Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Post Practice Interview

Coach Smart, redshirt sophomore Warren McClendon, senior Stetson Bennett and redshirt freshman Kelee Ringo offered the following comments after practice…

Coach Kirby Smart

On Dominick Blaylock...

"He's doing well. He's been pretty consistent. The off-season program was good for him in terms of getting confidence, changing direction, doing some things well. I think he would be the first to tell that he's still rusty, but he's so confident with the ball. He catches the ball really well. He's smart, very savvy. He's a great route runner in the slot. He's done a tremendous job there. He's back-catching punts, as well. He brings some veteran experience. Really right now anyone with experience is a veteran because we don't have many guys with a lot of experience there. He's done a tremendous job. Dom never complains. He works and handles the cards he's been dealt very well, and he's had some really tough resiliency. He has overcome it. I'm really proud of Dom

On Jamon Dumas-Johnson...

"I almost didn't know who you were talking about because he goes by 'Pop' for us. Pop has done a good job. He's getting opportunity - that's the biggest thing I would say. You could make a case that he is probably where all those guys, Quay, Channing, Nakobe, in their second year. Really, he's still in his first year if you are looking at the grand scheme of things. This is a young man who didn't play football his senior year due to COVID. He came in a little heavy. He'll be the first to tell you he was a little heavy when he got here. He had not played a season, so he was rusty and got time on special teams and times in games when we had leads. He's trying to take on a leadership role. There's a really big void - it's a common theme you'll hear. There's a void there because of all the guys that left and also the guys that are injured. I've got a lot of respect for Trezmen Marshall for pushing through a tough knee injury. He's been out there trying to get reps. The two freshmen, Jalon Walker and C.J. Washington are pushing through. And then Xavien Sorey is another guy who really almost has zero experience because he didn't get to play inside linebacker much in high school. All of those guys, collectively, have talent, but they don't have experience. The only way to get experience is time."

On Stetson Bennett returning...

"We had a couple of conversations just in passing. He reached out a couple of times and said he wanted to come back. He wanted to continue to get better. There wasn't a lot there. There weren't a lot of questions or anything. It was more he felt like he had grown as a quarterback. We showed a lot of confidence in Stetson if you didn't notice. He answered that with the way he played. He'll be the first to tell you he can still grow and get better. We have high expectations for Stetson, but we also have high standards for what we expect Stetson to do in terms of leading our offense, going to class, and doing the right thing. We are still challenging him to do those things."

On his expectations for Stetson Bennett...

"Making decisions. We were late over the middle a couple of times with balls late in the season. He'll be the first to say he didn't play perfectly. He made some really good plays for us with his feet, his legs, his decision-making, but you want to take out some of the 'bone-head' throws, some of the 'bonehead' mistakes that he sometimes makes. It's easy for him to say he hasn't had an opportunity to correct those mistakes because the guy was taking threes at this time last year. He was taking reps at the three or sparingly. He wasn't getting a lot of reps. He got a lot of work fast, and we feel like he is still showing progress. He's done some really nice things this spring, but that should be expected for a guy with his experience level."

On Stetson Bennett's growth...

"I think he can grow. He took a lot of the one reps from one-point last year moving forward. In terms of leadership, we are still working on that. We are not where we need to be in terms of leadership and guys challenging guys. I thought it was really good on Saturday in terms of leadership, and then things got a little tough out there today. Whether you call it Tuesday, two days off, I don't know. I can't say it was hot. It felt mighty good to me. We didn't have the level of practice that I was expecting. You would think whether it's the quarterback or the receiver, whoever the leaders are, that they are going to stand up and push the guys. we probably didn't get what we needed out of that today. I was a little disappointed in the practice."

On Kelee Ringo refocusing after his play in the National Championship...

"It's hard for me to answer that because first, I don't think that play won the game. I know people would beg to differ, but I would argue the offensive drive prior to that did a lot to help that. I would argue that a lot of the plays made in the red area did that. I never look at games and say one play did it because it's not that way. There were so many plays made in that game that you could point that to. What he can't do is let that play distract or deter his development. He'll be the first to tell you that he made an outstanding play, a play that will live in glory and be great, but he also had some plays in the game that weren't so good. He's got some tackling situations that he has to improve on. What makes me so proud of Kelee is that he is taking it out there to the field. He's really working on the physical part and being a better tackler. If anything, that play gives him a little more confidence to play with. Most of the year he was working on that confidence. He was a guy that some teams went after more than Derion Kendrick, and he had a chance to make some plays. He's starting to get some confidence. He can let that play live in infamy, or he can decide to make a lot of those plays, go be a great player and go make money to play in the NFL and develop. I think that's the route he is taking. I know this. He's going to get a lot of encouragement from me to go do that. So far, he has done that. I push Kelee because I know he can be a really good player. He hasn't gone away from that coaching or turned his nose up. If anything, he is trying to take on a leadership role."

On depth at cornerback...

"It's a big opportunity. Kamari Lassiter, Nyland Green, and Daylen Everette are taking every single rep with the ones and twos. Those guys are out there. Receiver and defensive-back, we have never in seven years been this thin. Ever been this thin. You can point a finger and blame anywhere you want, but it's the life of a college football coach now. You don't have depth. You don't have it anywhere. It's easy to leave and go places. Those guys are a little higher maintenance in terms of thinking of themselves. They expect to play right away and go. It's certainly a position of concern for us in terms of recruiting and development as a skill position."

On Jalen Carter...

"Jalen is a good football player. I think he has taken a role in Tray's (Scott) room of trying to set an example for others. Devonte and Jordan, and really Travon in that same room, did as fine of a job, along with Julian. They set a standard of work ethic, and you want whoever, Jalen, Zion (Logue), to control that. Jalen is definitely talented, and you have to push. You have to be willing to push yourself and give great effort in practice because that is what set Devonte Wyatt apart. He was not that player when he got here. He was not that talented of a player when he got here. He worked himself and lost weight. He got stronger and quicker. He wasn't the player in year one or two that he was in year three, four, or five. Jalen started off as a very talented player as a freshman and sophomore, but we would like to get more out of him."

On new coaching hires…

“I think they’re trying to figure out where they’re going right now. We have a lot of drills and a lot of things going on at practice. So, they’re still getting their feet wet. They’ve had four days to do that, to figure out where they’re going, how we do it, what the expectation is. What I like about all of them are their enthusiastic and good leaders. I want their players to take on the personality of the coaches. There have certainly been great energy out of those coaches. We have to get a little more energy out of our players when things get tough at practice. But, that’s the responsibility of the coaches. I’m very proud and pleased with what those guys have done.”

On replacing Travon Walker with Mykel Williams…

“It’s too early to tell. You guys put so much expectation on these guys. I’m just trying to get Mykel to know what a six technique is and a nine technique is, just like I did with Travon when he first got here. So, he doesn’t have to be Travon Walker. That is not what he has to do. We’re not going to replace Travon Walker; we don’t have another Travon Walker. Those guys are once-in-a-lifetime players when they’re that size and that speed. So, we’re going to coach the guys we have and we’re going to teach them to play really hard and really physical. Not have the expectation to be compared to someone else, because I don’t like those comparisons.”

