Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Statement Today From SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey

I look forward to learning more about the factors that led the Big Ten and Pac-12 leadership to take these actions today. I remain comfortable with the thorough and deliberate approach that the SEC and our 14 members are taking to support a healthy environment for our student-athletes. We will continue to further refine our policies and protocols for a safe return to sports as we monitor developments around COVID-19 in a continued effort to support, educate and care for our student-athletes every day.

Friday, August 7, 2020

SEC Schedule Information Released

Dawgs will travel to Arkansas to face Sam Pittman and the Hogs, Mississippi State will come to Athens to round out the 10 game SEC schedule just released by the conference.

The other two teams in the west will be Alabama and Auburn.

The east games will be as normal with Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Kentucky and Missouri.

Game dates will be announced later.

SOUTHEASTERN CONFERENCE ANNOUNCES INITIAL MEDICAL PROTOCOLS

The Southeastern Conference has announced its initial COVID-19 management requirements for the fall athletics season as recommended by the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force.

The Task Force has been meeting frequently since April to review and discuss information associated with the COVID-19 pandemic with a focus on developing policies and protocols to guide membership decisions related to the healthy return of athletics activities, including team gatherings, practices, conditioning and competition, for SEC student-athletes and others associated with SEC athletics programs.

“Our Medical Task Force is producing an effective strategy for testing and monitoring, which complements the vigilant day-to-day efforts of our campuses to establish and maintain healthy environments in which our student-athletes can train and compete,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “Our health experts have guided us though each stage of preparation for the safe return of activity and, together with the medical staffs embedded within our athletics programs, we will continue to monitor developments around the virus and evolve our plan to meet the health needs of our student-athletes.”

The Task Force’s initial requirements for fall SEC sports include testing requirements, procedures for infections and contact tracing, and protocols for quarantine and isolation. Similar requirements will be developed for other SEC sports before their competition seasons begin.

Due to the constantly changing realities around the pandemic, the requirements and testing strategies developed by the Task Force will continue to be reviewed and updated as new information becomes available. The requirements are being developed as minimum standards for SEC programs to enact and serve to build on recommendations of the Autonomy 5 Medical Advisory Group and the NCAA’s Resocialization of College Sports Guidelines. The SEC anticipates an additional pre-season report from the SEC’s Task Force by August 31.

TESTING

The SEC will coordinate centralized testing through a third-party provider to ensure consistency in surveillance and pre-competition testing. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is the current standard testing method for the COVID-19 virus. Alternative testing methods may be considered if sufficient data develops to support those methods.

In the sport of football, student-athletes and others in direct contact with the program will receive a PCR surveillance test at least twice weekly during competition, typically six days and three days prior to competition. The Task Force recommends exploring alternative testing methods that will accommodate a third test, in addition to the two required PCR tests, that will provide for the reliability and rapid response necessary for diagnostic testing in a timeframe closer to competition.

In the sports of volleyball and soccer, student-athletes and others in direct contact with the program will receive a PCR surveillance test at least twice weekly during competition, with one to occur three days prior to the first competition of the week. The Task Force recommends exploring alternative testing methods that will accommodate a third test, in addition to the two required PCR tests, that will provide for the reliability and rapid response necessary for diagnostic testing in a timeframe closer to the first competition of the week.

In the sport of cross country, student-athletes and others in direct contact with the program will receive a PCR surveillance test at least once per week during competition, with that test to occur three days prior to each competition.

MASKING

In football, volleyball and soccer, all coaches, staff and non-competing personnel will be required to wear face coverings on the sideline and physical distancing will be employed to the extent possible.

In cross country, competing student-athletes are required to wear a face covering at the starting line, which may be removed when proper distancing has been achieved. Coaches and staff associated with cross country competition are expected to utilize social distancing to the extent possible and will be required to wear a face covering during pre- and post-competition.

OTHER NOTES

Each institution is required to designate a COVID-19 Protocol Oversight Officer who will be responsible for education and ensuring compliance with the SEC’s COVID-19 management requirements.

The SEC announced in July that student-athletes in all sports who elect to not participate in intercollegiate athletics during the fall 2020 academic semester because of health and/or safety concerns related to COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarships honored by their university and will remain in good standing with their team.

The full SEC Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force Requirements for COVID-19 Management of Fall Sports can be found at https://link.zixcentral.com/u/e144f42f/8C9-5rTY6hGHqwsFh3soMg?u=http%3A%2F%2Fa.espncdn.com%2Fsec%2Fmedia%2F2020%2FSEC%2520Task%2520Force%2520Recommendations%2520Fall.pdf

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFF ANNOUNCES SCHEDULE CHANGES FOR THE 2020-21 SEASON

The College Football Playoff (CFP) selection committee will release its final rankings of the 2020-21 season Sunday, December 20, executive director Bill Hancock announced. The top four teams will participate in the Playoff Semifinals Friday, January 1, in the Rose Bowl Game and Sugar Bowl. The national championship game will be played Monday, January 11, at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida.

The final rankings were originally scheduled to be released Sunday, December 6. The CFP Management Committee made the change as a result of several conferences having moved their championship games to December 12, 18 or 19.

The committee’s final meeting of the season will be December 18-19-20 in Grapevine, Texas. The CFP will announce the full schedule of this fall’s selection committee meetings at a later date.

“With recent schedule changes for the regular season, it makes sense for the committee to make its final rankings after the conference championship games, when it can get a complete picture of the season,” Hancock said. “The selection committee members understand the need to be flexible as we all navigate uncharted waters this season, and this move will allow them to evaluate all the available information.”

