on crucial plays and allowed Jalen Hurts to buy time and make game-winning plays in Alabama’s 35-28 win. Walker practiced on a limited basis and dressed out for the Sugar Bowl, but he declined to play. Bulldogs’ cornerback Deandre Baker also had an invitation to test himself against the nation’s best in the Senior Bowl, but Baker declined his invitation. Baker also skipped the Sugar Bowl, which, coupled with injuries to Walker and Freshman All-American defensive tackle Jordan Davis, severely hampered the Georgia defense in the 28-21 loss to Texas. The post Georgia football OLB D’Andre Walker uncertain of health, pulls out of Senior Bowl appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — If “Genius is patience,” as Isaac Newton once suggested, Georgia football coach Kirby Smart’s I.Q. must be off the charts. Smart has exhibited a deliberate approach at each turn in his young career, from not naming a starting quarterback during the 2018 offseason, to holding off on naming a defensive coordinator. Could there be more staff changes ahead? Perhaps, though it wouldn’t seem likely. The 43-year-old Smart named 41-year-old Charlton Warren his defensive backs coach on Saturday, shortly after crossing paths with him on the recruiting trail and conversing. RELATED: Georgia football adds ‘Mr. Intensity’ to defensive meeting room Warren’s hire comes more than six weeks after Colorado announced former UGA secondary coach and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker as its new head coach (Dec. 5). Some speculated Smart would elevate 32-year-old outside linebackers coach Dan Lanning or 28-year-old inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann to defensive coordinator — or both, in a co-coordinator role. Here are three things that are next for Georgia football: Defensive coordinator It’s going to be Smart’s system on defense, regardless who gets the coordinator title, so the key here is how the staff chemistry shakes out with Warren added to the defensive meeting room. Lanning said in New Orleans that there could be an internal promotion to the coordinator position, but also, that Georgia would see how things shook out against Texas in the Sugar Bowl. RELATED: Georgia football assistant Dan Lanning shares insight into DC search Obviously, the Bulldogs didn’t fare well without Deandre Baker in the secondary, D’Andre Walker at linebacker and Jordan Davis on the defensive line. It’s hard to know how much of the defensive dropoff had to do with Tucker’s absence versus the team’s motivation after its gut-wrenching loss in the SEC title game and exclusion from the CFB playoff. It wouldn’t be surprising if Smart made the decision on his DC immediately. But it is also possible the Georgia head coach will wait until after signing day (Feb. 6), or even spring drills to name the defensive coordinator, after he gets a better feel for the chemistry and ability in the room. James Coley confirmation Coley’s promotion to play caller and full-fledged offensive coordinator from co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach wasn’t surprising. RELATED: Kirby Smart pulls trigger on elevating James Coley to OC, as expected It was, however, second-guessed by outsiders overlooking Coley’s experience as Jimbo Fisher’s offensive coordinator at Florida State and his work as Miami’s coordinator. Coley’s stock recently shot up, however, when NFL.com analyst Ian Rapoport reported last Friday that the Dallas Cowboys could consider Coley for their offensive coordinator position. As the #Cowboys dig into possible replacements for embattled OC Scott Linehan, they have one on their current staff — TE coach Doug Nussmeier — and may look to the college game to better utilize Dak Prescott’s talents. UGA OC James Coley will receive some consideration there. — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 18, 2019   A FOIA request for Coley’s new contract last week revealed that he doesn’t yet have one, leaving room for speculation that need soon be answered. Is Coley staying, or might   he be headed for the NFL? Big staff raises The bottom line for the Georgia football coaching staff is there is plenty of money available for raises and the new hires. So far, the Bulldogs’ offensive staff has traded Jim Chaney’s $950,000 salary for new tight ends coach Todd Hartley’s first-year deal of $300,000. RELATED: Details of Georgia football assistant Todd Hartley’s new contract The defense, meanwhile, has