On his daily routine…

“I look at every day as independent of the other. I feel like a broken record because the only thing that changes is your team. You have different players, you have different coaches, you have different demands. I go with the theory of ‘W.I.N.’ what is important now. When I get up in the morning I say, ‘Ok what is the most important thing today. I have to call this mother. I have to call this player. I have to talk to this kid. I have to make sure these coaches know what we are doing in this situation. I have to decide how we are going in practice.’ I just really live day-by-day. I don’t look at it as routine or monotonous because I am trying to do it differently. I am trying to change it up, cycle players, just develop young men and I don’t think that is routine. I don't think you get into a routine. I think when you get into a routine sometimes you get complacent and complacency will be the killer of us all.”

On Coach Fran Brown…

“I think he is very charismatic. You have to really spend time with Fran to get to know Fran. Fran has done a tremendous job at establishing relationships. It was very evident that when you talk to people that have worked on a staff with him about his charisma. I was very pleased with how hard he works, his relationships with the players, he is relentless on the road recruiting. I mean the guy communicates so well and pushes so hard, I think he is going to be a really good coach. I think he is a rising star in this profession because of the energy he puts into it. He is very coachable. He does what you ask of him and he doesn’t know he asks, that is important. It is just as important to ask when you don’t know as it is to know. He has been really good thus far in that area.”

Warren McClendon, Redshirt Sophomore, Offensive Lineman

On Coach Stacy Searels…

“Basically coach just wanted to keep the tradition of the Georgia offensive line as being physical and tough, playing hard, and being the best unit on the field. That was his main message, he wanted to keep that going. He didn’t want there to be a drop-off from Coach Luke to him.”

On becoming a leader…

“I’m definitely trying to be a leader. You know, going into my fourth year, it’s time for me to step up and try to be a leader and be more vocal. I’m not a very talkative guy, so just stepping up and being more talkative, leading by example, and helping out the younger guys.”

Stetson Bennett, Senior, Quarterback

On the difference between this season and last…

“You’d like to say that you always prepare to be the guy and you always work the same that you would. We’re all human and you’re kinda like ‘jeez sometimes it seems like I’m not going to play at all,’ but now, as you said, somebody comes in that’s better than me they're going to start, it’s the University of Georgia. There is a lot more of being hands-on with the routes and the way you want the guys to run the routes. How you feel comfortable with them, a lot more reps than we had last year. So I guess just individual conversations about what I’m seeing and what they’re seeing, so we get to know how to play football better together.”

On the period following the national championship…

“I mean it was a whirlwind. It seemed there for about two weeks, we hadn’t won one in 42 years, so, I mean the world exploded there for a second. We hadn’t experienced anything like that before. We got two weeks off because I think it’s NCAA rules, after you finish playing you have two weeks. So we were a little bit further behind, because usually, typically in the past, except for 2017, we would end on January 1st or December 31st, so that two-week period would start before school started. This year it started right when school started. So we were what, 10 days, 11 days behind on like walkthroughs and football stuff? So, once we started back, there was a little bit more urgency because we had lost a week and a half from prior years between then and spring ball. We had like a week and a half less reps to get ready for spring ball. So, there was an urgency to get the new guys, the new enrollees, back in, and the old guys who hadn’t done anything for two weeks, get them back ready to go for spring ball.”

Kelee Ringo, Redshirt Freshman, Defensive Back

On William Poole and Christopher Smith returning…

“We had a pretty good secondary last year. And of course, as you were saying, those two players had a big impact on that. Having two older guys and two leaders being able to come back for the next year is something that's going to help us.” \

On the National Championship Pick-6…

“It was a pretty good feeling honestly. Going throughout the entire game, a lot of plays were made to put us in that situation. I’m just happy to be able to play with my team and just do great things at the right time when we’re able to. So, that helped us come out on top.”

Friday, March 18, 2022

Lady Dawgs Advance

UGA Sports Communications

Behind 19 points from Jenna Staiti and a career-high 15 from freshman Jillian Hollingshead, the sixth-seeded University of Georgia Lady Dawgs basketball team (21-9, 9-7 SEC) defeated the No. 11 seed Dayton Flyers, (26-6, 14-1 A10) at Hilton Coliseum Friday night.

Georgia advances to play either No. 3 seed Iowa State or No. 14 seed UT Arlington on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Game time will be announced later.

Hollingshead’s night marks the most points for a freshman in the NCAA Tournament since 2013, when Shacobia Barbee notched 20 against Iowa State.

“Dayton is a really good team,” said coach Joni Taylor. “They do a really good job of stretching you. They’re really good and they’ve been really good for a long time. In terms of what we looked like, I thought we did a really good job of locking in and trying to take away what they do well. They have three dynamic guards; we did a good job of frustrating them and making it tough. I thought we did a really good job of being aggressive when we didn’t make shots and winning offensive rebounds, giving ourselves second chance opportunities and to get to the free throw line. That’s something we talked about a lot.”

Despite struggling to find the rim early, the Dawgs were down by just two at the first media timeout. Staiti found the basket off a Flyer turnover followed by Que Morrison increasing Georgia’s lead, 15-11, with a fast break layup. The Flyers’ offense persisted, but the Lady Dawgs locked down and kept the lead, 19-17 in the first quarter.

An 8-2 run highlighted the second quarter for Georgia. Hollingshead put away three shots alongside a Morrison layup. The Lady Dawgs went on to score 12 more points and collected 14 total boards to finish the half up by 10, 41-31. Hollingshead led the offensive drive for the Lady Dawgs, tallying 10 points in the second quarter alone.

Rallying after a two-and-a-half minute scoring drought, Staiti pulled Georgia back with a 6-0 run before the first media timeout. The Lady Dawgs battled to keep their advantage over Dayton, matching their two three-pointers with a 6-0 run from Morrison, Staiti, and Hollingshead. A fastbreak layup from Chloe Chapman kept the Lady Dawgs ahead, 56-46 heading into the fourth quarter.

Georgia jumped to a quick 15-point lead with contributions from Hollingshead, Morrison and Malury Bates. After drawing a Dayton foul, the Lady Dawgs finished the final quarter scoring seven more points. A free throw from Chapman sealed the 70-54 win

The Lady Dawgs will face either No. 3 Iowa State or No. 14 UT Arlington on Sunday, March 20th.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Dawgs Talk About Spring Practice

A trio of University of Georgia football players spoke on the Dawgs’ spring practice.
On Thursday, senior Christopher Smith, senior Kenny McIntosh and redshirt sophomore Sedrick Van Pran offered the following comments after practice…

Christopher Smith, Senior, Defensive Back

On the biggest impression after two days of practice…

“A lot of guys on the team are very driven and hard-working. That’s probably the main thing I see that jumps out. Being able to go out there and see those guys work day in and day out, that’s the culture we’ve built here since day one. A lot of those guys already have that mindset coming in and the guys that have already been here.”

On comparing last year to this year….

“When you think about it, it’s hard to forget last year. It was a pretty special year. We did a lot of special things and stuff like that but we know we got to be able to look forward and on to the next because nothing that we did last year is going to carry us to this year. We have to put in the same work that we put in last year to build that chemistry just like what we did with those guys last year. We lost a lot and we gained a lot, a lot of great players and stuff like that so we have to be able to just mesh and come together to be able to do what we did last year.”