The Management Committee also shortened the post-season travel time for teams. The two teams participating in the CFP National Championship will arrive in Miami on Saturday afternoon, January 9, 2021 instead of the usual Friday evening arrival. With this change, media day, typically held on Saturday morning in the host city, will not take place this year. Details on virtual media availabilities will be announced at a later date. The Rose Bowl Game, Sugar Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl, Orange Bowl and Peach Bowl will follow a similar three-day schedule.

“In this unprecedented time, the Management Committee believes it is in the best interest for the health and safety of the student-athletes, coaches and staffs to complete their game-week preparation on campus, under the familiar protocols they will have used all season,” said Hancock. “This is an unfortunate consequence of the pandemic, but it is the right thing to do.”

For additional information on the selection committee and its weekly rankings, and to view the selection committee protocol in its entirety, please visit CollegeFootballPlayoff.com.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

SEC Announces New Fall Pre-Season Football Practice Schedule

The Southeastern Conference today announced adjusted dates for preseason football activities for SEC schools with the first allowable practice now scheduled for August 17th. The new SEC calendar provides student-athletes with more days off than required by the NCAA and fewer practices than permitted by current NCAA rules.

The new preseason calendar was developed based on recommendations of the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force.

Last week the SEC announced its intention to begin the 2020 season on September 26th as it continues to monitor developments around COVID-19. The original start date of September 5 would have allowed for preseason football practice to begin August 7th.

In the revised SEC preseason football calendar, from August 7-16 schools are permitted to conduct up to 14 hours per week of strength and conditioning, meetings and walkthroughs.

Beginning August 17th and until the opening game, schools are allowed 25 practices with a limit of 20 hours per week of practice time. A five-day acclimatization period is required, with two days in helmets only, two days in shells and the fifth day in full pads.

Schools will be required to provide student-athletes a minimum of two days off each week until the week before the first game of the season.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

SEC Votes For Conference Only Schedule

The Southeastern Conference has established September 26 as the new kickoff for its 2020 football season to allow its universities to focus on the healthy return of their campus communities and the gradual re-introduction of athletics, as the 14 members of the SEC continue to monitor developments related to COVID-19, SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey announced Thursday.

The 2020 SEC football season will be comprised of a 10-game Conference-only schedule and the SEC Football Championship Game will be played December 19 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, rescheduled from the original date of December 5. The schedule will include one mid-season open date for each school and an open date on December 12 for all schools.

“This new plan for a football schedule is consistent with the educational goals of our universities to allow for the safe and orderly return to campus of their student populations and to provide a healthy learning environment during these unique circumstances presented by the COVID-19 virus,” Sankey said. “This new schedule supports the safety measures that are being taken by each of our institutions to ensure the health of our campus communities.”

This action was taken following extensive discussions and thorough deliberation among the SEC’s Presidents and Chancellors, Athletics Directors, Conference Office staff, and medical advisors, led by the SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force.

“After careful consideration of the public health indicators in our region and following advice of our medical advisors, we have determined that this is the best course of action to prepare for a safe and healthy return to competition for SEC student-athletes, coaches and others associated with our sports programs,” said Sankey.

The decision to limit competition to Conference-only opponents and rescheduling the SEC Championship Game is based on the need for maximum flexibility in making any necessary scheduling adjustments while reacting to developments around the pandemic and continued advice from medical professionals.

“We believe these schedule adjustments offer the best opportunity to complete a full season by giving us the ability to adapt to the fluid nature of the virus and the flexibility to adjust schedules as necessary if disruptions occur,” Sankey said. “It is regrettable that some of our traditional non-conference rivalries cannot take place in 2020 under this plan, but these are unique, and hopefully temporary, circumstances that call for unconventional measures.”

The rescheduled start to the season will allow the SEC to continue to monitor health trends across its 11-state footprint, as well as monitor developments in technology around mitigation and treatment of the virus, including:

  • Trends in public health indicators throughout the SEC’s 11-state footprint, including positive cases of COVID-19, hospitalizations and recovery statistics
  • State, local and campus heath directives, including restrictions on gatherings, isolation requirements for travelers, and other health and travel restrictions
  • Continued development of risk mitigation strategies
  • Continued advancement in COVID-19 testing reliability and availability
  • Continued evolution of time-based strategies for resuming activities after positive test results, including contact tracing, isolation and quarantine requirements
  • Observation of successes and challenges presented by return to competition in other sports
A revised schedule for the 2020 SEC football season will be announced at a later date following approval by the Conference’s athletics directors.

Further decisions regarding safety standards related to athletics events, tailgating and other game day activities, including social distancing, face covering and other health measures consistent with CDC, state and local guidelines, will be announced at a later date.

Other notes related to the resumption of competition:
  • The SEC announced in July that the sports of men’s and women’s cross country, soccer and volleyball would be postponed through at least August 31. Start dates and schedules for those sports, as well as sports in their non-traditional seasons during the fall, will be announced at a later date.
  • The SEC announced in July that student-athletes in all sports who elect to not participate in intercollegiate athletics during the fall 2020 academic semester because of health and/or safety concerns related to COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarships honored by their university and will remain in good standing with their team.
  • The SEC’s Return to Activity and Medical Guidance Task Force continues to meet on policies and procedures for the safe return of student-athletes to competition, including the development of comprehensive testing and reporting policies, building on the NCAA’s Resocialization of College Sports Guidelines.
  • Each athletics program has been engaged in evaluating best practices for game operations to prepare a safe environment for student-athletes, coaches, staff, officials and other individuals necessary to conduct games.

