Friday, December 29, 2017

Smith Meets Butkus

UGA Sports Communications

The Dawgs participated in their third practice session on Friday at the Stub Hub Center in anticipation for its College Football Playoff semifinal matchup.

The third-seeded Dawgs practiced for 90 minutes in shoulder pads and shorts under sunny skies with temperatures reaching the 80s. Georgia arrived in Los Angeles Tuesday evening following a brief break for the holidays.

Along with the Friday afternoon practice, the team is visiting Lawry’s The Prime Rib restaurant in Beverly Hills for the annual “Beef Bowl.”

Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, along with the senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, junior inside linebacker Roquan Smith, senior nose guard John Atkins, redshirt sophomore defensive back J.R. Reed and junior defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter, participated in an official press conference for the defense at The L.A. Hotel Downtown on Friday morning.

Tucker directed a defense this season that ranks fourth nationally in Scoring Defense (13.2 points/game) and Total Defense (270.9 yards/game).

“Oklahoma is a spread team committed to the run and that’s what makes them unique,” Tucker said. “Their run game sets up their play action and they are certainly going to be a challenge for us. Oklahoma has a multi-dimensional offense. Our goal will be to do our best to make them one dimensional.”

One of Tucker’s leaders on the defense is Roquan Smith. The Montezuma, native has racked up a team-high 113 tackles this season, including 10.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks. Smith got a visit before Friday’s practice from the legendary Dick Butkus. The Pro Football Hall of Famer was meeting Smith in person for the first time since the he earned the 2017 Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker in early December.

This is not Smith’s first trip to L.A. since he traveled to California several times during his recruitment period. In fact, Smith enjoys traveling and looks forward to future trips.

“I’ve been to Central and South America and probably enjoyed Honduras more than​ any place I have been,” said Smith. “There are still some spots I want to visit in this country and Spain and Africa are spots I have always wanted to travel to.”

Smith and his teammates will have one of their more difficult tests of the season as they will try and slow Sooner quarterback Baker Mayfield and the Oklahoma offense, which leads the nation averaging 583.3 yards per contest. Mayfield is a former walk-on who won the Heisman Trophy earlier this December.

“It’s always big getting the chance to play against a Heisman Trophy winner,” said Smith. “I always hear his name and Oklahoma’s name on Sundays when I get to catch up on a little college football recap and it’s amazing what they have done. I am excited to play against a guy like that.”

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Dawgs Arrive In LA

UGA Sports Communications

Under sunny skies and temperatures hovering around 70 degrees, the Dawgs conducted their first West Coast workout Wednesday at the Stub Hub Center.

The Dawgs practiced for 90 minutes in jerseys, shorts, shells and helmets as they continue preparations for the upcoming Rose Bowl Game against Oklahoma in a College Football Playoff semifinal.

Georgia arrived in Los Angeles Tuesday evening following a brief break for the holidays. Along with Wednesday’s morning practice, the team visited the Disneyland Resort plus made an appearance at the ESPN Zone in the park.

Coach Kirby Smart, along with the four Dawg captains (seniors Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Isaiah Wynn and junior Roquan Smith), took part in an official Welcome Press Conference at the resort. The group also rode one of the top new attractions, the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout. The elevator ride hurls guests up and down.

“Roquan was next to me on the ride; he squeezed my arm, and as you know, he’s pretty strong,” said Smart. “I think the other three guys were fine, although Sony said he may have eaten a little too much before the ride.”

“We had warm weather out at practice today, and we are pushing the guys a bit,” Smart added. “They were enthusiastic and had good tempo as we work on the offensive and defensive game plan.”

“It’s great to be out here and playing in the Rose Bowl Game, this one is big,” said Michel. “I know the seniors are getting a lot of credit from the media for this season, but it’s the whole team, the younger guys, the freshmen, they helped make it happen, and they deserve credit too.”

“It’s going to be a great matchup on both sides of the ball,” said Wynn on the upcoming Rose Bowl game with the Sooners. “We got back out there at practice because we are treating this as a business trip, and we needed to put the work in today. At the same time, it’s good to have an opportunity to come to Disneyland and step away from football for a few hours and enjoy our time together here as a team.”

Thursday’s schedule will feature a morning press conference involving offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and five Dawgs from the offense at the Rose Bowl Game media hotel. The team will hold an afternoon practice at the Stub Hub Center and then be treated to a show at the Improv Comedy Club.

Georgia will have daily practices through Saturday before a final walk through on Sunday. Kickoff for the Georgia-Oklahoma Rose Bowl Game will be Monday, Jan. 1, 2018 at 5 p.m. ET and be televised live by ESPN.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Georgia Forwards Power 84-66 Win Against Temple

UGA Sports Communications

Senior forward Yante Maten and freshman forward Nicolas Claxton powered Georgia (9-2) towards a resounding 84-66 win against the Temple Owls in front of 8,282 fans at Stegeman Coliseum Friday afternoon.

Maten logged his fifth double-double of 2017-18 with a season-high 30 points, his first 30-point game on the year and fifth of his career, to help Georgia remain undefeated at home (6-0) this season.

"I tried to find my sweet spots,” Maten said. “I started out kind of slow but then I ended up finding my rhythm offensively and made sure I made the most of my opportunities and put my teammates in a better spot."

The Pontiac native was joined in double digits for the first time by Claxton, who notched career highs in points (14) and rebounds (9). Junior guard Turtle Jackson chipped in 10 for his ninth double-digit scoring output of the season.

The Owls (7-4) entered the game with one of the better resumes of a Georgia opponent this season. Temple checked in at No. 12 in the Tuesday edition of the RPI, with the nation’s No. 4 strength of schedule to boot. The win marks the Dawgs’ third victory over top 75 RPI teams (No. 56 Saint Mary’s, No. 73 Marquette) this season.

The game began as a defensive battle, with the Dawgs and Owls combining for 22 points in the first 10 minutes. Temple made its first shot, a 3-pointer by Obi Enechionyia, but Georgia held the Owls to 8 of 26 shooting by halftime and Temple’s largest first half deficit of the season.

Locked in a stalemate at 7-7 after the first six minutes of play, Georgia’s interior players kicked into gear. After missing his first three shots, Maten scored a tipin and drilled a jumper to give the Dawgs their first lead of the contest. Those buckets spurred a 14-2 run in the middle of the first half as Maten heated up for 15 first half points.

Junior forward Derek Ogbeide joined the action, scoring back-to-back buckets inside capped by an emphatic interior dunk. Claxton closed out the period with a gentle tip-in as the buzzer sounded for a 42-23 lead. All told, Georgia’s frontcourt poured in 29 of the Dawgs’ 42 at the break and 57 of the team’s 84 final points.

"One of the things we have the luxury of is we have a lot of inside players,” Georgia head coach Mark Fox said. “We only took five or six 3-point shots in the first half because we wanted to go inside. Their big guy fouled out so they didn't have a lot of inside presence so we had the advantage tonight in that situation and we were able to turn that into free throw opportunities."

Georgia continued to attack Temple inside, particularly by way of the foul line. After not attempting a free throw for the first 11:27 of play, Maten keyed the team towards a 10-12 performance from the charity stripe in the first half. The Dawgs extended their foul line success to a season-high 28 for 39 by the game’s end while the Owls shot a season-low 4 for 13.

Though Temple came out in the second half to the tune of 8-15 shooting behind the 3-point arc, the Dawgs never surrendered their double-digit lead and won by a final of 84-66.

The Dawgs return to action on New Year’s Eve — Sunday, December 31 — against the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena to open Southeastern Conference play. Tipoff is set for 6:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Practice Report

UGA Sports Communications

The Dawgs practiced for the second to last time in Athens on Thursday in preparation for the coming College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game versus Oklahoma.

Georgia will practice once more on Friday before giving the players a couple days off for Christmas. The Dawgs will then reconvene and fly to Los Angeles on Dec. 26 to start their preparations for their January 1st game in Pasadena, California.

Redshirt sophomore defensive back J.R. Reed grew up in Texas and was familiar with the Sooners then, and has been studying this year’s Oklahoma team as well.

“Growing up, we always knew the Texas-Oklahoma rivalry was a big one and we paid attention to that game every year,” Reed said. “The Big 12 is known for high-scoring teams and the passing game so this will be a big game for our defense.”

After owning the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class following the first day of the Early Signing Period on Wednesday, the Dawgs added a talented pair in tight end Luke Ford from Carterville, Ill., and linebacker Channing Tindall from Columbia, S.C., on Thursday. Reed said winning plays a part in signing up the next batch of Dawgs.

“Everyone wants to be part of a winner when they come out of high school and choose their college,” said Reed. “If a guy is on the fence and Georgia is having a year like it’s been having this year, I would definitely think he would pick Georgia with the performance we have had on the field this season.”

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Smart Discusses Early Signing Period

UGA Sports Communications

University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart met with media Wednesday afternoon to talk about the Dawgs’ early signees in the class of 2018.

Smart offered the following comments.

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening statement …

“Well, kind of a confused state for me because I am used to coming in here to talk about practice. We just got through with practice. To be honest, my mind is on practice. My mind is on Oklahoma, but with this unique experience it has been an interesting day to say the least with Signing Day going on. A lot of great kids choosing to come to Georgia. I am most excited — No. 1 stat about this class to me so far that is not done is that 10 of the 17 went to a state championship game. So, 10 of the 17 signees were in a state championship game. Six of the 17 won a state championship game. I think that is just remarkable. Nine guys of the 17 had over a 3.0 core GPA, which was a major emphasis for us in this class.