Kenny McIntosh, Senior, Running Back

On his versatility…

“I’m ready to take on whatever Coach Smart needs me to, whether that’s special teams or whatever my team needs me to do, whatever it takes to win… I think it’s really because of my hands. I thank God for blessing my hands with the ability to catch the ball and Coach has been trusting me to catch the ball.”

On the dynamic between Kendall Milton and Daijun Edwards…

“It’s been like this since Zamir White and James Cook were here. We’re going to compete and help develop each other’s abilities every day while we’re at practice. He helps me, I help him… We’re brothers in this, so yeah, we’re competing at the same time, but we push each other to do better.”

On the dynamics with his brother Deon McIntosh…

“We’re both very similar. He can definitely catch a ball and run the ball and plays special teams as well. As well as Deion, I’ve got five brothers really, so just me being the youngest growing up… My brother’s 6’5’’ in the league and I’m 6’1’’ right now, so he’s still beating me and I’m still going up against him, so it’s just having the heart at a young age that my dad taught us. It’s really my dad, I give it up to my dad and God.”

Sedrick Van Pran, Redshirt Sophomore

On Zion Logue…

Zion Logue is like a combination of like a JD (Jordan Davis) and Devonte Wyatt, he’s in between both of them. He’s fast, he’s strong, he can catch you off guard with his quickness but he’s also very powerful in the run game. I think he’s a mixture of both.”

On his confidence this year….

“I wouldn’t call it confidence just because for me confidence just comes off as arrogance to me. I would call it more just comfortable. I think I’m very comfortable in the system right now. Still pushing to learn and taking notes on things like inside zone, you know just trying to get better but honestly, I just feel comfortable, way more comfortable playing football at this point in my career.”

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Pre-Spring Press Conference

Coach Kirby Smart and selected players met with the media to preview spring practice, which begins today and culminates with the annual G-Day intrasquad game on Saturday, April 16th. Following are excerpts from today’s interviews:

Coach Kirby Smart

Opening Statement…

First and foremost, excited about Mike White, his addition to our athletic department. Don't know him personally. Looking forward to getting to meet him today. Excited about his large family moving to Athens and getting to be a part of a special university. So I'm happy to have him.

I’m excited about spring practice. This is actually my favorite time of year, believe it or not. I like the fact that you have one practice and you have a day off to teach, and then you have another practice and you have another day off to teach. It slows things down for the players. So if you enjoy coaching football and the relationships you get to have with the players, this is the best time of year because you literally get to sit in a meeting room, teach, go at a much slower pace.

We've obviously got a lot of holes to fill and a lot of young players on this roster that are excited about filling those roles. We've had probably six weeks of pretty intense workouts. I think our strength staff has done a tremendous job.

As is the case in all businesses, really when you look at it, when you have success, sometimes you have change and people get opportunities. So we've got two new strength coaches, four new position coaches, several new quality control people, so a lot of new faces.

One thing that you benefit from is you get a lot of different ideas and knowledge from those people. So the additions we made to our staff have been tremendous. They are bright. Some of them bright young coaches; some of them very experienced coaches.

But all of them fit our culture and criteria, and that probably excites me most. The players have gotten to know these guys in really a short amount of time. It's been a quick turnaround relative to the amount of time we've had.

I’m excited about where our team is heading, where our guys are going, the roles that have been embraced. We have continued with our skull sessions and our player development, in terms of character and leadership.

A lot of holes. There are a lot of questions to be answered from our team for guys leaving. I'm excited to see what this group can do, and take on the personality of their team. Some of that is already started.

So couple injuries of guys that will be out. We traditionally have -- I think the years we've been here we've had six or seven guys out every spring, mostly with post-season surgeries. This year we had a little more with our incoming freshmen.

So we've had nineteen incoming freshmen, but some of these guys are out for the spring as well. Of the returning guys, most of you guys know Brock Bowers is out for the spring with a shoulder surgery. Rian Davis will be able to do some things, but he's been out since fall, about mid-season. Smael Mondon is out with a labral repair, very similar to what Nakobe Dean had last year. Tykee Smith is still doing his ACL. He's back running, moving around, but he's right where he should be but not going to go through spring.

And then Darnell Washington will be out as well for spring. He's got a lower leg extremity that's going to keep him out. All those guys are promising they'll have good returns.

Then our mid-years, our nineteen mid-years, I think we have five guys that required surgeries, which we knew these guys would require surgery. The positive is we'll have them back for fall camp. But Bear Alexander had a labral repair. Jacob Hood had ankle surgery. C.J. Madden had a labral repair. Griffin Scroggs, shoulder surgery. And then C.J. Smith is coming off some meniscus repair, but he's able to do some things. So that's not abnormal for us to have some guys out and injured. Gives an opportunity for some other guys, hopefully the mid-year kids will be ready to rock and roll for summer and summer workouts, where the NCAA has granted us more time to spend with them and put our defense and offense and special teams in place.

So with that, I'll open it up.

On Arik Gilbert…

Arik has done a great job kind of integrating back to the team. He's been here for a while now. He's done the work we've asked of him. He's doing well academically. You know, I think there is this perception, and it affects college football athletes more than anybody else because they're younger, that the -- this recruiting stigma follows someone, and these expectations follow kids.

I look across and follow guys that maybe we signed here or somewhere else and they carry this really heavy burden of expectation. We don't place that burden on anybody. I think sometimes they put it on themselves. I think sometimes social media does it. Sometimes media in general does it.

But for whatever reason, Arik is a guy that's carried a lot of that burden with him in terms of expectation. Our expectation of Arik is to be the best person he can be first and foremost, and hopefully be the best player he can be. He's had a really good off-season. He continues to work. But that doesn't put an expectation that this guy is going to go out there and set the world on fire. He's trying to figure out where he fits in and he's working really hard. He's done everything we've asked. He's fortunate he's going to get a lot of reps because of the two guys we have out. So he's going to get a lot of reps.

On burning the boats and the new team identity…

Well, when we came back and went to work for those six weeks, that's -- we've put that to the side. We're not communicating, talking about that. That's something they'll be able to have the rest of their life. We always talk about it here. We've talked about it since we won the SEC. You don't defend a title. You guys want it to be that way, but that's not what we do. We start fresh just like we did when we lost to Texas in a bowl game. We start completely new. That's so hard for the media to grasp. It's not hard for us because we go into a different part of the program, off-season conditioning program. What's different about the off-season conditioning program than it has been in the past? Not a whole lot. We're doing the same things we do to build up to the point we went to last year.

We certainly have different faces and different people in places. I think they're right where they need to be. They're not way behind schedule, not way ahead of schedule. We have holes to fill just like we do every year.

Probably just more this year than in years past based on guys leaving and the departure. We also have more mid-years here to fill some of those roles. We're certainly not deep enough at several positions, but I'm not here to cry about it. I'm here to solve it and figure it out and get the best guys. That's what you do as a coach, right? You coach the players. So that movement for us has been long past. I think that will be the play and the talk of the media for last year, but not us. We're really worried about creating an identity for this team.