Friday, July 17, 2020

SEC Releases Statement On Scholarship Status For Fall

Southeastern Conference student-athletes who elect to not participate in intercollegiate athletics during the fall 2020 academic semester because of health and/or safety concerns related to COVID-19 will continue to have their scholarships honored by their university and will remain in good standing with their team, the Conference announced Friday.

The action is the result of a unanimous vote of the SEC’s Presidents and Chancellors following a recommendation of the Conference’s Athletics Directors.

“SEC universities are committed to full support of its student-athletes, whether or not a student-athlete decides to participate in sports during these uncertain times,” said SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey. “SEC student-athletes have frequently expressed their desire to compete, but it is important for student-athletes and their families to know the financial support committed to them by their institutions will not be at risk because of health concerns presented by the current pandemic.”

The SEC will continue to monitor developments related to COVID-19 to determine at a later date if the policy should be extended to the Spring semester of 2021 or beyond.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Decision Upcoming On Georgia Football Season

The Big 10 Conference announced today that a conference only schedule will be played this year, if there is a season. A start date will be announced later.

According to several ACC media outlets, the conference is likely to follow suit and limit the games to conference members plus Notre Dame.

The Georgia Bulldogs are scheduled to play the Virginia Cavaliers in the Chic-fil-A Kickoff Classic on Monday night September 7th at Mercedes-Benz Stadium but the game may well become another casuality of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity stated earlier this week that a decision on playing this fall will need to be made by August 1st but noted that, "Things are trending in the wrong direction."

The state of Georgia has had 25,436 new positive cases since 7/1/20, that's a 31.29% increase with a positive test rate of 13.71% and there is no reason at this point to think that the numbers will suddenly drop. Testing has only increased 22.25%. At this rate the state will double the number of cases in one month that was recorded from March to July.

The number of deaths will lag two to three weeks behind the surge in new cases.

The state is not going to shut down again so there will be no flat curve, it will take months for this to peak and begin a gradual decline, we still have not reached the 1% infection point. 

A later start with a six game SEC East schedule may be a possibility with the championship game remaining as scheduled in December. Another possibility being discussed is playing next spring but that creates another set of problems with seniors participating just before or during the NFL draft.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Will There Be A Football Season?

There are many hurdles to get over in order to have a season, it's not just the players.

Officials - Many are over 50 and may not accept the risk if strict standards are not put in place to minimize their exposure.

Transportation - Getting the teams moved is a huge undertaking, buses can be quarantined with the team to limit exposure, drivers will have to be tested weekly along with the team, it's going to take more equipment than in years past to move a team.

Hotels - Teams may have to lease an entire hotel to make sure it is cleaned properly, all staff is tested and that no other members of the public are allowed to enter the property.

Meals - Will likely be catered to the hotels but again the question of exposure will dictate that all staff be tested weekly that prepare, transport and serve the food.

Security - Additional security will be needed to assure that the locations used will be secure, security staff will need to be tested weekly along with potential replacements.

Media - Doubtful that there will be any live media contact this year, players and coaches will be interviewed by virtual.

If athletes are required by NCAA to attend classes and not use virtual then all bets are off and there will be no need to test anyone which will result in many becoming infected during the season.

Will there be family contact allowed during the season?

Will the band be allowed on the field before or during halftime or will they even be at the game?

All of this has to be resolved before discussions about fans in the stands even takes place.

Friday, June 12, 2020

UGA Athletics Releases Outline For Attendance

The University of Georgia has released an outline for game attendance options for this season. They include three scenarios that will be used to determine how many fans will be allowed to attend the home games in Sanford Stadium.

• Option I: In this scenario, patrons will not be allowed to be in attendance at any of our athletic events. Events would take place with only essential staffing (game officials, management, etc.).

• Option II: In this scenario, there will be limited attendance with mandatory social distancing. Our policies would align with state guidelines for live performance venues. We have designated seating throughout all our athletic facilities to mandate where patrons can sit while still maintaining their 6’ distance. We will install decals on flooring to ensure 6’ spacing in all lines (ingress, concessions, restrooms, etc.). We will also attempt to eliminate potential congregation elements such as misting tents and water refill stations. We will move to cashless operations in all areas while additionally removing touchpoints where possible (parking, ticketing, concessions, etc.). Our concession workers will be mandated to wear gloves and masks.

• Option III: In this scenario, social distancing practices are relaxed and there are no restrictions on attendance. This eliminates the need for reduced seating configurations and maintaining social distancing in all lines. Our focus will shift to other best practices for mitigation. We will eliminate potential congregation elements. We will still move to cashless operations and reducing touchpoints where possible.

The Athletic Department will continually meet to review and discuss public health guidance and risk mitigation measures necessary for hosting large scale athletics competition events, targeting a date of July 17 for a decision about resumption of competition.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Pair Of Dawgs Selected In The NFL Draft’s First Round

Junior offensive tackle Andrew Thomas was selected by the New York Giants with the fourth overall pick while redshirt sophomore offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson was taken by the Tennessee Titans with the 29th overall pick in the opening round of the 2020 NFL Draft on Thursday night.

This marks the 36th draft that the Dawgs have had at least one player taken in the first round. It is the ninth time, including the second year out of the last three, that more than one Georgia player has been selected in the opening round. Thomas is the top Dawg draft pick since the Cincinnati Bengals selected A.J. Green with the fourth pick in 2011.