Three of these guys had offers from Ivy League schools, so we are really excited about this class. I think everybody would take about the offensive lineman initially, and that group is really special, but I think we addressed a lot of areas with the defensive players we lost. The senior leadership with 25 sacks between Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy. With that going out, we have to find some guys to go in and help and we are excited about the guys who have decided to join us. Overall, excited about the class thus far. There are still some areas we need to address and hopefully we will be able to do that in either the next few days or in January.”

On if this takes some recruiting off his plate going into January and February now …

“It is still on your plate because there are still spots left, and I think you are always recruiting. We are going to be trying to recruit the rest of the spots. There’s going to be some really, really probably intense battles come January because the guys that are left are targeted by all the top programs, so there’s going to be some guys out there that we are still going to go after. It is not like you can say ‘ok, relax, we are done,’ because that is not the case. We have work to do in recruiting and we have time to do it. The focus obviously for us is the College Football Playoff and it will shift back to recruiting once that ends.”

On players committing early and influencing others to sign with them …

“Every good college coach tries to use the momentum and use the alpha dog, the leader, to go out and get guys and bring them with them. I did not think we had that as much this year as we had last year. I thought Richard LeCounte was unique in some of the things he did and did a good job. Jake Fromm did a good job. Justin Fields and Kearis Jackson were great. They were both awesome, but they didn’t overstep themselves. I think they let kids make their own decisions. I think the University sold itself. I obviously think that our momentum on the field — because there were numerous kids that , when we recruited them in the summer, they said ‘Coach, I really want to come to Georgia. I just want to know that we are going to play for championships and that it is going to be special.’ The year that we had kind of created some momentum and tidal wave effect to bring in some extra guys.”

On how this class has developed from the spring until now …

“I heard that everywhere I went and spoke and everybody you talked to there was all that concern. We were never concerned. I said repeatedly to people where I spoke that don’t worry about that. We are working on us. We are working internally on our organization and our development of our team. If you take care of your team, if you take care of what is inside your house, then things outside your house will do well. And we played well. You say ‘How do did we get from that point to this point?’ We played well. I think people saw the success we had and they saw a lot of the games we played and they want to be part of that winning program.”

On how these last classes have shaped the offensive line …

“I think it was one of you guys on the front row that pointed out that first class we did not really address the offensive line. We got pinned and I think Solomon Kindley and maybe Chris Barnes — you know we did not hit on all those guys that we really needed to and I think Sam Pittman took that to heart and I think Coach Pittman is one of the best recruiters in the country. He proved that by putting what was a really good offensive line group together last year and followed it up with another very complete, diverse group for this year.”

On what kind of quarterback he is getting in Justin Fields …

“Exciting. I think everybody knows what he has been able to do. I have seen a lot of quarterbacks in my time. I thought the best evaluation of quarterbacks is when they go out to the Elite 11, they go to The Opening — I know it is t-shirt and shorts — but you are around some real alpha dogs when you are out there and he was one of the alpha dogs of the alpha dogs. He took over The Opening, he won a lot of games, he made throws and he did it all while keeping a calm, cool presence that is kind of unmatched. He is never real high, he is never real low. He is really exciting. He can win the game with his feet, but he can win the game with his arm and he is not afraid of competition. He has been very adamant that he wants to come in here and compete and he knows we are going to give him an opportunity to do that.”

On his thoughts about Sam Pittman’s “Yes Sir” tweets…

“The fact that he got those five linemen doesn’t creep me out at all. He can “yes sir” all he wants and I will be saying “yes sir” too. He does a great job of getting those kids to buy into the fact that he’s going to lead them, he’s going to be tough on them, he’s going to be honest with them. You can’t promise every guy playing time. Those kids that are coming in understand that they have to come in and work for it. What drew each of them to Georgia was Sam Pittman and the fact that he does it different. He does it old school. He develops relationships. He sat right here in these seats and asked them what Instagram was and what Twitter was. He doesn’t care about that. He writes them hand-written letters. He does it the old fashioned way and he forms relationships. There’s something to be said for that in today’s day and age of technology.”

On 93K-Day and the impact on recruiting…

“I think the momentum kicked off with the 93K-Day. That really helped us in last year’s class. I don’t think it had a major effect with this year’s class. It’s almost like the 93K kind of ear-marked the last class as a big momentum. This class was marked by the fact that we played well. We were ranked No. 1 early in the season there for a while and played well at the finish to beat a really good Auburn team and I think people were really affected by that. 

With all of that, we all as Georgia fans and Dawg Nation need to understand that those, I don’t know if there are expectations or what they are for the kids, have to be tempered. Because last year’s class was anointed and this and that and that. Some of the kids have been successful. D’Andre Swift is a great example, Andrew Thomas. Some of them have worked really hard to get better. Regardless of what they’re rated, regardless of how many stars they have, they’re ours. It’s our job to develop them on and off the field. We’re excited about this group, but I’m not ready to call this the greatest class ever or anything like that because it doesn’t matter. So many people want to win the recruiting war. I really care nothing about that. I care so much more about how they behave and how they learn and how they grow when they get here. We have to grow these guys when they get here and we have to get them better.”

On the expectations of the signees that enroll early…

“The expectation is to come out and compete. I think three of those linemen will be here mid-year and there is going to be some great competition. If you think about it there are guys that started early in the year, like Solomon Kindley, that ended up not starting and other guys that started this year who are going to have some really talented people coming in behind them and compete with them. Those mid-year guys come in here full throttle with the expectation of coming in and competing. Think about what’s transpired for us— Jacob Eason and Isaac Nauta coming in mid-year and they start. Jake Fromm was a commit mid-year and ends up starting. D’Andre Swift and Andrew Thomas didn’t. Each one of those guys will be at an advantage a little bit because they’ve been able to practice and get used to our system, which will help us next year.

On which signees will be early enrollees…

“I’m not sure right off hand exactly because each one of them has to go through the admission process; I think we can have anywhere from eight to 10 mid-year guys.”

On Zamir White’s injury recovery…

“Zamir is a mid-year. He’s going to be rehabbing his knee. We don’t expect him out there for the spring but he’ll be recovering and getting well. It’s good that he’ll be here to get that done with us. He’s going to be here in the spring working out, doing what he can do, but I have no idea if he’ll be ready to go by the fall.”

On Zamir White as a running back and Zamir off the field …

“[Zamir] is a great kid from a great family. His mom made a home-cooked meal for me and I didn’t think I could leave the house after eating it because I wanted to camp out and stay as long as I could. He’s quiet. I would put him more in the Nick Chubb mode of talking. He’s not volunteering information; you’re going to have to pull it out of him. He loves the game and loves to compete. … All he wants to do is compete and win and run the rock. He’s been a joy to recruit.”

“When you hire really good coaches and you give them the power to go out and do what they’ve got to do, and you give them ability to do it, they’ve done a great job recruiting this class. This is not like I’ve had all to do with it. I have to give the position coaches a lot of credit as they’ve done a good job building relationships with these kids.”

On Devonte Wyatt being able to join the team after a season at junior college …

“I think it’s the best thing for him. He comes from a situation where he played at Towers High and he was going to take some development to be able to play. When he comes in with a couple senior offensive and defensive lineman, he gets to watch tape and see them play. He did a really good job preparing and taking some college classes. He’s a lot more mature having been out on his own and it gives him a better chance at success here. Today was his first day in pads [at practice], obviously he can’t play for us right now but I’m excited about him.”

On Assistant Coach Sam Pittman’s ability to form relationships outside the state of Georgia with offensive linemen …

“He’s a great recruiter and he’s got ties across the board and he can go wherever he needs to go. It’s a credit to the fact so many people get locked in on two or three guys early and that’s all they recruit. He went out and combed the country for the best guys. He had a relationship with Cade Mays long before anything changed and Cade decided to open things up. That relationship and honesty he had early gave him a lead when Cade decided to look around.”

On recruiting a Justin Fields-caliber athlete despite having a freshman already in that role …

“You never know. Why did we recruit Jake Fromm when we have Jacob Eason? Because you never know. I think back, ‘aren’t we glad we did.’ It’s a position that only one guy is on the field at a time unless you run a very unique offense so those guys are different. They’re only so many guys like Justin Fields. He is a talented young man and so is Jake Fromm. I bet Justin Fields makes Jake Fromm better and Jake Fromm makes Justin Fields better and Jacob Eason makes both those guys better. When you start looking at the dynamic that competition breeds success, you’ve  nsold this program on competition. Those guys are going to make each other better. … [Justin] was being offered by Ivy League schools and he chose to go to Georgia. That says a lot about not just about our program, but our school. … We’ve got a top-15 public institution with a business school that is second-to-none in the country and not a lot of people can sell that so when you have that opportunity you have to go after the best.”

Practice Report

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia conducted a two-hour workout in full pads Wednesday as part of its preparations for the upcoming College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Rose Bowl Game against Oklahoma.

Wednesday also marked the first day of the NCAA’s new Early Signing Period (Dec. 20-22) although there still will be the traditional February date available in 2018 (Feb. 7). Head coach Kirby Smart met with the media after practice and discussed the day’s events.

“I just got through practice, to be honest, my mind is on practice and my mind is on Oklahoma,” said Smart. “But with this unique experience, it’s been an interesting day to say the least with Signing Day going on and a lot of great kids choosing to come to Georgia.”