We're in the identity phase. Spring practice is let's figure who are we? Let's figure out who we are by how we practice. I think we'll see that over the next 15 practices.

On the process of hiring new coaches to the staff during the off-season…

We went through an interview process at every position. We interviewed multiple people at each and every position, think about what's the best overall for our program, for our culture we built here, take input from the coaches on the staff been here a long time, Dell McGee, Glenn Schumann. These guys have been part of our program. Tray Scott. They are the culture. We want people that want to be here and want to be part of that.

It's very demanding what's required of college coaches. You've seen guys move on to the NFL, seen guys step out, you've seen guys go onto other places, but it's not going to ever change at the University of Georgia. The standard of excellence that you want to have in recruiting and spending time with your players, and these four people meet that criteria.

They're also people I trust and some I've known, some I have not known. But the ones that we didn't know we did a lot of research on and felt like they were best for the job.’’

On the value of Spring practice for early enrollees…

It's more important for their degree, right? They get an extra semester of classes. They get 15 hours towards their graduation. That is the most important thing to me.

For five of them it's about getting the best rehab you can possibly get in the country, maybe the world, as opposed to sitting in Atlanta and having a surgery and not having the rehab facilities that maybe your high school has, you're getting that here. To get those guys and the care they need so they don't reinjure, don't have setbacks, we get to have them right here underneath our tutelage and our care. There is no value you can put on that.

There are other kids, six or seven other kids that aren't here. I don't think they're in a deficit either because they're able to get on Zoom, sit in on meetings, get playbooks. Those guys begin to learn, too, so that when they get here over the summer we can integrate them as well.

I think the nineteen guys here now are going to benefit from reps because there are a lot of reps available for those nineteen mid-years.

On Coach Chidera Uzo-Diribe…

Chidera gives us great energy, enthusiasm, played the position, easy to recruit outside backers and defensive ends at University of Georgia because we've produced a lot of them. It's also easy to recruit to him because he played the position with tremendous success, had an stint in the NFL. He has got a really good track record, high character, very enthusiastic, and we've seen the impact on our players with what he's done.

On the pride of talent at the NFL Combine and replacing it…

Yeah, we saw this coming two, three years ago. We even had the fear that we might have been replacing those guys last year had they not decided to stay. So that's been a preparation deal for us. We're always looking two, three years ahead sometimes, and, you know, where you maybe have a deficit or you're not as good or maybe better at certain positions. That's a focus we take on each and every year, so that will be a challenge for us. Lost a lot of good defensive players, some really good wideouts, so it's on to the next. You got to create your identity through who you have, and that's what you do as a coach.

You know, you do the best job you can with it and try and get the most out of them. Certainly proud of those guys. Coming over here to this meeting, I ran into a bunch of them and they're getting to see new parts of our building they had not seen, and it's great to see them. Really happy for them.

So many of those guys worked their tail off. They didn't get there through some easy deal. They worked really hard, and that's what our players now have to understand. It doesn't come easy.

On what you’re looking for from Stetson Bennett, as well as the other QBs…

Looking to develop each and everyone. I think all four of those guys are in different spots. You can go all the way from Gunner Stockton just getting here to Stetson being 23, 24 years old and having seen a lot of football.

So they're in different spots, all four guys. The biggest challenge for us for the spring is to get reps and develop, because we don't have the depth at the skill positions, receiver and defensive back and even tight end, to be able to do some of the things we liked to practice-wise.

We’re trying to be innovative, creative in the way we practice, because quarterback development is critical. So if you have quarterbacks that aren't able to get reps, how do they get better? So I'm big on challenging our staff to be creative in the ways we rep those guys, who goes with what groups, how many reps a week you get, what percentages. We want to see these guys get better. It's easy when you have three groups of offensive linemen. They all get work. But you might have four quarterbacks, and it's hard to get those guys enough work. Wanting to see those guys improve. They can't all play, so it's a matter of growing them to get them in a position to where they can be successful.

On Tate Ratledge, Arian Smith, Trezmen Marshall…

They're all running, moving, doing things. Arian has been able to take some reps. He will he'll be practicing with us some. Not 100%, but he'll be able to practice with us practice. Tate is coming off the foot injury. He's not going to be able to take reps in the spring, but he's weight bearing, running, doing some activity there and able to take walk-through reps. So I take him in a kind of mode of he's not out for the entire spring. He's just not going to be going live with. The progress has been great for both these guys.

Trezmen is doing running, cutting. Got a knee brace on. He'll be able to take some reps, but not 100%.’’

On preparation coming off of a national championship season…

Let's be clear: We won a National Championship because we had really good players who played well together, right?

So usually the team that wins the National Championship is a unified group. I can go through the last couple years. There is like this really great group of special players at LSU; they won a National Championship. Really good group, special leaders at Alabama; they won a National Championship. We had a really good group. So we're trying to like develop our team to emulate what is your identity. Is it going to be supreme talent with great character, great leadership? Is the leadership and character going to outweigh the talent? We're trying to figure out the team's identity completely independent of the previous years.

There is, when you look out there, there is not as much experience. There are good football players on this roster, but we’ve got to get those guys in position to be successful. Our job as coaches is to grow them.

I’m going to repeat: I am not worried about living in the past. That's our job, is to make sure these kids grasp what they do is in front of them. The wind blows a lot harder at the top, but we’ve been up there. So it's not like we’ve been at the tip-top, but it's been blowing pretty good where we were, so we’ve got to do a good job continuing to develop our guys and get them ready to play.

On Glenn Schumann growing as a defensive coach…

He's always trying to grow and get better. He's never satisfied. I think a lot of times you can get complacent, it sets in on all of us, this is what we do. We don't want to be complacent. That's just not what I believe in. We're always trying to find a different way to do it better. I think Glenn epitomizes that. He's constantly on Zoom with the NFL guys; he talks to high school coaches; he's a sponge. Doesn't think he knows it all. Always trying to find a better way to do it, to reinvent himself as a coach.

I think his players play really hard. They have a passion and energy for him that they want to be successful. I mean, to do what he's done with those three guys coming out this year is really pretty special. No. 1, he helped recruit them, identify them, and then he helped mold them into good players. So there is a pedigree there that he's able to recruit to.

On Zion Logue…

Those are big shoes to fill. We don't do comparisons. We let you guys stick to the comparisons. You know, I think the comparisons can be bad for people when they try to compare. I think what's good about Zion is he's a great leader, a great kid. He is the perfect example of a guy that has matured and he's grown. He used to have academic problems freshman year, wouldn't go to this, wouldn't, and now for the last year he's not on lists, he handles his weight, he practices really hard, he's hit a strength, a little bit extra strength in the weight room that's going to help make him a better player. We got high expectations for him. He's going to take on a larger role, but his role may not be the same as what those guys was.

Kearis Jackson, Senior, Wide Receiver

On the next man up mentality...

It's football, injuries happen, you got to be prepared for it. Look at last season, we had numerous injuries but the way we work here at Georgia, it's always the next man up mentality. You got to be prepared to come here and play no matter. Just like Coach Smart says all the time, when we have travel games, if you travel and you dress with the team, you got a chance to play. So, if injuries happen, we are already prepared for it.

On his knee surgery last summer...