Thomas, a native of Lithonia, and graduate of Pace Academy, heard the news about his selection from his family’s home while Wilson was drafted while he was in his home state of New York. Because of social distancing practices due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ESPN has set up its draft coverage for all three days at its headquarters in Bristol, Conn.

Thomas and Wilson give the Dawgs at least one first round draft pick in five of the last six years, including the last three consecutive years where a combined six Georgia players have been selected.

This marks the second year in a row that the Giants have selected a Dawg in the opening round (Deandre Baker, 30th) and the third consecutive year overall (2018, Lorenzo Carter, third round – 66th). New York has now selected 13 total Georgia players since 1944, including one other player other than Baker in the first round (Rodney Hampton, 24th overall, 1990).

Wilson becomes only the third Georgia player in history taken by the Tennessee Titans and the second in as many years (OLB D’Andre Walker, 2019). This marks the most Dawg linemen taken since Georgia had three in 2012 and is the third time since 1999 that two Dawg tackles have gone in the first two rounds (1999, 2003).

The Dawgs have now had at least one player drafted in each of the last 28 years.

Thomas was an NCAA FBS consensus All-American after being named the Southeastern Conference’s Jacobs Blocking Trophy for being the best blocker for the 2019 season. One of the Dawgs’ four permanent captains last season, the 2019 Outland Trophy semifinalist was named to the 2018 SI.com All-America First Team and included on a number of Freshman All-American squads in 2017.

For his career, Thomas started 41 games (his first 15 in 2017 at right tackle and the final 26 at left tackle in 2018/2019). He anchored an offensive line that helped the Dawgs rank fifth nationally in 2019 with only 15 sacks allowed in 14 games (1.07/game).

After redshirting the 2017 season, Wilson started all 14 games of the 2018 season at right tackle and was named a Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) Freshman All-American. He then started 10 games for the 12-2 Dawgs in 2019 and was voted to the AP All-SEC Second Team. Wilson graded out at 84.6 percent in pass blocks, committed a single penalty and only allowed one sack this past year.

Day two of the NFL Draft will begin at 7 p.m. and feature the second and third rounds. The last four rounds of the Draft will be on Saturday starting at 12 p.m.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Signing Day Press Conference

UGA Sports Communications

University of Georgia head coach Kirby Smart discussed National Signing Day with media Wednesday at the Butts-Mehre Buiding. Below are his comments.

Coach Kirby Smart

Opening comments …

“I’ll open with the excitement around this signing class, which started probably well before this day last year. I don’t think a lot of people really understand what goes into a signing class, because most of these kids that signed — two or three years ago was the first time we met them, and it is a long, tough process. It’s a great day for these guys. Kind of anti-climactic with the early signing period. I like to think the early signing period is 70-80 percent what you sign, and this late signing period is more of an adjustment to what maybe you lost or early outs or where you think you have holes. So, we feel like we have been able to fill a lot of those holes. We feel like we have a very balanced class across the board — probably a little bit more out of state than it has been in the past. Also, probably a little less linebacker heavy. Those are the two areas, as far as outside linebacker and inside linebacker, that we probably didn’t feel like we had to have as much immediate help. Those will be huge opportunities for kids in the next signing class that want to play outside linebacker, inside linebacker, because now we do have holes to fill.

One of the biggest areas was offensive line. With the guys we had leaving early and the transfers we’ve had, seniors, we knew and anticipated this being a large offensive line class. I’ve been very pleased with the transition from Coach Sam]Pittman to Coach Matt Luke in being able to recruit these kids and bring them to our place. They want to compete and play at a high level, so the offensive line unit — I am really proud of that.

I also want to take this time to thank everyone in our organization — I am talking about administration, I am talking about fans — that helped bring this signing class. The Notre Dame atmosphere was one of the keys to this signing class. The academic people at the University of Georgia who sacrificed their Saturdays and their Sundays and their countless hours. I don’t think people really understand that recruiting never sleeps. Everybody is fired up today and they are thinking that you can relax. 2021 — We have already had two or three junior days. We have already had a prospect to come in. We are doing phone calls with these kids. It has already begun, but this group really goes back to sacrifices that everybody made to give their time. It really takes a team effort when you have kids coming from Texas and California and all over the country. People have to sacrifice their time to give you an opportunity to sign players like this.

We’ve got mid-year guys in who are working with us now. I have been excited to see those guys work. They have done a tremendous job. To have guys that are at defensive back — I feel like we have a very complete defensive back class. I will always reiterate — you have to sign four or five defensive backs a year in order to stay where you need to stay from a depth standpoint. We were very unique last year. We were one of the only teams in the country to play over 37 players 100 snaps or more on the defensive side of the ball. So, a lot of players were playing and we need a lot of depth on that side of the ball.

Wide receiver was an area that we had to address. I am excited about the wide receivers we have been able to make as an addition to this signing class, and those guys are expected to help us. With Justin being here now and also went through a couple of bowl practices with us. It’s been a big addition to get those guys.

Getting a second back in this class was key for us. We are excited about this young man. We have known about him for a long time. He has come up through a lot of camps. He plays in what is probably one of the toughest divisions and regions in our state and he has played at a high level. You talk about the people he has had to play against — he has been a really good player. Talking about Daijun Edwards and then obviously Kendall Milton joined us mid-year has been a good addition, too. So, I am really excited about this class from an academic character standpoint, which to me matters as much as anything. But this class will be judged based on how they finish, not where they rank right now, which is not any concern of ours. With that, I will open it up for questions.”