Smart said he was excited about the fact to 10 of the 17 signees went to a state championship game and six of the 17 won a state championship. Also, he mentioned that nine guys had over a 3.0 core GPA which was a major emphasis for the staff in this class and three signees had offers from Ivy League schools.

“We are really excited about this class, and everybody would talk about the offensive linemen initially and that group is really special, but I think we addressed a lot of areas,” Smart added. “There’s still some areas we need to address and hopefully we’ll be able to do that in either the next few days or in January…I give the position coaches credit; they’ve built the relationships with these kids.”

Smart said there’s still spots left, and that programs are always recruiting.

“There’s going to be some intense battles in January because the guys that are left are targeted by all the top programs,” said Smart. “There’s going to be some guys we go after, and it’s not like you can say relax, we’re done because that’s not the case. We got work to do in recruiting, and we got time to do it. The focus for us is the College Football Playoff, and it will shift back to recruiting once that ends.”

Dribble Dawgs Wreck Tech......Again

UGA Sports Communications

Senior forward Yante Maten’s fifth 20-point performance of the season lifted the Dawgs (8-2) over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 80-59 in Athens on Tuesday night at Stegeman Coliseum.

Georgia remains undefeated at home this season at 5-0. The Dawgs move to 54-30 in Athens in the series against Georgia Tech. In the series’ last three games, Georgia has won by an average margin of 17.3 points per game, but the 21-point margin tonight was the largest in the three games. The last time the Dawgs had three double-digit wins in a row over Tech was in 1912-14.

Maten led in points with 24, in addition to securing his 10th consecutive double-digit scoring game of the season. He is now averaging 19.2 ppg. The 20-point output is his fifth this season including his third-straight and 27th in his career. Also, his six rebounds puts him at 696 total rebounds, sliding past Trey Thompkins in Georgia history and into the No. 10 spot.

Freshman forward Rayshaun Hammonds posted a double-digit game of 11 marking his sixth double-digit scoring performance of his career. Freshman guard Teshaun Hightower and sophomore guard Tyree Crump tied career highs, two assists and two steals, respectively.

"We have a deep team, that's one of the strength's of our team,” said head coach Mark Fox. "We have a number of guys who can play. We have a lot of guys who can contribute and in the second half we felt like our depth might be a factor in the game and it probably was."

The Yellow Jackets (5-5) secured an early lead putting the first points on the board, but Georgia answered with a 3-pointer and a free throw from Hammonds. The lead then changed three times in the first seven minutes, until the Dawgs obtained the 11-9 lead at the 15 minute-mark with a dunk from junior forward Derek Ogbeide.

Midway through the first half, Georgia exploded on a 15-4 run, kickstarted by a jumper and a dunk from Maten. In that span, Georgia held the Yellow Jackets scoreless for 3:56, producing nine unanswered points for the 26-17 edge. That run enabled the Dawgs to edge out the lead for the rest of the half, closed out by five points from Maten for the 36-34 margin. Georgia’s 48.3 percent shooting was the best first-half shooting this season.

Georgia kept the momentum going in the second half with a layup from Ogbeide, beginning the 8-2 Georgia run over the Yellow Jackets in the first four minutes. A three from Hammonds brought the Dawgs to a double-digit lead over the Yellow Jackets, and junior forward E’Torrion Wilridge then added a three of his own. This was followed by a defensive rebound by Crump, who found Wildridge at the basket for the dunk and the 56-34 advantage.

Georgia maintained a 10-plus point margin over Tech for the majority of the half. A layup by junior guard William Turtle Jackson II brought the Dawgs 21 points over the Yellow Jackets with two minutes remaining. Georgia held Tech without a field goal for the 4:40 of the game, clinching the final score of 80-59.

The Dawgs return to action against the Temple University Owls on Friday, December 22, at 1 p.m. in Stegeman Coliseum.

Head Coach Mark Fox

On the packed house at Stegeman Coliseum...

"What a great night for Georgia. We have a new arena and we had a packed house and we had a great opponent. It was a beautiful night of college basketball, both teams went toe-to-toe in the first half and I thought both teams played well. I thought in the second half we buckled down defensively and got off to a very unselfish and efficient start to the half and we played a pretty complete 40 minutes."

On finishing the non-conference strong before starting SEC play...

"I think that we have a team that can still get better, I expect our team to get better. What I like about our team is that we think we can get better and we want to get better.”

Senior Forward Yante Maten

On what this team can achieve:

"I think this is one of the better teams I've played on since I've been here. We're offensively and defensively well-rounded. We've got height, we've got speed, we have pretty much the whole package that we need."

Freshman Forward Rayshaun Hammonds

On the key's to beating Georgia Tech..

"We played hard, played up-tempo and just played our game in transition. In the first half they were taking off in transition on the offensive side so you ad to get back and guard your man and not let them get to the baseline.

On being more aggressive...

"We've been practicing hard and watching film to see how we can attack them. When you watch film you see what the defense is doing and you find ways to attack them. They were switching their defense up so we just had to let it come to us and not rush anything."

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Dawgs Continue Preparations for Oklahoma

UGA Sports Communications
The Dawgs continued preparations for their upcoming College Football Playoff Semifinal at The Rose Bowl Game against Oklahoma by conducting a 90-minute workout in the Indoor Athletic Facility on Tuesday.

The following players were available for interviews after Tuesday’s practice.

Wide Receiver Terry Godwin:

On the offensive line allowing Jake Fromm more time to throw the ball: 

"As a wide receiver it gives us more time to run our routes and be more crisp with them. It gives us more time to get open if we have a little trouble.’’

On personally not scoring last year but having six touchdowns this season: 

"As a receiver, you love to score. It brings a smile to my face every time I score but it also humbles me because I know I’m making a play for my team and putting them in the best position to win the game.’’

On growing as a position group from last year to this year: 

"As a unit, everyone has grown this season and bought into what Coach [Kirby] Smart and Coach [James] Coley want. It’s been a much more mature group.’’

On James Coley staying in Athens to coach the rest of the season: 

"Coming in, I’ve had a couple coaching changes and being able to buy into what he has brought into the receiving group, shows what he has put into us. To see him stay, that means a lot and it shows he trusts us. He has the opportunity to better his future and this is very special he chose to stay.’’

‘’He gave us a lot of knowledge. We read coverage better and run more routes. When he was an [offensive coordinator] at Miami, he was basically back there with the quarterback so he knows what they’re thinking and that they’re looking at.’’

On Jake Fromm’s composure and maturity as a freshman: 

"[Jake] has been the same guy since he got here. He has taken over the quarterback role well. He tells us what he wants to see and has been very communicative.’’

‘’From his first day on campus, I knew his mindset was not that of a freshman. Most freshmen come in and sit in the back of meeting rooms. Not Jake, he is always in front asking questions.’’

On key players coming back in 2017 and merging Mark Richt and Kirby Smart recruits: 

"For everyone to stay with the coaching change going on, it felt special because we knew coming in to the season we were going to have something special. With Coach Smart bringing grudge and physicality, it went with our swagger and we knew it was going to be special.’’

Wide Receiver Javon Wims:


On Oklahoma’s secondary: 

"They’re very fast guys. They’re playmakers. They’re ball hawks, all of ‘em. They all play the ball real well.’’ 

On his size matchup with OU secondary: 

"I just think that I’m probably going to be bigger than the majority of cornerbacks that I play against, especially when we’re playing out of conference. So I try to use that as an advantage and hopefully it will be in the game.’’

On the amount of preparation time so far devoted to Oklahoma: 

"No, we’ve just been focusing on getting better, just getting better for ourselves. We believe that we can get better every day, so we can go out and have a good performance in the game.’’

On general thoughts on going to California and playing in the Rose Bowl: 

"It’ll be my first time to California, so it’s gonna be nice, but once again it’s another game, another business trip. It’s gonna be a great atmosphere, and it’s a huge honor to be playing in the Rose Bowl. We’re gonna enjoy it. We’ll enjoy the moment, but we will focus on, like our coach says, ‘be where your feet are.’ And right now, our feet are not in California, so when we get there, then we’ll focus on that. But we’re gonna enjoy it.’’

Any comparisons to Oklahoma from the film prep work you’ve done so far?

Not really. They’re a very fast defense. We don’t compare them to anybody. They’re a unique team and they are their own people. They fly to the ball fast, and their secondary plays the ball in the air fast. It’s gonna be a good game.’’

Is it fair to continue to call Jake Fromm a freshman?

"He’s definitely not a freshman anymore. He wasn’t a freshman after Notre Dame. No moment is too big for him. I think he’s shown that time and time again. The stage is never too big, the lights never too bright. He just goes out, handles his business and manages the game really well for us.’’

Center Lamont Gaillard:

On progress the offensive line has made since last year: 

"It just tells us we have a great o-line and ready to work better. We just wanted to come and play for these next two games.’’

On how this line has developed more recently: 

"Everybody come to work. Whoever wants to take the position, we want the best guy out there. Whoever is the best guy is going to play. That’s all that matters.’’

On how roster changes may affect the dynamic of the position group:
 

It doesn’t change much. We want whoever is going to come to work. We practice together and we’re going to perform together.’’

On adjusting to coaching changes: 

"Like you said just being comfortable with your scheme, with your coaches. Both Coach Pittman and Coach Smart have done a great job with getting our mind right and making sure that we are a physical o-line.’’

On his opinion of Coach Pittman’s results: 

"He’s just himself. We have someone who cares for the o-line personally and how we perform. He’s good for recruiting as well because he is just himself.’’