With me having surgery literally right before the season kind of held me back from getting the training with my teammates, especially summer workouts. Summer workouts here is what pretty much defines you and what is going to prepare you for the season this year. Me being able to not have the opportunity to attend those workouts and not be fully participating in those things kind of set me back a little bit from being as close as I know I can, like with speed and stuff. I was still able to be a leader on the sidelines, encouraging the guys. So, I still feel like I played a major role even with me being injured.

Nolan Smith, Senior, Outside Linebacker

On graduating...

If you want me to be honest, I believe honestly in what Coach Smart is building here and the coaching here. But at the same time, my mom wants me to graduate, so that's the whole reason I came back. If I don't give her a diploma, she couldn't care less about the NFL Draft.

On leaving his legacy...

Hopefully, my name is up there on that pillar behind you as being team captain one day. I get to come back and show my kids that I graduated from here, I built a lot of things here in my little pond and I tried to make a ripple effect.

On being the vocal guy on the team...

No, I wouldn't say I feel that responsibility to be that vocal guy. I just feel like, I am going to be the same guy that I was and still try to lead people in the right direction and do the right thing always. I feel like that's something everyone, all of us, on the team should do. That's why we did so well last year. A lot of guys saying that's not right, that's wrong and you shouldn't do that.

Warren Ericson, Senior, Offensive Lineman

On coaching changes…

Spring is all about being in competition. It is proving yourself. And now with a new coach being an aspect, it is like that as well. It was definitely a little strange when Coach Luke left, because we loved playing for Coach Luke and respected him so much. But, he was our coach in the past. Now we can look forward to our new coach. So far, we’ve really loved having Coach Searels. He has brought in good energy, good demeanor. Just with the start today, I’m looking forward to seeing how he’s going to coach on the field at a full practice. And how we’re going to gel as a new line together because we’re losing Jamaree Salyer. We’re losing Justin Shaffer. We also have experience as well with Sedrick Van Pran. Me being out there with Warren McClendon as well. So, it will be good. I’m excited about today. I think it’s going to be a really good day.”

On Coach Searels…

He set the tone right away, just physicality and aggressiveness. That was his first thing in the meeting room. He wants us to play disciplined and know exactly what to do. So, I’ve really respected that. He wants us to continue the tradition of being a dominant offensive line that Georgia has always had. So, he has come in, stepped in, and done that really well so far. He also has different lingos and terms to be used on different calls. We’re having to adjust with that. He is having to adjust with our plays and our lingo as well. So, it’s a little bit of a give and take as far as what he is having to learn and what we’re having to learn from him.

Zion Logue, Junior, Defensive Lineman

On maturing…

When I got here, I was all over the place. I had to really settle myself down and stick to who I was. I was trying to be somebody else, and I had to reel it back in a bit. I found myself and things started changing for me.

On finding himself…

Just seeing my teammates prosper. I just wanted to do it for myself as well. I have seen the changes they were making in their game, so I was taking bits and pieces and trying to put them into mine.

On replicating last year’s leadership…

It’s big shoes to fill this year. We don’t want to put that much pressure on ourselves, but at times we have to. We have to step in. We have a lot of snaps. We need to be up field, special teams, defense, offense. Guys have to step up in different places in different areas.

Monday, March 14, 2022

Dawgs Swipe Gators Basketball Coach

Mike White, who has averaged more than 22 wins per season in 11 campaigns as head coach at Florida and Louisiana Tech, has been named the 23rd head men’s basketball coach of the Dawgs. Josh Brooks, UGA’s J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics, announced White’s hiring on Sunday.

“We are extremely excited to welcome Mike White and his family to Athens,” said Brooks. “We have witnessed Coach White to be a leader of men, as well as a proven winner with an impressive postseason body of work. We want to compete for national success in all 21 of our sports, and we believe that he is the coach that can build Georgia Basketball to a consistent winner on the collegiate basketball landscape.”

“We are thrilled to welcome a coach with Mike White’s integrity, character and competitive excellence to the University of Georgia,” said Jere W. Morehead, University of Georgia President. “He has been a leader throughout his extensive head coaching experience at Florida and Louisiana Tech, and we are confident that he will make a positive impact on UGA student athletes and our campus community.”

White’s teams have advanced to postseason play during eight of 10 possible seasons. He has spent the past seven seasons at Florida, compiling a 142-88 record and leading the Gators to five postseason bids including four NCAA appearances. In four campaigns at Louisiana Tech between 2011-15, White was 101-40, and the Bulldogs won a trio of conference regular-season titles and advanced to three NITs.

“I am beyond excited for the opportunity to lead the men’s basketball program at the University of Georgia,” White said. “President Jere W. Morehead and Athletics Director Josh Brooks are united in a strong vision for UGA Basketball which resonated with me deeply. They believe, as I do, in developing our young men as students, athletes and leaders, as well as providing them with the support they need to be successful. I believe in the limitless future of Georgia Basketball.

“I am extraordinarily grateful to the leadership of Scott Stricklin and to the entire Florida Athletics staff for an amazing experience during my tenure,” White continued. “Thank you to each and every one of our current and former players. Your hard work, commitment and dedication was and continues to be an inspiration. I will cherish our relationships forever. In addition, the Gainesville community has been wonderful to my family and I. We are truly thankful for our time at the University of Florida.

“To the Georgia Basketball family, friends and fans, I’m ready to get to work. Go Dawgs!”

Florida has earned five consecutive postseason bids under White, reaching the 2016 NIT quarterfinals and earning four consecutive NCAA bids from 2017-21. The Gators, who advanced to the Elite Eight in 2017, are the only SEC team and one of just 12 nationally to reach each of the last four editions of “March Madness.” Florida is one of only six schools to win a game in each of the last four NCAA Tournaments. White was voted SEC Coach of the Year by both league coaches and the Associated Press in 2017, and eight different Gators have earned All-SEC honors a combined nine times during his tenure.

At Louisiana Tech, White led the Dawgs to the Western Athletic Conference regular-season crown in 2013 before winning back-to-back Conference USA titles in 2014 and 2015. The Dawgs reached the NIT in each of those campaigns and advanced to the quarterfinals in 2014 and 2015. In NIT play, Louisiana Tech recorded a trio of impressive road victories, toppling Florida State in 2013, Georgia in 2014 and Texas A&M in 2015.

White was named WAC Coach of the Year in 2013 and Conference USA Coach of the Year in 2015. He coached the 2015 C-USA Player of the Year, two WAC Newcomers of the Year, the 2014 C-USA Sixth Man of the Year and the 2014 C-USA Defensive Player of the Year.

White came to Louisiana Tech as a 35-year-old after spending seven seasons (2004-11) as an assistant coach at Ole Miss, his alma mater, where he developed a reputation as one of the top assistant coaches in the country. White helped lead the Rebels to four NIT berths, including two runs to the NIT Final Four, and SEC West titles in 2007 and 2010. White also spent four years at Jacksonville State from 2000-04, three as an assistant coach and the final season as associate head coach.

White was a four-year starter at Ole Miss and helped the Rebels to a pair of SEC West Division titles, three NCAA Tournament appearances and the school’s first ever NCAA Tournament victory. White excelled off the court as well, earning a spot on two SEC Academic Honor Rolls and being named to the 1999 SEC Good Works Team.