On how Coach Matt Luke has transitioned into being at Georgia …

“We’re excited about the offensive line class. First of all, it ranges from large and wide to a little bit lighter and athletic. These guys will have to develop. I have always said, the offensive line position is probably the toughest to come in and play right away if you just rank all the positions on the board. Andrew Thomas was very unique to be able to do that, but that is very rare to be able to do that at that position. These guys are going to have to develop, lift, work—what’s going to be unique for us is a lot of these guys maybe are going to be living across the two-deep just because our numbers are really down at the offensive line. These guys are going to have an opportunity to come in, compete and start, but they also will be going against guys this spring that are going to get better and grow. Coach Luke was a big part of that energy. Getting him on staff fast was probably one of the critical roles to that transition. It wasn’t a long time and a process where they had to sit in the unknown. Two, three days after Coach Pittman left these kids had somebody new to meet and Coach Luke getting to meet them before the middle dead period—the Christmas dead period—was critical to be able to communicate with them throughout that period and keep that relationship. He’s got a lot of energy, and he’s been a blessing for us—an addition that helps me from a head coach standpoint. It did help a lot with the offensive line.”

On signing Jamie Newman as a grad-transfer and what he brings to Georgia...

“We had researched the entire year with the thought that Jake Fromm would have the opportunity to come out early. We had a pool of 30 to 40 guys that would be potential whether they were transfers, whether they were grad-transfers, whatever it may be, we knew we could be possibly be in the quarterback market. That included high school kids. Certainly, we are excited about Carson Beck and what he can do for our team. He came in and got to practice with us for the bowl game, for a couple of practices as well. Once Jamie went into the portal and we knew that he was going to be a graduate-transfer we started communication, immediately. It was a process of finding out if what he wanted aligned with what we wanted, and also wait and see what Jake was going to do. I know Jamie has been very mature about the process. He is—these grad-transfers, number one, the fact they have graduated college and he graduated from Wake Forest, these kids understand what they want. They are very driven in what they want. They’re not really into the whole recruiting process. He handled it that way and was very professional about it. We are looking forward to putting him to work and letting him go out and compete this spring.”

On consistently signing a top-class in the country and how it will help reach the team’s goals …

“Do I think this has something to do with it? Absolutely, it has something to do with it. What that ranking is? Or when that happens? Or how it plays about? I don’t think that necessarily correlates. I think that you having a complete staff, keeping your staff together and also being able to do it year after year is a level of consistency and a level of support that you are getting internally to make sure that we can do the things we can do. It’s hard to go out and recruit at a high level year in and year out because so many people recruit against you based on who you signed. You better have good product to sell which academically we do. Really, there's not going to be a separation between one through 10 in these recruiting rankings that really matters. What matters when they leave is, number one, how many of them are present? How many have graduated? How many lives did you change? They're not going to be judged just on wins and losses. They're going be judged on what kind of people [they are] when they leave your program, because that's what’s going to allow you to recruit the next kid. When Nick Chubb and Sony Michelle leave your program and do great things, that's what's going to sell to the next kid who wants an opportunity to come in and do those same things.”

On the importance of retaining the commitment of Broderick Jones, considering the loss of Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson…

"It was a lot more important a year ago to sign Xavier Truss. It was a lot more important a year ago to sign Warren McClendon because, when you have Andrew Thomas and Isaih Wilson, you understand there’s an opportunity for these guys to leave. I'm not a big believer that the next guy was going to walk in and play for Andrew Thomas. You have to plan these things a year out. We're looking at this plan and saying, 'Okay, these guys have to be ready to play, possibly next year, but really the next year.' It’s the same thing at defensive back. We’ve got a lot of defensive backs coming back this season. A lot of them are some good football players, but we're a year away from what could look like the O-Line because we have some potential guys coming. What you’re doing to develop the guys you’re signing now is more of my concern. It’d be foolish for me to sit here and think that two of these tackles we just signed are going to walk in here and play. You guys are going to print that, but I’m also a realist. That’s probably not going to happen, based on the history of the SEC. You do the study of how many freshman offensive tackles have played. That’s tough to find. It’s hard to do. They’re the athletic or the best guys, or we have injuries— those guys will provide us great depth, and I certainly think a lot of these guys we just signed are talented enough to come help us but they’re not meteor guys, and they’ll have to come in a compete for it.”

On the recruitment of Cameron Kinnie and the type of recruit offensive line coach Matt Luke is looking for on offense…

"There’s no criteria We sign based on who gives us the best opportunity to be successful. We look at what kind of person they are. How are they academically? How are they athletically? How many positions can they play? There’s no size criteria, big or small, that we’re necessarily trying to change. That’s not the case. You’ve got to be able to pass break, and you’ve got to be able to run block. There’s not a philosophical difference there. Cameron Kinnie was a kid we targeted and felt like was, number one, extremely high character. He is extremely high academically and a really good athlete. He played both ways and played at the highest level of football where he played. We’re fortunate to get him to sign with us, and we’re excited about it. I think he’s a guy who is going to be a program player in that he’s always going to be doing the right things, on and off the field, and that he plays at a high level on multiple positions. This guy played 4-technique, played 3-technique, played center. I’ve got a lot of respect for the program he comes from and what he can provide to our depth on the offensive line.”

On the changes to his offensive staff with Todd Monken and how his presence contributed to recruit success…

“We're excited about what Todd brings to us. As far as the recruiting process, he got involved in most of these late. Most of the work had been done on a lot of these guys. If you think about it, I think all of our wideouts signed early, so that was not a major factor in this recruiting class. and you think about it a lot out, like every one of them signed early. So that was not a major factor in this recruiting class. I am excited about this class, and I think that these guys are going to have an opportunity to grow and play at our place, and I'm excited to see what they do.”