On what Coach Pittman does to show he personally cares for players: 

"He is a chill coach. He keeps our minds right outside and on the field. Even if we are in the meeting room we are joking and laughing with him but we still get the job done. He’s a great coach.’’

Do you think the offensive line had something to prove in that SEC Championship Game: 

"Definitely. We had to come back this game and show them we deserve this. We did.’’

On what he knows about Oklahoma’s defense: 

"They are a good defense. They are fast. They run to the ball. Their effort is very good. We have to respect them even if they don’t show it statistic wise but they are a good defense.’’

The Dawgs face Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018. Kickoff is set for 5:00 p.m. ET and the game will be televised live by ESPN.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Oklahoma Preview

UGA Sports Communications

University of Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart, along with several players, previewed the upcoming Rose Bowl game against Oklahoma with media on Monday. The Dawgs take on the Sooners at 5:10 p.m. ET New Year’s Day in Pasadena, Calif.

Smart and the Dawgs offered the following comments on Monday.

Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening comments …

“Excited to be here. I'm really proud I got to take a picture with our nine graduates the other day, and really excited about those guys. I think we're going to end up with 16 guys total with their degree out in Pasadena, which I'm really proud of the young men who have already graduated, but also the ones who just did, and they continue to do a great job academically in a really competitive environment and university.

As far as practices go, today will be our fourth practice. We're having another camp-type practice, preparing for the Rose Bowl, preparing for a really, really good Oklahoma team. We focused on ourselves the first five practices. We planned to do camp-type practices, and really improve our roster and try to work on our team from a development standpoint, getting ones, twos, threes, every guy on our team reps. So we've been really excited about the work we've gotten and that will continue into today's practice.

Couple injuries of note, John Atkins is still battling a little bit with the big toe he got in the SEC Championship game. He's been able to practice, but he's had to push through and be limited in his reps. Sony has done a good job pushing through. Malkom Parrish continues to work on his situation, and he's not been able to practice a lot. He's been able to practice some. So those guys are bouncing back.

As I'm sure most of you guys are aware, and everybody wants to know and talk about Natrez and Jayson Stanley situation. Under university and athletic association policies, both those guys remain part of the team and eligible to practice. As we always talk about disciplinary matters, they're handled internally. So we make disciplinary decisions based on our policies, and the September revisions to the substance abuse policy had no impact whatsoever on the situation.

So we're following our policies without any exceptions, and without regard to the players involved or where we are in the season. The Athens-Clarke County situation with Natrez is a separate matter and we'll address it according to our policies once it's resolved. So with that, I'll open it up to questions.”

On having the early signing period in the middle of bowl prep …

“Yeah, it's been a great challenge. I don't think people anticipated -- at least I didn't anticipate some of the repercussions . First off, trying to play for a National Championship, and I know there are four teams involved in that. You've got to look at it from both perspectives, from the perspective of us as coaches and then also the kids. I am all about if it benefits them then it's for a better cause. I think there's going to be 20 to 30% of the people who sign Wednesday that this is a beneficial process. But there are a lot of other kids that feel rushed. They feel like they're making decisions amidst a sea of coaching changes, and they're having to hurry up and make a decision and not really getting the chance to develop relationships with the people to the places they're going. I think the public perception is you choose the school and you go to the school. You don't necessarily go to a coach. And everybody can say that until it's your son or your daughter, and you're having to meet these coaches. You make decisions based on relationships.

The timeframe with which we're having to make these decisions for the kids is really stressful on them. I think when you look at the coaching side, we could get used to it, but with the advent of the 10th coach in the same year as the early signing period, it makes it really complicated. Because now you have a lot of coaches that are going to be moving possibly after all the kids sign, and that's a lot of the problem that people complained about before. The guys move after kids sign.

So it's been a difficult process for certain. A little bit of that complicated by the fact that we played in the SEC Championship game and we lost a week of recruiting, and then signing day is basically upon us. It's in two days, right? So it's here. So it's been very complicated. You'd like to look into it and see who did it actually benefit and how many did it benefit?”

On if outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer will coach in the bowl game …


“Absolutely. Kevin, when he got the opportunity he got, which I'm really proud of him and his opportunity, first thing he said, he wanted to finish outright, and we want him to. So he's done a tremendous job with our outside linebacker group, and he always has. It's important for us to be at our best in this College Football Playoff. If it wasn't important to have him, why would we have him here all year? So he's been here. He's helped these guys develop, helped the young players develop. I've got a lot of respect for Kevin and watched him go through the high school ranks. Watched him do it at Alabama. Watched him do it at South Alabama. So I'm excited for his opportunity. He did finish up at Tennessee on their official visit weekend, so he wasn't here for a couple practices. But he's here today, and he'll be here the rest of the way through the bowl prep.”

On Nick Chubb being one of the top-10 players in the nation and if he has had that conversation with him …

“I think running backs as a whole recognize that now. You look at the guys that are winning the Heisman, there are some backs in there. But those guys don't get enough carries a lot of times. And the ones that do, they know it can affect their pro careers, just the longevity. So, no, I've never had that conversation with Nick, nor do I ever expect to have that conversation with a running back, because if they're worried about that, then they're probably not worried about us winning games. I like the running backs that are a lot more concerned with us winning football games, and we've got to do what's best to win a football game. He's got to carry it 35 times a game, so be it. He acknowledges that. He's done that in his career here. But that's not his role right now. He's embraced his role, and best thing he does is lead by example, he and Sony.”

On how pleased he has been with Jake Fromm and Roquan Smith …

“Tremendous job. Both those guys have grown up a lot throughout the year. Roquan took on a leadership role in the time in the spring when it was hard because he was injured. He's embraced that. He's had two or three really good practices. He looks fast out there. Really competitive, playing fast. Jake continues to grow and mature. There were times that we were on the road and he led to help the team do seven on sevens. He's grown as a leader among the team. With each game in each situation he gets involved in, he tends to play better and understand the offense better. So they make the other players around them much better.”

On the concern for Natrez Patrick …

“Yeah, I think for us, which I'm not allowed to talk much about this subject because a lot of it is confidential, and you've got to respect his confidentiality. I have a lot of respect for Natrez as a person, a student, a student-athlete. He's done a lot of good things along with his mistakes. I think for us and for me I can't sit here and outline and define everything that's happened because of his confidentiality and for the kid's sake. So with that, there is not a lot I can talk about in that situation. It's limited.”

On facing an odd front like Oklahoma’s …

“I think it's great, but it goes both ways. They get to see our odd front. They play against an odd front for a lot. For a long time odd front was different. Odd front was like the exception. And now the better teams, it seems like more and more, do both. We do both. You've got to do the one that fits your program the best. I think it presents challenges because they're not exactly like us, but we have visited with Oklahoma in the past. We've shared ideas, so there are a lot of similarities. I think, if anything, that makes it a lot like fundamentals. Working on blocking and tackling and all of that. It's not going to be a different scheme. It's going to be a similar scheme from the standpoint of our defense and their defense, and they've got some talented rushers in that group.”

On the impact of the seniors who decided to come back this season …

“Probably more than they have been given credit. I think every time I talk, people talk about those guys deciding to come back and what impact they had. I think the greatest impact it had was it gave the younger players, juniors, sophomores and freshmen, confidence in the regime. It showed them that, hey, man, these guys have only been with this staff one year, but they're willing to stay. I think that gave a quiet confidence to the spring. Then I think the leadership of those, I don't know, seven, eight seniors has been tremendous for the off-season workouts and setting the tone. But the value of experience, I mean, you could have a freshman that's better than the senior, but the senior plays better in the big moments because he's got poise. He's got an understanding of it. You think of Davin's played against Notre Dame, played against Auburn who were both kind of momentum-changing plays. I don't think you can put a number of wins on that. So I think it played a major factor for us.”

On freshman defensive back Latavious Brini …

“Yeah, he's still in court right now. Still going through the process and the decision-making process. As we get more information we'll let you guys know. We just don't know a whole lot.”

On Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield’s ability to break out of pressure …


"Yeah, he's really elite. It goes up in that category beyond Johnny Manziel when it comes to creativity with the ball. He can make all the throws from all the angles. It's not just the scrambling. It's the fact that when you get to him, you sometimes still can't get him down. He's strong. He's built lower body like a running back. It's like having a wildcat quarterback that can throw it really good. His release and finding guys open has really been amazing. It creates a lot of dynamic for us. We're very fortunate to have a quarterback like Stetson Bennett who I know a lot of you guys don't know, he's not the stature, but he's done all year some plays similar to Baker. If we're tackling him live, that would probably be different because he's not as strong as Baker, but he does a great job of scrambling, adding time to plays. He can give us at least a good picture, not the real picture."

On challenging his team to accomplish more after winning the SEC Championship …

"Yeah, intensity. That's probably why you hear my voice is hoarse right now, because I'm trying to make sure they understand that you can't acknowledge the pats on the back. You can't embrace that. You can't feel good about yourself because obviously their hometown, their communities, in the media, winning the SEC Championship is a great honor and they'll have that for a long time. It will be on these walls for a long time, but they can't be satisfied. I think that is what makes the difference in the playoffs. How you approach this layoff and the perspective which you view it. So how are we managing that? We're bringing speakers in, we're using every resource we have to make sure they take advantage of this opportunity. We're challenging them each day."

On difference in styles of play between the Big-12 and SEC …

"Well, I would agree with that, except I didn't see any 10-6 SEC scores, because it doesn't seem like they're there anymore. I can go back maybe eight, nine years ago. But I thought you were going to say 28-24, 24-21, because people are scoring more and offenses have been innovative. They continue to progress. They take advantage of rules with the RPO and the different things they use.