White is married to the former Kira Zschau. The couple has two daughters, Rylee and Maggie, twin boys, Collin and Keegan, and another son, Dillion.

Thursday, March 10, 2022

Crean Fired

UGA Sports Communications

The University of Georgia has decided to change the leadership of its men’s basketball program, and Tom Crean will not return for his fifth season as the Dawgs’ head coach.

“I would like to sincerely thank Coach Crean and his family for their commitment to Georgia Basketball,” said Josh Brooks, J. Reid Parker Director of Athletics. “Tom Crean demonstrated unquestionable effort and enthusiasm in what he has attempted to accomplish at Georgia. That said, our expectation is to compete for post-season success in all 21 sports. We believe a leadership change in men’s basketball is needed to achieve our goals.”

This season, Georgia finished 6-26 overall and 1-17 in the SEC. Crean compiled a 47-75 record and was 15-57 in SEC play during his four seasons.

The Dawgs broke their all-time total attendance record in each of Crean’s first two years, and during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 seasons, Georgia recorded two of its top-5 scoring averages during the 2000s. Anchored by Anthony Edwards, Crean signed six top-100 prospects during his first full recruiting cycle. Edwards left after earning SEC Freshman of the Year honors to become the No. 1 pick in the 2020 NBA draft.

A national search for Georgia’s next head men’s basketball coach will begin immediately.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

SEC Announces 2020-21 Revenue Distribution

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey on Thursday announced that $777.8 million of total revenue was divided among the SEC’s 14 universities for the 2020-21 fiscal year, which ended August 31, 2021.

The total includes $764.4 million distributed directly from the conference office, as well as $13.4 million retained by universities that participated in 2020-21 football bowl games to offset travel and other related bowl expenses.

The amount distributed from the conference office, excluding bowl expenses retained by participants, averaged slightly over $54.6 million per school.

“The commitment of the SEC’s 14 universities to provide an impactful and lasting student-athlete experience is enhanced exponentially by the substantial revenue distributed through the Southeastern Conference,” said Sankey. “As a direct result of this distribution, SEC universities provide their student-athletes exceptional instruction, training, equipment, academic counseling, medical care, mental health and wellness support and life-skill development that is unmatched in intercollegiate athletics.”

Currently more than 5,400 female and male student-athletes across the SEC receive financial aid, and counting non-scholarship participants, more than 7,100 total student-athletes participate in sports sponsored by SEC universities.

Athletics departments at all 14 SEC member universities continue to fund scholarships based on a student-athlete’s full cost of attendance. In addition, each SEC university utilizes a portion of the revenues to fund a wide range of academic and campus improvement initiatives, including academic scholarships, endowed faculty positions, student wellness programs, research programs, and forward-looking building projects.

“SEC athletics programs often contribute in unique and significant ways to the academic missions of their universities as a result of athletics-generated revenues,” Sankey said. “Past examples of the impact of this revenue have included assistance in construction and renovation of academic facilities, financial support of academic scholarships, funding of academic programs and direct transfers of funds to support academic budgets.”

The total distribution amount is comprised of revenue generated from television agreements, post-season bowl games, the College Football Playoff, the SEC Football Championship Game, the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament, NCAA Championships and a supplemental surplus distribution.

The distribution amount does not include a one-time supplement of approximately $23 million provided to each school in 2021 to help mitigate the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on SEC athletics programs, or an additional $7.8 million of NCAA and SEC grants divided among the 14 member universities.

The total revenue for 2020-21 is an increase above the $657.7 million distributed in 2019-20. The average per school distribution increased from $45.5 million in 2019-20, not including bowl money retained by participants.

Sunday, February 6, 2022

Dawgs Hire Linebacker Coach

UGA Sports Communications

Coach Kirby Smart has added Chidera Uzo-Diribe to his defensive staff as outside linebackers coach.

Uzo-Diribe, a native of Corona, California, comes to Athens after a brief stint as defensive line coach at TCU. He left SMU following the 2021 season with head coach Sonny Dykes, who accepted the same position with the Horned Frogs. SMU was 8-4 last season as DL Elijah Chatman earned All-American Conference Second Team honors and had two recovered fumbles to tie for second in the league.

Uzo-Dribe had previously worked two seasons at Kansas where he served as outside linebackers coach.

Prior to working with the Jayhawks, Uzo-Diribe spent three seasons (2016-18) as a graduate assistant with the defensive line and outside linebackers at Colorado.

In the summer of 2018, he participated in the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship Program with the San Francisco 49ers, a program created to offer minority coaches more opportunities to learn, coupled with great exposure to job opportunities. He was also named to 247Sports' most recent 30-Under-30 list.

Uzo-Diribe was a four-year letterman at Colorado and finished his career tied for sixth in sacks (20), tied for 17th in TFLs (31) and second in forced fumbles (10). In 2013, he ranked second nationally in forced fumbles with five, and was on the final watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award for the nation's top defensive end of the year, while also opening the season on the Bednarik Award Watch List. Uzo-Diribe went on to sign as a free agent with the New Orleans Saints in 2015.

Uzo-Diribe is married to wife, Hana.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

Lady Dawgs Defeat Vandy

UGA Sports Communications

A dominant second half performance at home saw the No. 14-ranked Lady Dawgs top the Vanderbilt Commodores Thursday night at Stegeman Coliseum, 71-56.

Jenna Staiti led all scorers tonight with 16 while Javyn Nicholson notched her season high in rebounds with nine. With the win, Georgia improves to 17-4 overall and 6-3 in the SEC. Vanderbilt falls to 12-11, 3-6.

“Vanderbilt is a good team that is getting better every time they play,” shared coach Joni Taylor. “We knew it was going to be tough tonight. We prepared for it to be tough, and we knew it was going to be a grind it out game where hopefully we could create separation in the third and fourth quarter – and that’s what we did.”

The Lady Dawgs responded to an early Commodore lead as Sarah Ashlee Barker laid in for two. Mikayla Coombs connected with Staiti to give the graduate center her first of six points in the quarter. Georgia trailed 16-13 at the end of the first.

Morrison tied the ball game for the Lady Dawgs with a three-point jumper to open second quarter scoring. Midway through the second, Malury Bates finished a bucket to give Georgia their first lead of the game. Bates contributed two blocks on the following possessions to help preserve the Georgia lead. The Lady Dawgs led 26-23 at halftime.

After Morrison knocked down a pair of free throws to open the third quarter, Staiti kept pace adding two more to her tally with a jumper. Javyn Nicholson showed her strength late on with a tough lay-up to take a foul. The Lady Dawgs jumped out to a 47-41 lead going into the fourth.

A 10-0 run during the fourth quarter secured the win for the Georgia along with Nicholson’s six points in the final quarter.

Next up, the Lady Dawgs host SEC rival Florida at 1 p.m. on Sunday, February 6th at Stegeman Coliseum. Coverage will be on SEC Network.

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Signing Day Press Conference

UGA Sports Communications

Coach Kirby Smart offered the following comments Wednesday afternoon during a press conference. The 2021 National Champion Georgia Dawgs signed the third-ranked (ESPN, Rivals.com, 247Sports) recruiting class for the 2021-22 signing period.