On differences with the offense in 2020…

“I don’t know the answer to that. The roles on our staff still aren’t complete with an assistant coach spot open. I think that will play out as we go along. Certainly, I’m excited. I know the kids are excited for an opportunity and looking to see where that goes. I can’t honestly say right now. I think everybody wants to hear some grand speech opening this up and doing that. What you need is to be productive offensively, score points, and do explosive plays, which we talk about consistently.”

On previous interactions with Coach Monken…

“We really want this to be about our signing class, but Coach Monken and I crossed paths at LSU. He came in with Les Miles’ staff, and I was there for a month, or three or four weeks, before I came here. So, we were briefly on the same staff. We’ve crossed paths through our time at speaking engagements, recruiting on the road, the Southern Miss job, lot of interactions in different ways.”

On plans for special teams coaches next season…

“Like I just mentioned, 2020 staff roles have not been completely defined yet. We still have a staff spot available and really all options are still available on that.”

On the increase in out-of-state recruits…

“Two-fold there, probably. Number one, we had more interest from out-of-state kids. We had some national interest from players that came to camp and really performed well that in the past, we might have lost out on. We might have been second or third on a national kid that was a really good player. Say a Darnell Washington, say a Kendall Milton, say a Kelee Ringo. But we won a lot of those. The other part is we lost some great battles that were really, really good players. So, I think the two of those merged to make that unique position where we would’ve taken the in-state guy or the out-of-state guy. It just so happens we took the out-of-state guy. But we’re excited for those players. There are a lot of good out-of-state players that play here at the University of Georgia. There’s no limitation to your borders. But we respect and understand how good our state is.”

On the personnel and coaching changes in the offseason…

“For me, with both coordinators going last year was much greater than this offseason. We’re still in the offseason, so all things are not done yet, so it’s part of the process. I think you being able to reinvent yourself, being able to reinvent your program, and also develop the players in it is what’s going to set you apart, make you different. We’re not completely done yet. This class doesn’t completely wrap it up. There’s still moves to be made for us from a hiring standpoint, moving people around. It’s a work-in-progress—constant improvement, constant growth. That’s what we’re trying to do. I think winning the Sugar Bowl was a big bump for us. It helped kickstart us into the second part of the recruiting season.”

On the role of character in recruiting a player…

“More each and every year. It should never be the only thing, but it’s definitely the most important thing. The older I get, the wiser I get, and the more you realize that chasing guys that don’t believe in the same principles and values of your university and of your program, they’re just not worth it. There’s too much time spent on guys that if you’re having to chase them around, it’s just not worth it. Take the guys that want to be there and go play with guys that want to be there. Number one, you’ll enjoy your job day-to-day. Your staff will enjoy it more, as will the other players. It’s very important for us.”

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Dribble Dawgs Take Down Tigers

UGA Sports Communications

The Dawgs (10-3) broke the No. 9-ranked Memphis Tigers’ 10-game win streak Saturday afternoon in Memphis, Tenn., with a 65-62 victory over the Tigers.

For Georgia, the win marks the first road victory over a top-10 team since 2004 and the first win — home or away — over a top-10 team since 2011. It is also the first time that both the football team and the basketball team defeated a top ten opponent in the same week.

This was also the third-ever meeting between the two teams, with the last being in 1996. The Dawgs improve to 10-3 while the Tigers fall to 12-2.

In the fourth game in which the Dawgs pulled out a win by four points or fewer, four Dawgs scored in double-figures. Freshman standout Sahvir Wheeler had another great performance off the bench with 10 points and seven assists. Graduate student Donnell Gresham, Jr., added another 12 points and was also Georgia’s second-leading rebounder with eight.

Freshman Anthony Edwards scored 13 points for the Dawgs while tallying five rebounds and four assists. Junior Rayshaun Hammonds finished the game with his fourth double-double of the season and sixth of his career, totaling 15 points and 12 rebounds.

““They earned this win,” Georgia head coach Tom Crean said. “They really did, because it wasn’t easy. We did not get a lot of trips to the foul line. We were in a situation where we just had to figure out ways to come back and get it done in the game… Memphis is a really good team. They are very deserving of their ranking. This is a huge road victory for us, and it was a team effort.”

The Dawgs pushed the pace to open what would be an exciting first half. To start, Georgia scored its first four field goals in the paint, including two consecutive driving baskets by Hammonds. This helped push the Dawgs to a 10-5 lead nearly four minutes into the matchup. While Memphis was able to grab the lead less than halfway through the half, Gresham knocked down back-to-back 3-pointers to take the Georgia advantage (15-13).

By the 11:35 mark, however, neither team would hold a lead for long. It was a back-and-forth contest for the rest of the first half, as the teams traded leads 12 times and tied the game on six occasions.

Freshman Toumani Camara’s career-high two 3-pointers were pivotal in keeping the Dawgs on pace with the Tigers, and the teams headed to the locker rooms tied 37-all.

The last 20 minutes of the match-up featured an explosive defensive performance by Georgia. The Dawgs forced two shot-clock violations by the Tigers, the first of which Georgia maximized with a three-point basket by Gresham to tie the score yet again (54-54).

Overall, there would be 20 lead changes and 10 ties between the Dawgs and Tigers.

Wheeler proved to be an asset off the bench once more for the Dawgs. Georgia was able to retake the lead on numerous occasions thanks to the freshman, including with under two minutes to play when Wheeler drove up the middle for a jump-shot and 64-61 lead.