Why is theirs different? I don't know. It seems like in all the years I've been coaching bowl games, a lot of the games I've been involved in have been Big 12 games, been Big 12 match-ups, whether I was at Alabama or here. It's a different style. I think they do a tremendous job of throwing the ball down the field, up-tempo, do a really good job of that. I don't know if it's the difference in the defensive lines. People have always said the SEC is going to have really competitive defensive linemen that can pass-rush and reduce that time window. But I think Baker Mayfield is the great equalizer because he extends that time, and he makes those plays go longer where you have to cover longer. That has a lot to do with it, and they've got really good skill receivers in that conference."

On the importance of the kicking game and field position against Oklahoma …

"Yeah, it's the battle that nobody talks about. It's the battle within the battle that we've worked really hard on improving that in the last three, four practices. We believe in working hard on special teams. Our core unit, those guys on every team, they love it because they see themselves as starters. It's had a great impact on the games we've played this year, because I feel like we've been maybe not statistically, because I don't even look and say, where are we statistically and this and that and that. We've done a good job on special teams because there's been opportunities there. There's been plays made there. There's been momentum-changing plays, and we've got to continue to do that, and Oklahoma knows that. They've got really good special teams units as well."

On meeting with the Oklahoma coaching staff …

"I really don't remember when we met with them. But they do a good job. We've always shared ideas with those guys. I've always liked to because I thought Bob Stoops did a great job defensively. And even when Brett Venables was there, we met with them when I was at Alabama. We shared ideas offensively uniquely because they had some really talented backs in their past. They've used those backs different ways. So as we've known we were going to have backs here, we said, how can we use our running backs in other ways? That was a big study for us two years ago when I got here and this year. So we've done some stuff with them."

On the dangers of the Oklahoma running game …

"That's tough. They're really big up front. People don't talk about the size of their offensive linemen. They're humongous, they lean on you, they wear you down, they go up-tempo, they go really good pace and they do run the ball. It's not like it's just a -- it's a great RPO offense. They do a tremendous job. He always has. I remember watching East Carolina, he really does a great job. You really do have to stop the run and they have great backs with which to do it."

On balancing rushing the quarterback and keeping containment …

"That's the million dollar question. I don't think you're going to contain this guy. He can escape when he wants to escape. So you have to invite him to stay. He can make throws from the pocket or you have to flush him out and have somebody athletic enough to get him on the ground. The best thing they do is make explosive plays. So you look at them and they'll go, three, three, three, three, bang, three, three bang, and get explosive plays. You've got to prevent the bang. You've got to prevent the big play from happening. Hopefully, you'll get the turnover. You've got to stop them in the red area, get turnovers. You do have to affect him, and you've got to be smart because he's seen it all. It's not like this guy hasn't seen a pressure that we might be running. You're not going to reinvent something that he's never seen before."

On the importance of Roquan Smith against Oklahoma …

"Yeah, he's a tremendous asset for us because of his speed. But we can't make this Roquan Smith against Baker Mayfield because that's not the case. He's not assigned to Baker. He's assigned to a gap. He's assigned to a coverage responsibility. He's assigned to a running back, man-to-man. He has all kinds of assignments. It's not as simple as people want to make it seem like. Hey, it's Roquan against Baker Mayfield. That's not what this is. Roquan has to play within our system, and he may end up in a match-up with him sometime. We've got other guys we spy with. We've got other guys that have to rush and contain the quarterback. He's certainly going to be a key factor in getting our defensive line correctly. Which is the most important thing. It's what we do, not necessarily what he does."

On if he addresses Roquan Smith’s NFL future with him …

"We handled it the same way we've always handled it. We call every kid in that we think has that potential. We talk to them about it. We say this is the process we're going to follow. We're going to get information, and gather information for you. We're going to receive it from the NFL, and we're going to give it to you. We're going to be able to give you advice. But that's not right now. Right now the focus is on Oklahoma, and that's the concentration and that's what we're doing.

We make sure it doesn't become a distraction because we know you guys are going to ask him. So we go to him and say, listen, be prepared for this. This is what we're doing, this is how we're handling it and we'll follow the same exact steps we followed last year with our guys. Everybody gets the same information, everybody makes their own decision, and we'll give you all the information you can to make the best decision possible. But let's make sure the focus is on the team, and the focus is on Oklahoma.”

Senior OT Isaiah Wynn

On receiving individual awards…

“We don’t tend to focus on that too much. We are a firm believer in that it wouldn’t happen if we didn’t have as much success as we’ve had this season. So I pay it all to the guys beside me that make me better, the guys across from me that make me better and running backs that make us look good."

On the break in the last two weeks…

“I wouldn’t say laid back, but we have been able to work a lot on technique and fundamentals. We are definitely eager to get back.”

On preparing for a game in the College Football Playoff opposed to a regular bowl game…

“It is the same way. We are taking the same preparation. We haven’t started looking at Oklahoma just yet, because we are focused on ourselves in fundamentals and technique. We are approaching it like a regular season game, but everyone knows that it is higher stakes.”

Senior OLB Lorenzo Carter

On differences in preparation for the Rose Bowl…

“Not really. Coach (Kirby Smart) does a good job on keeping us locked in and focusing on getting better. A lot of teams get sloppy going into their bowl games, but he just wants us to make sure we are focused on ourselves and do what we need to do.”

On connection with Oklahoma lineman Orlando Brown…

“He is a big guy. Orlando went to my rival high school so I saw quite a bit of him. I’m looking forward to the competition and the chance to compete against him again. I haven’t had a chance to chat with him, but we keep up with each other through social media.”

On reality of the season…

“Reality has gone above and beyond. We have had a great season so far. We had a chance to play in one championship, but we aren’t done yet. I think everybody around here knows that we have more work to do."

Graduate NT John Atkins

On recovering from injuries…

“You can’t lay down. You can’t give up. Your work ethic doesn’t care how you feel so you have to come out and do it everyday.”

On significance of playing in the Rose Bowl…

“It is always great to play in any bowl game, because you earn the right to play in it. But the Rose Bowl is really big and a lot of Georgia teams haven’t been there. Knowing that, it makes it very special.”

On teammate Roquan Smith…
“He is a real humble. You will never see him brag. He is always work first, which is one thing I like about him. He will bounce back in any situation. He comes into work everyday, no matter what awards he has won.”

Junior ILB Roquan Smith
On playing in the Rose Bowl…

“It’s pretty amazing, just knowing we have the opportunity to go out and play in the Rose Bowl. It’s a historic field where a lot of legends have played. So I think it will be a great challenge for us and the defense to play that type of offense.”

On stopping Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman winner Baker Mayfield…

"I definitely think it’s going to be a huge challenge stopping him, and they have a lot of other weapons on the offensive side of the ball, too. It will definitely be a huge challenge, but we’re definitely looking forward to it.”

On the reactions in his hometown of Montezuma, Georgia…

“Everyone’s very excited about the game, just knowing your hometown kid is going out and playing in the Rose Bowl out in California. Everyone’s looking forward, and cheering me on. I think it will definitely be great.”

On Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield off the field…

"He’s a phenomenal guy off the field, when I met him in Atlanta. First class guy. Takes everything light, and has a great personality. On the field, it speaks for itself what he does, he just won the Heisman, and he’s a good guy off the field as well.”

On the recognition Smith has received this season, including the Butkus Award…

“It’s amazing to say the least. Where I come from, from my first year here, with all my brothers and everything, with the help of them, how I’ve achieved so much, it’s just a pretty special feeling. And I can’t thank God enough, and our teammates, coaches, and family who have molded me into the guy I’m in today.”

Senior RB Sony Michel

On returning for his senior season…

“It couldn’t have been any better. We put a great season together. This team is one of a kind, from the young players to the old players. It’s extremely special to me and these guys. It means a lot.”

On where the Georgia football program is headed…

"I think this is good for the program. This won’t necessarily dictate where this program is headed, but I think this program is headed in a good direction. I’m excited for them. Just to be in this position right now, I’m excited to be able to set the tone. I think this is our opportunity to set the tone for Georgia football."

On preparation for Oklahoma…
Right now, we’re focusing on us and trying to get better. Trying to get some other guys in and playing and get them in their roles. These couple few days have been camp-like practices, so we haven’t really been focusing on Oklahoma right now. We don’t want to over-prepare for them. They’re a great team.”

On looking ahead…
“At the end of the day, we have to go out there and play our football. If we get caught up in Georgia offense, and what we did in the past, the past doesn’t dictate the present. We’ve got to go out there and perform."

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Smart Named Finalist For Paul “Bear” Bryant Coaching Award

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart has been named a finalist for the 2017 Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year Award.

Smart joins six other coaches as finalists for this year’s award. He has led the Dawgs to a 12-1 record, the Southeastern Conference title and the school’s first appearance in the College Football Playoff. Georgia will face Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl Game on Jan. 1, 2018.

Along with Smart, the other finalists include Paul Chryst (Wisconsin), Scott Frost (formerly of Central Florida and now with Nebraska), Clay Helton (Southern California), Gus Malzahn (Auburn), Jeff Monken (Army) and Dabo Swinney (Clemson).

The winner of the Paul “Bear” Bryant Coach of the Year will be announced live on Jan. 10, 2018 during an awards dinner and ceremony in Houston.