Opening Statement….

"As everybody probably knows, there's a limited number of spots we've got left in terms of recruiting, and most of our signing class was finished up in December. We did have a few guys added to the group today. I'm certainly proud of the group we've got. I'm excited about this recruiting class. The number one reason that I'm excited is that 19 of them are midyears. We've got 19 midyear enrollees who've been very impactful in adding depth to our roster. As they begin to work out and go through our academics, our equipment staff, our nutrition staff, our player development staff, everybody has commented about this group. How serious they are, how well-mannered they are, and how they handle their business. That's always good to know that you've got the right kind of kids in your organization. Then, we added some guys today that we're certainly excited about that I'm sure you guys will want to talk about and ask about."

On the National Championship’s effect on recruiting…

"Have I seen a major impact on the win or the National Championship? I don't know that you can make that tangible. I don't know that you can kind of see that or feel that. Certainly, the time we have spent on the road, there was a lot of 'congratulations,' pats on the back, all those things. In terms of recruiting, I think it gets you in the conversation with maybe more national kids. We were already in the conversation with most national kids and certainly with in-state kids. It may validate some things you work towards, but I don't think it's going to close the deal for these kids. I really don't think winning the National Championship moves the needle in terms of one kid's decision or the other. It just might get you in the conversation. Kids today are obviously worried about other things outside of just winning a National Championship. Ten years ago, it was probably a bigger deal than it is today where they put their weight in other categories."

On Darris Smith…

"Darris Smith is a kid we're excited about. We've loved. He's got a great work ethic. He's from a rural town down there, and he's done a wonderful job every time he's been up here of competing, working out. He's got a lot of growth potential. He's long. He runs well. Kids that are that size that run well tend to do well in our system. He played a receiver at times. He's running track right now, and he's one of the fastest track kids in that area, so we're certainly excited about him. He's got a lot of development to do."

On the work ethic and team mentality of the players…

"It's a credit to the kids here. I don't like acknowledging or saying that it's breaking kids down. People call it 'derecruitment,' but really, it's education. What do you value? Do you value your education? Do you value doing things the right way? What are you learning from the other players in the organization? A lot of our older players have to impart their knowledge and wisdom on these young guys, because they're coming in, and you don't want them to make the same mistakes you do. This group has been uniquely special. I'm not talking about talent. You can write about their talent, and you can check their accolades. Some are highly rated, and some you don't think they're good enough rating-wise. I don't care. I'm going off of how they treat people. Are they on time? Do they have the self-discipline to do what they're supposed to do and go run early because they're a little heavy? They've all shown the propensity to do that, and that excites me."

On Andrew Paul and Tray Scott’s impact on recruiting…

"Andrew Paul is a guy we found out about and discovered. Dell McGee did a tremendous job covering the country, looking for the best backs we could possibly bring into the University of Georgia. Anytime you go across the state of Texas, there's a ton of really good football players - there's really good high school football in Texas. Dell reached out to me and sent me his Hudl link. I got to watch him and I really liked him. Dell knew the kid and the family. He's a 210 pound back, and he's got a great demeanor about him. He loves working out in the weight room, just tremendous background checks where he's played, and the people he's played for have a lot of amount of respect for him. Getting to see him play, spending time around him on the actual visit, it validated that. He comes from a military background family which fits a criteria for us in terms of discipline and being made of the right things. Once we checked out all that, it became "was he good enough?". And we loved him. We think he's a really good football player with great academics. He won a state championship in high school. If you look at these guys who joined us today, almost every one of them won a state championship in high school which is another indicator of success and winning coming from good teams which is great value for us."

On the pride of having NFL prospects…

"Fifteen players drafted is unrealistic. If it happens, then you can call me a liar. We've got a great group of guys coming out, and I think that's very evident when you look at our current roster here and the guys we have training - we have some holes. Every year, you go into that team meeting, the meeting after you're through with your season, regardless of how your season ended, and you're looking around going, "Where is everybody at?". There're 19 guys in the back of the room that are filling big holes in the front of the room. That doesn't happen over night. I'm proud of those kids who are down in there. I have to be honest with you, I've been swamped with things going on that I haven't gotten to watch a lot. I always like to check in with our guys at the Senior Bowl. I like to go to the Senior Bowl, but I haven't had that opportunity with some calendar changes we've been through. I've been reached out to by coaches and GMs that they've been impressed with our guys' practice habits, demeanor, the way they carry themselves - those are all things we try to tach at Georgia. Our guys buy into that. I'm excited to see where they go, and I'm excited to see them work out here at our facility when they get the opportunity."

On how much mystery there was coming into today…

"There wasn't much mystery. Today was the most different signing day I've had. We worked with things going on here in house - our team, quality control, different positions we have to fill in terms of GAs. We've been dealing with and interviewing for different roles on our staff that we are trying to fill. I haven't even stopped for signing day where most of the time that was all you did. To that, that certainly is a December movement in the world we live in. I can't think of anything moving forward in terms of signees out of high school that are out there unless I'm missing something."

On the impact of NIL on recruiting…

"It's extremely tangible. We can't set that up. A sell, at least for what I'm finding in recruiting, is it used to be you sold championships, you sold facilities, maybe development. It was a primary sell. Now, development has taken a step back, which it shouldn't, and facilities, academics, what we can do for you in terms of life after football - those things have taken a backburner to NIL for a lot of people. Once you explain to a kid that we can't set that up, we can't promise that, what people are doing is they're validating they're NIL by showing what their current roster makes and by showing what current players are able to do. The more marketable their players, the dollar signs fall in these young kids' and parents' minds. I think sometimes they're getting misled into the numbers that are already out there which becomes propaganda. Recruiting is always propaganda. It's how you use it. The sell, when you're selling the development of a young man from Jordan Davis, and you're selling the look at what he became, that's much more enjoyable to sell than to sell what he made in NIL. Number one, you can't guarantee that. Number two, to each kid it may apply differently. Some guys are at developmental positions, and they are going to have to work very hard. I am not of the opinion that kids should be making decisions based on that. You're probably recruiting the wrong guy if that is all they are making their decision based on. So, I think a lot of colleges are having to look inside out at who they recruit and why they recruit them. Ten percent of these kids we are all going to recruit. It's the next group that you better be careful who you are recruiting because they are going to make up the majority of your roster."

On Brian McClendon’s return to Georgia…

“I have a tremendous amount of respect Brian and the job he’s done. I’ve always respected him on the road recruiting. Had a lot of years at Alabama where I recruited against him in the state of Georgia. Coached him as a player here. In terms of the ways he carried himself, he’s a special team, a leader. I have a lot of respect for him. He’s worked for people on our staff and he’ worked with people on our staff. I big on ‘fit’. Does someone fit the culture we are trying to create? We don’t look at a lot of things that people on the outside world look at. I look at, can the make our staff better, can they make our players better, do they fit our culture. He checked the box, was the best fit, and wants to be here. That’s important to me and what we create at Georgia.”

On Mike Bobo’s return to Georgia…

“There is a lot of value in the experiences he’s had. He’s been a head coach. He’s been an offensive coordinator in our conference. He knows our conference. The five hour radius we recruit in, he’s extremely versed. He has a ton of relationship value. As far as his role, that’ll play out as we go along.