The Dawg defense did not allow the Tigers to score a field goal during the last 4:35 minutes of the game. A free throw by Gresham sealed Georgia’s 65-62 victory.

Georgia returns to the Stegeman Coliseum on Tuesday, January 7th, at 9 p.m. ET as the Dawgs take on the Kentucky Wildcats on ESPN.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Post Game Notes

UGA Sports Communications

Senior Class Ties Win Mark: With tonight’s 26-14 victory, the 2019 class ties the mark for most wins by a Dawg senior class with 44. They matched the 2005 group that went 44-9 with a pair of SEC titles. The 2019 class finishes with a 44-12 record, one SEC title, three consecutive SEC Eastern Division crowns and was the 2018 CFP Runner-Up. Also, Georgia notched its 12th win, making it only the fifth team to have at least 12 wins in a season in school history and the first since 2017 (13-2). The 2019 Dawgs finish the season 12-2 while Baylor dropped to 11-3.

Strong Effort By The Defense: Fifth-ranked Georgia held #7 Baylor to a season low 14 points in a 26-14 victory tonight. Georgia blanked the Bears in the first half, holding them to 97 yards of total offense (22-pass, 75-pass). Coming in tonight, the Bears were averaging 35.2 points a game and 431.2 yards a game. It was the fifth time this year that Georgia blanked an opponent in the first half and the first time since the road win over Auburn. The last first half shutout in a bowl game by the Dawgs was against Alabama in the 2018 CFP National Championship game when it led 13-0. The Bears finished with 295 yards of offense. 

Baylor opened the second half with an eight play, 75-yard scoring drive to cut it to 19-7. On their possession, the Bears went for it on 4th down and 4 from the UGA 46 and Charlie Brewer was sacked and fumbled as it was forced by RS-freshman Azzez Ojulari and recovered by Travon Walker. It led to a touchdown and a 26-7 Dawg lead. The Bears second TD came on another eight play, 75-yard drive with 4:10 left in the 3rd quarter to cut it to 26-14. Georgia’s leading tacklers tonight were DJ Daniel with a career-high eight while Ojulari and Lewis Cine had six. Ojulari finished with five stops, one sack and one forced fumble.

Georgia held 13 of its 14 opponents under 20 points this season.Before the 2019 SEC Championship Game, Georgia and Clemson were the only two teams in the FBS not to allow more than 20 points in a game. In the SEC Championship Game, top-ranked LSU registered a 37-10 win over the Dawgs as the Tigers came in ranked second nationally in Scoring Offense (48.7 ppg). In the CFP semifinal, Clemson beat #2 Ohio State 29-23.

A Look At The Offense: Junior QB Jake Fromm finished 20-for-30 for 250 yards and two TDs to lead the Dawgs to a 26-14 win over No. 7 Baylor, their 12th of the year. Georgia’s first scoring drive that resulted in a 24-yard field goal was setup by a flea-flicker as Fromm handed off to junior D’Andre Swift who tossed it back to Fromm, and it went for a 46-yard completion to George Pickens. The Dawgs tallied 380 yards of total offense (130-rush, 250 pass). The leading rusher was redshirt freshman Zamir ​White who had 92 yards on 18 carries, both career highs in his first start. 

Bowl Record Night For Pickens: Freshman George Pickens, who was named the Sugar Bowl Most Outstanding Player, registered a career-high 12 catches (tying a UGA bowl record) for 175 yards and 1 TD and that was most receptions by a Dawg since Michael Johnson had 13 versus Auburn in 2002 for 141 yards. In the first half, Pickens had 11 for 165 yards and one TD. Pickens’ 175 yards was the most by a Dawg in a game since 2012 when Tavarres King had 188 versus Kentucky. Pickens’ team-leading eighth TD catch, the most by a true freshman in the country, covered 27 yards with 12:28 left in the half for a 10-0 edge. Pickens previous career bests came versus South Carolina when he had seven catches for 98 yards. Pickens shares Georgia’s bowl record for catches with Hines Ward (154 yards in the 1998 Outback Bowl win over Wisconsin) Also, redshirt sophomore Matt Landers got his first career TD, a 16-yarder to make it 19-0 with 1:51 left in the first half. He had three catches for 25 yards.

Another Sugar Bowl Appearance: Georgia made its 11th all-time appearance in the Sugar Bowl, and the Dawgs are now 5-6). Georgia made its 23rd consecutive appearance in a bowl game, the second longest active streak in the country. Overall, Georgia improved to 32-21-3 in bowls.

Series History With The Bears: With tonight’s win, Georgia improves to 5-0 all-time against Baylor, winning in 1972, 1978, 1985 and 1989 in Athens plus now in New Orleans in the 2020 Sugar Bowl.

Another Win Over Top 10 Foe: With tonight’s win, Kirby Smart improved to 7-4 against top 10 teams during his tenure including 3-1 this season. His overall mark is 44-12 in this is fourth year at the helm.

Blankenship Tallies 8 Points: Graduate PK Rodrigo Blankenship finished with 8 points (2-FGs, 2-PAT) to give him 127 for this year (ranks 3rd best in single season at UGA) and already a school record 440 for his career. He made a 24-yarder for a 3-0 edge with 49 seconds left in the 1st quarter and then a 31-yarder for a 13-0 lead with 8:08 left in the first half. He already owns the school record for career points and ranks second in SEC history. In the first half, he finished 2-for-2 in field goals. He is now 27-for-33 on the season in field goals. Also of note, he set the SEC record for consecutive PATs made on his first PAT tonight and added one more as he now has 200.