Now in its 32nd year, the Bear Bryant award recognizes the country’s top college football coaches for their contributions both on and off the field. The Coach of the Year Award is the only college coaching honor selected after all bowl games have concluded and is voted on by the National Sports Media Association. The Bryant Awards Show will be televised live on FOX College Sports. It is presented by the American Heart Association (AHA) and title sponsor Marathon Oil Corporation.

Since 1986, the Bryant Awards have raised more than $8.5 million for the AHA to fund research, advocacy and educational programs across the country aimed at the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Prior to his death of a heart attack in 1983, “Bear” always talked about being bigger than something other than himself and the Bryant Award offers an opportunity to do just that – to be a part of Team Bryant in the fight against cardiovascular diseases.

For the second year, fans can add their two cents and vote for their favorite Coach of the Year here: https://www2.heart.org/site/SPageNavigator/bear_bryant_2017.html

The fan vote winner will be announced the day after the National Championship Game.

Thirty-three UGA Student-Athletes to Graduate Friday

UGA Sports Communications

Thirty-three University of Georgia student-athletes will receive their undergraduate or graduate degrees Friday, December 15 at the annual fall commencement exercises. The undergraduate ceremonies will begin at 9:30 a.m. in Stegeman Coliseum followed by graduate ceremonies at 2:30pm.

Among the 33 UGA student-athlete graduates are one baseball player, three members of the equestrian team, 12 current and former members of the football team, two members of the women’s golf team, one member of the gymnastics team, two soccer players, one softball player, three men’s swim and dive athletes, two members of the women’s tennis team, two men’s track and field athletes, and four women’s track and field athletes.

Baseball: Jarrett Brown, Sociology.

Equestrian:
Madison Beasley, Journalism; Allision Haupt, Landscape Architecture; Jane Sutcliff, Psychology.

Football: Davin Bellamy, Communication Studies; Jeb Blazevich, Risk Management and Insurance; Aulden Bynum, Agribusiness, Agriculture and Applied Economics; Trenton Frix, Risk Management and Insurance; Carson Hall, Sport Management; Amarlo Herrera, Sociology; Matthew Herzwurm, Accounting and Finance; Tim Hill, Sociology; De’Andre Johnson, Consumer Economics; Cameron Nizalek, Master of Sport Management; Thomas Swilley, Sport Management; Kenneth Towns, Master of Sport Management.

Women’s Golf: Manuela Carbajo Re, Master of Sport Management; Harang Lee, Consumer Economics.

Gymnastics: Brandie Jay Dorminey, Master of Sport Management

Soccer: Madison Burdick, Risk Management and Insurance; Kelsey Nix, Psychology.

Softball:
Sydni Emanuel, Psychology.

Men’s Swimming & Diving: Walker Wheeler, Management; Taylor Dale, Management; Christopher Powell, Real Estate.

Women’s Tennis: Caroline Brinson, Marketing; Chelsey Gullickson, Comunication Studies.

Men’s Track & Field: Jamario Calhoun, Housing Management and Policy; Reginald Glover, Human Development and Family Science.

Women’s Track & Field: Natalie Bordes, Communication Studies; Sarah Gardner, Marketing; Laurel Sumner, Statistics and Mathematics; Kendell Williams, Advertising.

Smith Earns Unanimous All-America Honors

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia junior linebacker Roquan Smith has now been included on the All-America First Team by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) FBS Coaches’, the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA), Sporting News, Walter Camp and the Associated Press.

Smith, a native of Montezuma, becomes the fourth Dawg over the last 20 years to earn unanimous NCAA First Team All-America honors joining Champ Bailey (1998), Drew Butler (2009) and Jarvis Jones (2011-12).

In addition, senior offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn and senior tailback Nick Chubb were named to the AFCA All-America Second Team and Wynn was also an AP and College Football Madness Second Team All-American.

Also of note, quarterback Jake Fromm and right tackle Andrew Thomas garnered ESPN Freshman All-America honors this week.

Smith has also been named a First Team All-American by ESPN, SI.com, Bleacher Report, College Football Madness and The All-American while Wynn was also on the Bleacher Report’s First Team.

Smith became the first Dawg to win the Butkus Award this season, which is given to the nation’s most outstanding linebacker. He was also a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy and Bednarik Award, which are given to the country’s most dominant defensive player.

Wynn, a native of St. Petersburg, Florida, Chubb, a native of Cedartown, Fromm, a native of Warner Robins, and Thomas, a native of Lithonia, directed an offense that has averaged the Southeastern Conference’s third-best scoring offense (34.9 ppg) this season while posting the nation’s seventh-best rate for third down conversions (47 percent).

The Dawgs captured their first SEC title since 2005 and went an undefeated 6-0 versus teams from the league’s Eastern Division for the first time since the SEC split into divisions in 1992.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Lady Dawgs Build Bikes For Area Children

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia Lady Dawg basketball student-athletes, staff and Fastbreak Club members gathered at Stegeman Coliseum Monday to build more than 60 bikes for children in the Athens area.

The annual Bike Build, now in its 11th season, offered an opportunity for the Lady Dawgs to assemble bikes, which will be distributed throughout schools in Athens-Clarke County, as well as to the the Boys & Girls Club of Athens and the Jackson County Family Connection.

“Giving back to the community is something we take pride in,” head coach Joni Taylor said. “The Bike Build gives us an opportunity to not only be active and present in the community, but to truly make a difference in the lives of so many little boys and girls. There is just nothing like seeing their faces light up when they get a bike. It is something we really look forward to each and every year.”

Georgia’s Bike Build started under Hall of Fame head coach Andy Landers and Taylor has continued the tradition through her three seasons at the helm of the program. All told, Georgia has partnered with Academy Sports + Outdoors to assemble over 600 bikes since 2007.

This year, Academy Sports + Outdoors donated 30 bikes and 60 helmets.

“This is a tradition that goes back 11 years,” senior guard Haley Clark said. “It is a chance for us to celebrate the Holidays, spend time with our fans and give back to the community. I remember growing up getting a new bike and the joy that I had. I am just glad we can give that same joy to so many children. It means a lot.”

The Bike Build is one of several Lady Dawg community service efforts. Georgia student-athletes and staff members adopted the fifth-grade class at Stroud Elementary two years ago and have continued to visit the school. Taylor’s Beyond Basketball program for women has been considered a huge success, while the team’s recently announced Community Corner initiative has provided an opportunity for community groups to come experience Lady Dawg basketball games.

For more information on the Georgia Lady Dawgs, follow the team on Twitter (@UGA_WBB), Instagram (@uga_wbb) and Facebook (Georgia Women’s Basketball).

Smart Is Sporting News Coach Of The Year

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia coach Kirby Smart had an unexpected visitor before the SEC championship game against Auburn on December 2nd.

"I thought it was hilarious Bo Jackson came up to me before the game," Smart said after the Dawgs beat the Tigers 28-7. "He's my childhood idol. I worshiped Bo Jackson. I had Bo Jackson posters, baseball cards. I had over 300 baseball cards of Bo Jackson. He comes up to me before the game and said, ‘A lot of pressure in this job, isn't it?'"

Smart's reply?

"Hell yeah, it is."

Smart handled that pressure. He guided the Dawgs to a 12-1 record, their first SEC championship since 2005 and their first College Football Playoff berth. For those efforts, Smart is Sporting News' 2017 Coach of the Year.

Georgia became the first SEC East school to win the conference championship since 2008. It was a turnaround from the former Alabama defensive coordinator's first season, when the Dawgs finished 8-5. This year, Georgia swept rivals Florida, Tennessee and Georgia Tech, won a marquee non-conference game at Notre Dame and avenged its only loss of the season in the SEC championship rematch against the Tigers.

"All those ones I won at Alabama and here, they felt awesome too because it's hard to do," Smart said of his latest conference title. "This one feels the same way.

"You know, it's just the psychological stamina it takes to win an SEC Championship. I don't think people really realize what you go through the entire year — going on the road, playing these intense games."

Smart repeatedly praised a senior class that featured players such as Nick Chubb and Roquan Smith, who opted to stay in school for one more season. 

What was the first day like when Smart took over for Mark Richt?

"Yeah, I remember," Chubb said. "Happy the first day he came and spoke to us. He was busy with Alabama winning the championship, and he came in, and he just looked exhausted. We're like, 'Man, what's this man been up to?'

"Just the things he says, and he actually backs it up with his actions," Smith added. "It is what it is. He's an awesome guy, as you guys can see, and he knows what he's doing."

Georgia hasn't won a national championship since 1980. That's the next challenge for Smart, who will get to take it at the Rose Bowl Game. Smart faces that pressure every day, but he clearly enjoys it. So do the players.

"That's why we do it for moments like this," Smart said. "All that work for moments like this for these guys to enjoy."

Friday, December 8, 2017

Smith Named Walter Camp First Team All-American

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia junior Roquan Smith is one of three players from the Southeastern Conference named to the 2017 Walter Camp First Team All-America Team.

This marks the 128th edition of the Walter Camp All-America team. Twenty-six players have been selected to the First Team by the 130 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) head coaches and sports information directors. In addition, 26 players were selected to the Second Team.

The 2017 Walter Camp All-America teams will be honored at the organization’s 51st annual national awards banquet on Saturday, January 13, 2018 at the Yale University Commons in New Haven, Conn.

The Dawgs have earned 36 Walter Camp All-America honors dating back to 1922. Smith is the first Georgia player to earn the honor since outside linebacker Jarvis Jones earned back-to-back honors in 2011-12.