the $1.5 million Tucker was making to spread around. Warren was due to make $401,500 at Florida next season, per the USA Today salary database, but he’s sure to get a healthy boost at Georgia. Bulldogs defensive line coach Tray Scott has earned a raise up from $420,000, with Georgia’s defensive line showing more improvement than perhaps any other position group last season. Certainly, linebackers coaches Schumann and Lanning — both previously making $325,000 — will have deals worth more than a half-million annually next season. It’s more math for Smart to do, more pieces of the puzzle, and if the Georgia head coach has proven anything his first three seasons, it’s that he’’ll take his time to make sure he gets things right. Georgia football coaches 2018 annual salaries DEFENSE DC, secondary: Mel Tucker $1.5 million Defensive line: Tray Scott $420,000 Inside linebackers: Glenn Schumann $325,000 Outside linebackers: Dan Lanning $325,000 Special teams Scott Fountain $300,000 * Charlton Warren, new coach was due $401,500 at Florida in 2019 OFFENSE OC, tight ends: Jim Chaney $950,000 Offensive line: Sam Pittman $825,00 Quarterbacks, Co-OC James Coley, $850,00 Running backs: Dell McGee $550,000 Receivers Cortez Hankton $375,000 * Todd Hartley, new tight ends coach, will make $300,000 in 2019 at UGA   The post 3 things: What’s next for Georgia football and ever-patient Kirby Smart? appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — The Georgia basketball challenges could be attributed to the brutal league slate assigned by the SEC office. Already, the Bulldogs (9-8, 1-4 SEC) have played the three top-ranked teams in the league in Tennessee, Kentucky and Auburn, and next up is a road trip to red-hot LSU. Georgia coach Tom Crean hasn’t mentioned the schedule since it was released in the preseason, instead focusing on what he can control, which would include the roller coaster play of forward Rayshaun Hammonds. The talented 6-foot-8, 235-pounder from Norcoss is the Bulldogs leading scorer this season — except when he isn’t, which would be against the better teams this season. Hammonds has been held scoreless in losses to Tennessee and most recently at home against Florida, running into foul trouble early in both games, offering little help to his teammates in other capacities. Georgia was outscored by 18 points with Hammonds in the game against the Gators, as shown below in the plus-minus category for UGA players: “ I am going to look around and see what we can do to help him and I talked to him a lot,” Crean said. “I am not down on him at all, I want him to continue to learn and want him to understand he is a lot more than just a guy who shoots and scores.” But yes, Crean admitted, “him not scoring and us not scoring are together.” Hammonds has at times shown the sort of growth and ability many projected when he was rated the No. 51 player in the nation by the 247Sports composite. It’s far too early for Hammonds to be considered a bust, especially when others have noted the growth they’ve seen from him under Crean’s direction. “I thought (Nicolas) Claxton and Hammonds have both blossomed this year under Coach Crean and that staff, and I told them both that after the game,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “They ask Rayshaun to do a lot, they don’t have a lot, they are kinda point guard by committee.” Hammonds’ issues involve fundamentals and decision making, Crean indicated. “Sometimes right now he makes the read and people are just lining up for the charge because he is going to go right into their chest,” Crean said following Saturday’s 62-52 home loss to Florida. “He is not low enough when he makes the move. “I am going to have really spend some time and be creative, look for creative ways to get him the ball in better spots than we are right now because we need him to score.” Georgia is 3-1 in its last seven games Hammonds has scored in double figures, and 0-3 when he’s been held to single-digit scoring. Rayshaun Hammonds against SEC teams 0 points Vs. Tennessee 0-for-4 shooting (0-of-2 from 3) 1 turnover 19 points Vs. Vanderbilt 6-for-13 shooting (2-of-6 from 3) 3 turnovers 9 points Vs. Auburn 2-of-6 shooting (1-of-2 from 3) 5 turnovers 11 points Vs. Kentucky 3-of-8 shooting (1-of-5 from 3) 2 turnovers 0 points Vs. Florida 0-for-4 shooting (0-for-2 from 3) 4 turnovers   The post Georgia basketball: Roller coaster Rayshaun Hammonds a key for Bulldogs appeared first on DawgNation.