Sophomore punter/holder Jake Camarda converted a fake field goal on 4th-and-2, rushing four yards for a first down. On the next play, Zamir White scored from 13 yards out to make it 26-7 following the PAT. It was Georgia’s first successful fake field goal since the 2016 Liberty Bowl win over TCU when holder Brice Ramsey scampered 11 yards for a first down.

Points off Turnovers: Georgia forced three turnovers and it led to seven points. The first one was an interception by junior Richard LeCounte. He returned it to the UGA 26. It did not lead to any points. In the 3rd quarter, Azeez Ojulari had a strip sack and it was recovered by Travon Walker. It led to a TD. LeCounte notched his second pick late in the 4th quarter to tie a Georgia bowl record and allow the Dawgs to go into the victory formation. LeCounte has five picks for his career and four this year. The Bears came in tonight +14 in turnover margin this year while Georgia was even.

For Starters & Game Captains: Junior QB Jake Fromm leads the team now with 42 consecutive starts. Redshirt freshman right guard Warren Ericson and redshirt freshman tailback Zamir White made their first career starts. On defense junior DT Devonte Wyatt made his first career start. Fromm, D’Andre Swift along with junior Monty Rice and graduate Charlie Woerner served as the game captains.

Pups Show Out In Sugar Bowl

UGA Sports Communications

Powered by stout defense and a career game from freshman wide receiver George Pickens, the fifth-ranked Dawgs (12-2, 7-1 SEC) closed the 2019 season with a 26-14 victory over the seventh-ranked Baylor Bears (11-3, 8-1 Big 12) in the 86th Allstate Sugar Bowl Wednesday evening before 55,211 spectators at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and an ESPN primetime television audience.

Georgia’s victory improved its overall bowl record to 32-21-3, including its fifth victory in the Sugar Bowl. Additionally, the Dawgs’ senior class tied the mark for most wins by a class with 44, matching the record set by the 2005 class.

Junior quarterback Jake Fromm led the Georgia offense, finishing 20-for-30 with 250 yards and two touchdowns. Pickens, named the Sugar Bowl Most Outstanding Player, tallied 12 catches for 175 yards and a touchdown, with 165 of those coming in the first half. On the ground, redshirt freshman tailback Zamir White amassed 92 yards rushing on 18 carries. For the evening, the Dawgs offense posted 380 yards and finished 4-for-4 in the red zone.

With his performance, Pickens became the first Dawg receiver with at least 10 catches since Isaiah McKenzie against Missouri in 2016, while his 175 yards were the most since Tavarres King notched 188 against Kentucky in 2012.

On the defensive front, junior cornerback DJ Daniel led with eight tackles, followed by freshman safety Lewis Cine with six. Junior safety Richard LeCounte added to his team lead with two interceptions, finishing with four for the season. The Dawgs defense allowed 295 yards with six tackles for loss, in addition to stopping each of Baylor’s three fourth-down attempts.

Following a pair of Georgia punts to begin the game, the Dawgs defense posted the game’s first highlight as LeCounte grabbed a deflected Baylor pass at the Georgia 18-yard line with one hand for his first interception of the game. Later in the quarter, a 40-yard flea flicker from Fromm to Pickens led to the evening’s first points as senior place kicker Rodrigo Blankenship connected from 24 yards out.

On Georgia’s next possession, Fromm efficiently moved the offense on an 8-play, 85-yard scoring drive, capped off by a 27-yard strike to Pickens at the 12:28 mark of the second quarter. After a Bears punt, the BulldoDawgs once again reached the red zone, capitalizing with a 31-yard Blankenship field goal, the final of his illustrious career.

Nearing the end of the half, Fromm tacked on another score as he found redshirt sophomore wide receiver Matt Landers for his first career touchdown on a 16-yard pass, followed by a failed two-point conversion attempt to set the halftime score at 19-0. The first half shutout was the fifth by the Georgia defense this season.

In the third quarter, Baylor came out energized as three catches from wide receiver Denzel Mims helped put the Bears on the scoreboard with a 12-yard touchdown, following up a 40-yard completion by Mims earlier in the 8-play, 75-yard drive.

The Bears crossed into Georgia territory on their ensuing drive, but on fourth down, redshirt freshman linebacker Azeez Ojulari forced a fumble by quarterback Charlie Brewer that was recovered by freshman defensive lineman Travon Walker at the Baylor 47-yard line. Along with his forced fumble, Ojulari finished with five tackles and one sack.

Setting up with excellent field position, the Dawgs initially stalled at the Baylor 30-yard line, but a fake field goal allowed sophomore punter Jake Camarda to convert on fourth down with a 6-yard run. On the next play, White found the pylon for a 13-yard touchdown, increasing the margin to 26-7 Georgia at the 7:16 mark of the third quarter.

On the following drive, Baylor turned to junior running back Trestan Ebner, whose 42 yards and recovery of a goal line fumble helped the Bears cap off another 8-play, 75-yard drive with a 1-yard Brewer touchdown run. After a Georgia 3-and-out, Baylor once again crossed midfield to close the third quarter before electing to punt and strand the Dawgs at their 1-yard line. Despite reaching Baylor territory, a third-down sack forced Georgia to punt.

With the clock running down for Baylor, an injury to Brewer forced the Bears to enter freshman backup Jacob Zeno, but he was unable to convert on 4th-and-11 with five minutes remaining. On Baylor’s final possession, LeCounte notched his second pick, allowing Georgia to kneel out the clock.

Georgia will next take the field on Monday, September 7th for a matchup against Virginia in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.