Smith has also been named a First Team All-American by SI.com, Bleacher Report, College Football Madness and The All-American.

Smith, a native of Montezuma, became the first Dawg to win the Butkus Award this season, which is given to the nation’s most outstanding linebacker. He was also a finalist for the Nagurski Trophy and Bednarik Award.

The Associated Press and Coaches SEC Defensive Player of the Year will finish as his team’s tackling leader for the second year in a row with 113 stops (8.7 tackles/game). Georgia has compiled a 12-1 record this season, highlighted by its 13th league title and first since 2005 this past weekend.

Smith has added 10.5 tackles for loss, a team-leading 5.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble to lead the Dawgs. Georgia ranks second nationally in Passing Yards Allowed (158.3 yards/game), third in Scoring Defense (13.8 points/game) and fourth in Total Defense (270.9 yards/game).

Georgia has held its last three opponents to a combined seven points in the second half, including the Dawgs’ 28-7 rout of second-ranked Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. In addition, Georgia blanked Tennessee 41-0 during the regular season, snapping the nation’s fourth-longest active scoring streak and the sixth-longest streak in college football history.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Four Dawgs On Coaches Freshman All-SEC Team

UGA Sports Communications

Four members of the Dawgs’ offense have been included on the Southeastern Conference Freshman All-SEC Team, according to a league announcement.

This is the most Georgia players on the league’s Freshman All-SEC Team since 2008. That season, Georgia had five on the squad, including NFL All-Pro receiver A.J. Green who was the Freshman of the Year.

Quarterback Jake Fromm, offensive linemen Andrew Thomas and Solomon Kindley and tailback D’Andre Swift from Georgia were all named to the team. This tied with LSU with the second-most players selected as Missouri led the way with five.

Fromm was also the SEC Coaches Freshman of the Year and the Associated Press Co-Newcomer of the Year.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Smart Named Finalist For Eddie Robinson Coach Of The Year Award

UGA Sports Communications

Coach Kirby Smart has been named one of eight finalists for the 2017 Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award, according to an announcement from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) in conjunction with the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

Smart joins UAB’s Bill Clark, UCF’s Scott Frost, Florida Atlantic’s Lane Kiffin, Army’s Jeff Monken, Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, Clemson’s Dabo Swinney and Fresno State’s Jeff Tedford as finalists for the honor. Georgia’s second-year head coach has already been named the Associated Press Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year.

The winner will be announced on Thursday, December 14th. The official presentation reception will be on January 6th, 2018, in Atlanta where the winning coach will be handed the FWAA/Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year bust during a reception in conjunction with the College Football Playoff (CFP) National Championship.

Smart, who is already a semifinalist for the George Munger Collegiate Coach of the Year Award, led the Dawgs to a 12-1 record and their first SEC title since 2005 after routing second-ranked Auburn 28-7 in the SEC Championship Game.

Smith, Fromm, Smart Headline AP All-SEC Awards

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia junior linebacker Roquan Smith was named the Associated Press Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year while quarterback Jake Fromm shared the league’s Newcomer of the Year award.

In addition, second-year head coach Kirby Smart was named the SEC Coach of the Year by the AP voters. He is the first to garner this AP accolade for Georgia since Mark Richt in 2002.

Smith, a native of Montezuma, who won Georgia’s first Butkus Award earlier this week, was also one of two UGA players named to the All-SEC First Team and the first AP SEC Defensive Player of the Year for the Dawgs since Jarvis Jones in 2012. Fromm, a true freshman from Warner Robins, shared his Newcomer honor with Auburn sophomore Jarrett Stidham, giving Georgia its first of this kind since Nick Chubb won it in 2014.

Offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, a native of St. Petersburg, Florida, was Georgia’s other First Team selection.

The Dawgs also had four All-SEC Second Team members. Chubb (Cedartown), sophomore all-purpose performer Mecole Hardman (Bowman), senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter (Norcross) and redshirt sophomore defensive back J.R. Reed (Frisco, Texas) were included on the Second Team.

2017 All-SEC Football Team Announced

UGA Sports Communications

Ten Southeastern Conference institutions placed a member on the 2017 All-Southeastern Conference Coaches’ Football First Team, as the first and second teams were announced Tuesday. Alabama led the way with 10 representatives, while Auburn and LSU had seven selections and Georgia had five.

Twelve schools were represented on the first and second teams, while ten institutions had at least two All-SEC selections.

The 2017 list includes 12 student-athletes who have made multiple appearances on the All-SEC Team. Auburn’s Daniel Carlson, Florida’s Johnny Townsend, Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk and Alabama’s Calvin Ridley and JK Scott have been voted All-SEC for the third time. Kirk, Carlson, Scott, Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick and LSU’s Will Clapp were named to the first team for the second consecutive season.

Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own players.

Highlighted by three First Team selections, Georgia football had five players named to the Coaches All-Southeastern Conference teams.

Senior offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn, of St. Petersburg, Florida, and senior tailback Nick Chubb, of Cedartown, were named to the First Team Offense while junior inside linebacker Roquan Smith was included on the First Team Defense.

Senior outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter, of Norcross, and junior defensive back Deandre Baker, of Miami, Florida, were named to the Second Team on defense.

Smith and Wynn were also Associated Press All-SEC First Team selections while Chubb, sophomore returner/receiver Mecole Hardman, Carter and redshirt sophomore defensive back J.R. Reed were named to group’s Second Team. Smith was also the AP SEC Defensive Player of the Year.

The SEC Coaches individual awards will be announced on Wednesday and the Freshman All-SEC Team will be announced on Thursday.
2017 All-SEC Football Team

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

TE

Hayden Hurst, South Carolina

OL

Isaiah Wynn, Georgia


Braden Smith, Auburn

Martinas Rankin, Mississippi State

Jonah Williams, Alabama

C

Will Clapp, LSU

WR

A.J. Brown, Ole Miss

Calvin Ridley, Alabama

QB

Drew Lock, Missouri

RB

Kerryon Johnson, Auburn

Nick Chubb, Georgia

AP

Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

DEFENSE

DL

Jeff Holland, Auburn

Montez Sweat, Mississippi State

Raekwon Davis, Alabama

Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State

LB

Roquan Smith, Georgia

Devin White, LSU

Skai Moore, South Carolina

DB

Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama

Duke Dawson, Florida

Armani Watts, Texas A&M

Carlton Davis, Auburn

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK

Daniel Carlson, Auburn

P

JK Scott, Alabama

RS

Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

TE

Albert Okwuegbunam, Missouri

OL

Trey Smith, Tennessee

Garrett Brumfield, LSU

Martez Ivey, Florida

Greg Little, Ole Miss

C

Bradley Bozeman, Alabama

WR

J’Mon Moore, Missouri

Christian Kirk, Texas A&M

QB

Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

RB

Benny Snell, Kentucky

Derrius Guice, LSU

AP

A.J. Brown, Ole Miss

DEFENSE

DL

Da’Ron Payne, Alabama

Marcell Frazier, Missouri

Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama

Marquis Haynes, Ole Miss

LB

Rashaan Evans, Alabama

Lorenzo Carter, Georgia

Tre’ Williams, Auburn

DB

Ronnie Harrison, Alabama

Donte Jackson, LSU

Greedy Williams, LSU

Deandre Baker, Georgia

SPECIAL TEAMS

PK

Eddy Pineiro, Florida

P

Johnny Townsend, Florida

RS

DJ Chark, LSU

Smart Named AFCA Regional Coach Of The Year

UGA Sports Communications

Georgia’s Kirby Smart and Saint Francis’ (Ind.) Kevin Donley highlight today’s announcement of the American Football Coaches Association’s 2017 Regional Coach of the Year winners. These winners will be honored at the American Football Coaches Awards, presented by Amway, broadcast live on the USA TODAY Sports Facebook page on Tuesday, January 9, 2018, at 8 p.m. EST. The awards show will air from the Crown Ballroom at the Charlotte Convention Center during the 2018 AFCA Convention.

The AFCA recognizes five regional Coach of the Year winners in each of the Association’s five divisions: Football Bowl Subdivision, Football Championship Subdivision, Division II, Division III and NAIA. The winners are selected by Active members of the Association who vote for coaches in their respective regions and divisions.

Smart earned his first AFCA Regional Coach of the Year honor by guiding Georgia to a 12-1 record, the Southeastern Conference title and an appearance in the College Football Playoff. In his two seasons as a head coach, Smart has an overall record of 20-6 and has led the Dawgs to bowl games each season. Donley earned his fourth AFCA Regional honor and third straight after guiding Saint Francis to a 13-0 record, the Mid-States Football Association Mideast title and a second straight trip to the NAIA National Championship game. He has an overall record of 315-129-1 in 39 years as a head coach, and a record of 201-44 in 20 seasons leading the Cougars. Donley is the winningest head coach in NAIA history.

Brian Bohannon of Kennesaw State University for tied AFCA Regional Coach of the Year in the Football Championship Subdivision Region 2. Bohannon was a receiver for Georgia from 1990-93.

2017 AFCA Regional Coach of the Year Winners

Football Bowl Subdivision

Region 1: Scott Frost, University of Central Florida
Region 2: Kirby Smart, University of Georgia
Region 3: Paul Chryst, University of Wisconsin
Region 4: Matt Campbell, Iowa State University
Region 5: Jeff Tedford, California State University, Fresno

Football Championship Subdivision

Region 1: Al Bagnoli, Columbia University
Region 2: Brian Bohannon, Kennesaw State University & Mike London, Howard University (tie)
Region 3: John Grass, Jacksonville State University*
Region 4: Dave Cecchini, Valparaiso University
Region 5: Demario Warren, Southern Utah University

Division II 

Region 1: Mark Maciejewski, Shippensburg University
Region 2: Pete Shinnick, University of West Florida
Region 3: Lee Owens, Ashland University
Region 4: Bill Maskill, Midwestern State University
Region 5: Tom Sawyer, Winona State University

Division III

Region 1: Jason Mangone, The College at Brockport
Region 2: Mike Sirianni, Washington & Jefferson College
Region 3: Tony Kunczewski, Berry College
Region 4: Troy Abbs, Trine University
Region 5: Rick Willis, Wartburg College

NAIA

Region 1: Chris Oliver, Lindsey Wilson College*
Region 2: Kevin Donley, University of Saint Francis (Ind.)*
Region 3: Larry Wilcox, Benedictine College (Kan.)
Region 4: Steve Ryan, Morningside College* & Matt McCarty, Northwestern College (Iowa) (tie)
Region 5: Charlie Hall, Southern Oregon University

*2016 winner

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Georgia Football Team Honored at Annual Gala


UGA Sports Communications

A day after the Dawgs celebrated the 13th SEC title in program history, seniors Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Isaiah Wynn along with junior Roquan Smith took home the top awards at the University of Georgia football team’s annual gala on Sunday night at the Classic Center.

The four upperclassmen were named team captains, with Smith, a native of Montezuma, representing the defensive unit and Chubb, a native of Cedartown, Michel, a native of Plantation, Florida., and Wynn, a native of St. Petersburg, Florida., representing the offense. The gala came on the heels of the Dawgs’ whipping second-ranked Auburn 28-7 in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday and the team being put in the College Football Playoff’s semifinal round in the Rose Bowl versus second-ranked Oklahoma on Sunday.

Chubb and Michel garnered the Vince Dooley Offensive Most Valuable Player honors while Smith was named the Vince Dooley Defensive Most Valuable Player. Chubb also received the Leon Farmer Strength and Conditioning Award. From special teams, sophomore receiver Mecole Hardman, native of Bowman, was named the Vince Dooley Most Valuable Player.

The Charley Trippi Award for most versatile player also went to Michel and senior linebacker Lorenzo Carter of Norcross. The Frank Sinkwich Award, given to the players who demonstrated the most toughness, went to Wynn and senior defensive back Malkom Parrish of Quitman.

The David Jacobs Award, given to a player who portrays courage, spirit, character and determination, went to senior linebacker Reggie Carter of Snellville, and senior tight end Jeb Blazevich of Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Up Front Awards for play along the line of scrimmage also went to Wynn, junior center Lamont Gaillard of Fayetteville, North Carolina, graduate nose guard John Atkins of Thomson, junior defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter of Tucker, and senior linebacker Davin Bellamy.

Newcomer of the Year Awards went to freshman quarterback Jake Fromm of Warner Robins, freshman tailback D’Andre Swift of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, freshman tackle Andrew Thomas of Lithonia, redshirt sophomore defensive back J.R. Reed of Frisco, Texas, graduate punter Cameron Nizialek of Chantilly, Virginia, redshirt freshman tailback Prather Hudson of Columbus, and senior fullback Christian Payne of Athens.

Most Improved Player Award winners included sophomore tight end Charlie Woerner of Tiger, junior guard Kendall Baker of Atlanta, sophomore defensive end David Marshall of Thomaston, senior safety Dominick Sanders of Tucker, junior linebacker D’Andre Walker of Fairburn, sophomore defensive lineman Tyler Clark of Americus, redshirt sophomore place kicker Rodrigo Blankenship of Marietta, sophomore receiver Tyler Simmons of Powder Springs, and junior receiver Jayson Stanley of Fairburn.

Scout Team Player Award winners were senior offensive lineman Thomas Swilley, redshirt sophomore fullback Turner Fortin, freshman quarterback Stetson Bennett from Blackshear, redshirt freshman receiver Willie Erdman, freshman defensive back Jake Skole from Roswell, senior linebacker Daniel Harper from Atlanta, redshirt sophomore defensive back KJ Smith from Perry, redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Michael Barnett of Dorchester, South Carolina, sophomore linebacker Jaleel Laguins of Watkinsville, senior tight end Jordan Davis of Thomson, senior fullback Jacob Gross and redshirt freshman defensive back Jordon McKinney of Dalton.

The Community Service Award went to graduate defensive back Aaron Davis of Locust Grove, and the Senior Scholar Award went to senior snapper John Courson of Athens, who has a 4.0 in Biology and Psychology with a Neuroscience Emphasis.

Team Captains

Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Isaiah Wynn, Roquan Smith

Vince Dooley Offensive MVP

Nick Chubb, Sony Michel

Vince Dooley Defensive MVP


Roquan Smith


Vince Dooley Special Teams MVP

Mecole Hardman

Charley Trippi Award

Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter

Frank Sinkwich Award

Isaiah Wynn, Malkom Parrish

David Jacobs Award

Reggie Carter, Jeb Blazevich

Leon Farmer Strength and Conditioning Award

Nick Chubb

Up Front Award – Offense

Isaiah Wynn, Lamont Gaillard

Up Front Award – Defense

John Atkins, Jonathan Ledbetter, Davin Bellamy

Offensive Newcomer of the Year Award

Jake Fromm, D’Andre Swift, Andrew Thomas

Defensive Newcomer of the Year Award


J.R. Reed

Special Teams Newcomer of the Year Award


Cameron Nizialek, Prather Hudson, Christian Payne

Offensive Most Improved Player Award

Charlie Woerner, Kendall Baker

Defensive Most Improved Player Award

David Marshall, Dominick Sanders, D’Andre Walker, Tyler Clark

Special Teams Most Improved Player Award

Rodrigo Blankenship, Tyler Simmons, Jayson Stanley

Offensive Scout Team Player of the Year


Thomas Swilley, Turner Fortin, Stetson Bennett, Willie Erdman

Defensive Scout Team Player Award

Jake Skole, Daniel Harper, Kirkland Smith, Michael Barnett

Special Teams Scout Team Player Award

Jaleel Laguins, Jordan Davis, Jacob Gross, Jordon McKinney

Community Service Award

Aaron Davis

Senior Scholar Award

John Courson (4.0, Biology and Psychology with a Neuroscience emphasis)

Roquan Smith Wins 2017 Butkus Award

UGA Sports Communications
Georgia junior Roquan Smith has become the first Dawg to win the Butkus Award, given to the nation’s best collegiate linebacker.

Smith, a native of Montezuma, garnered 60 percent of the first-place votes and 40 percent of the overall weighted vote, which is a greater margin than any linebacker in the past decade. He was chosen from the other finalists of Michigan’s Devin Bush, Virginia Tech’s Tremaine Edmunds, Wisconsin’s T.J. Edwards and Clemson’s Dorian O’Daniel, according to an announcement from the Butkus Foundation.

Smith is the first Georgia player to win the Butkus Award in its 33-year history since 1985. There have been three other Dawg finalists four different years in recent history, including Leonard Floyd (2015), Jarvis Jones (2011, 2012) and Justin Houston (2010).

"Roquan Smith proved to be the overwhelming favorite in this year's collegiate linebacking class,” according to the award selection committee. “He's always around the ball and is very tough, fast and instinctive, with exceptional football reflexes. He makes his presence felt all over the field and hits with the type of explosion that has come to define the Butkus Award. As terrific of a football player as he is, Roquan is highly regarded by teammates, coaches and support staff for his intelligence, intensity and leadership traits.”

Also a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award, Smith has earned midseason All-American honors by leading the team for a second year in a row with 113 tackles (8.7 tackles/game) during Georgia’s 12-1 campaign, highlighted by its 13th Southeastern Conference title and first since 2005 this past weekend.

Smith has added 10.5 tackles for loss, a team-leading 5.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and a forced fumble to lead the Dawgs. With the help from Butkus Award semifinalist Lorenzo Carter, Georgia ranks second nationally in Passing Yards Allowed (158.3 yards/game), third in Scoring Defense (13.8 points/game) and fourth in Total Defense (270.9 yards/game).

Georgia has held its last three opponents to a combined seven points in the second half, including the Dawgs’ 28-7 rout of second-ranked Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. In addition, Georgia blanked Tennessee 41-0 during the regular season, snapping the nation’s fourth-longest active scoring streak and the sixth-longest streak in college football history.

The third-ranked Dawgs (12-1) travel to Pasadena, Calif., to face second-ranked Oklahoma (12-1) in the College Football Playoff’s semifinal round in the Rose Bowl on Monday, January 1. Kickoff is at 5:10 p.m. ET.

The Butkus Award selection committee is comprised of 51 football coaches, recruiters, talent scouts and journalists who study football talent yearlong. Selectors are asked to recognize qualities that defined Butkus’ career; toughness, on-field leadership, competitiveness, football character, and linebacking skills. Selectors follow a 3-2-1 voting procedure for five named finalists or any linebacker they choose to write in.

The 2017 high school winner is Solomon Tuliaupupu of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif. The 2017 pro winner will be announced after the NFL season, succeeding 2016 winner Khalil Mack of the Oakland Raiders.

The Butkus Award is presented by the Butkus Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit organization which advances health and wellness through special initiatives including the I Play Clean® program. The Butkus Award is part of the National College Football Awards Association (NFCAA), which includes 23 awards honoring 800 individuals since 1935.