On Christen Miller’s recruitment…

“That’s probably the number one determining factor on a high character, high quality kid. He comes from a tremendous family. And consistency… when I’ve lost kids that I feel like we should have gotten. Probably the number factor was ‘did we recruit them with the correct consistency’? When a kid honestly tells you he’s going to another place because they recruited him more consistently, it makes it even more evident that you have to be consistent. I’ll say this, We, Tray Scott and Staff, were extremely consistent with Christen Miller and it paid off. The message didn’t change. The consistency didn’t change. He valued relationships and he saw in December, what happens when guys move all over the place. When you have a little bit on continuity in a kids eyes, and we’ve been able to have that and sustain winning success. You tend to attract people that have the same mindset that you do, and I think Christen and Tray have a lot of the same mindset. Christen Miller is a worker. He’s one of the most impressive kids in terms of leadership, that I’ve seen at this age. He willed and pushed that Cedar Grove (HS) team to success. I value that. I value that seeing the kids leaving here that we’re just in the last class. I’m excited about what he can do.”

On EJ Lightsey…

“He’s a kid we had in camp. He’s a kid we never stopped recruiting. We felt very strongly about him. He ran really well at our camp. And… We put a lot of value on camp evaluations. It’s the only thing we see with our eyes. Once the character checks out, academics check out, play tape checks out, everything goes to the camp. This guy did a great job at our camp and is not afraid to work in this day and age of speed and space play, covering people. He’s a tremendous athlete.”

On what Dillon Bell brings to the team…

“Dillon is another one that came and worked out. He came through and he was actually here the same day Cole Speer was and he stood out. He was big, he was built like a running back. He has power, he has good hands, he has tremendous work ethic. He goes to an extremely academic high school which checks a box for us in terms of being able to handle the academics here at the University of Georgia. When we saw him workout that gave us validation that what we saw on tape was accurate. HE is a tremendous young man so when start to look for size and speed on the perimeter, he has really good size, he has really good speed. That was something that fired us up.”

On having older successful players be examples for recruits, specially the defensive line…

“It helps. It will help more if those guys are successful in the NFL or get drafted high because I think that will give validation to Tray Scott’s development that he took some guys that might not have been the highest rated coming out but they might be the highest rated coming out of college as opposed to high school. He is a tremendous teacher. I mean Tray is a technician, he sells himself on not a lot of flash but a lot of work, developing young men into good defensive linemen but even better people. He has got a little bit of proof to validate that now with Travon Walker, Devonte Wyatt and Jordan Davis all coming out of that room. Those are three guys that are going to be really good NFL football players.”

On how the program has changed based on the changing world of college football…

“I think we are everchanging. I can’t say that we changed from this year to last year. I just think it is subtle. The way things are going you are going to have to continue to do that. You have to look at your roster and say, ‘we need great players right? But we need enough core players that believe in the value of the organization to out weight any blinking lights.’ Sometimes a blinking light might be a talented player that doesn’t completely all the way buy in but you have to have enough core players so that the voice doesn’t get heard. I think we had that last year. We had a really good group of core leaders and they also happened to be really good players, that is when you get to win a national championship. But you have to be selective of going really far away from home, or how big of a portal risk is this kid, is NIL so important to him that he is not going to be as effective as a player. Because it is easy to sit here and say, ‘ What can I make NIL? How can you help me?’ Well I can help you a whole lot more if you come out of college with a degree and come out of college and get drafted. There are a lot more commas on those salaries than there are on NIL deals. You have to be able to explain that to kids and they have to understand and buy into it. 

A lot of kids come from a society of, ‘Now, now now. Me, me, me. Self-gratification,’ and we really need, ‘Team, team, team,’ long-term buy in, develop and be the best player when you leave. The hard part is figuring out which each kid is, ‘ Does he really buy into that or is he just providing lip service?’ That is where there are tough decisions made as a head coach and a position coach of which guys you take because you don’t really know until they get here sometimes.”

Monday, January 31, 2022

McClendon Comes Home

Former University of Georgia four-year letterman and coach Bryan McClendon is returning to his alma mater as passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach, according to an announcement Monday by UGA head coach Kirby Smart.

McClendon was a wide receiver on Georgia’s 2005 Southeastern Conference championship team before embarking on a coaching career. He served as a graduate assistant at UGA in 2007-08 and was named to the full-time staff as running backs coach in 2009, a position he held until 2015. McClendon was named interim head coach at UGA at the end of the 2015 season and led the Dawgs to a 24-17 victory over Penn State in the TaxSlayer Bowl.

Since that time McClendon has held assistant coaching positions at South Carolina (2016-19, offensive coordinator and wide receivers) and Oregon (2020-21, passing game coordinator, wide receivers, interim head coach for 2021 Valero Alamo Bowl). He had accepted a position of co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach at Miami earlier this year but left when his alma mater offered him his current position.

As a member of the full-time staff, Georgia teams won 64 games and two SEC Eastern Division titles. He’s been part of an offensive staff that led Georgia to the 2014 SEC scoring offense title (41.3 points per game) and three consecutive record-setting seasons: Total Yards in a Season (6,547 in 2012, 6,294 in 2013, 5,964 in 2014); Average Yards Per Game (467.64 in ‘12, 484.2 in ‘13, 458.8 in ‘14 ); and Most TD’s in a Season (72 in 2012, 58 in ‘13, 70 in ‘14). At UGA, he coached a number of elite running backs during his tenure including Isaiah Crowell, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, as well as Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.

McClendon lettered as a wide receiver at Georgia in 2002-03-04-05. During his tenure, the Dawgs won three SEC Eastern Division titles (2002, ‘03, ‘05), two SEC championships (2002, ‘05) and played in four bowl games (2003 Nokia Sugar, ‘04 Capital One, ‘05 Outback, ‘06 Nokia Sugar), winning three of them. As a senior, McClendon caught 35 passes including six for touchdowns. He caught the game-winning TD pass in the closing minutes against Georgia Tech and then blocked a punt in the SEC Championship Game which led to the Dawgs’ third TD in the 34-14 victory over LSU. McClendon was part of a senior class that won 44 games - the most by any class in Georgia history at the time.

Following the 2005 season, McClendon signed a free agent contract with the Chicago Bears. He graduated in December 2005 with a degree in Recreation and Leisure Studies. He is the son of former Georgia tailback Willie McClendon, 1978 SEC Player of the Year and running back for the Chicago Bears.

McClendon is married to the former Amber Arnold of Atlanta. They have three children, Bryan, Brooke and Brayden.

Monday, January 3, 2022

Monday Interview - Coach Smart

Opening Statement:

Indianapolis has been the spot of a lot of national championships I've been able to watch growing up, and excited to play in such a great venue. And sounds like we're fortunate we're not playing outside based on the weather that I'm hearing about. 

Our guys are excited and being excited to work and really take another shot and go play these guys. And got a lot of respect for Alabama and Coach Saban and everything they've been able to do. And we know that we've got to play one of our best games and our guys are excited for the opportunity.

What is it about the leadership skills of great linebackers, I'm talking about Nakobe in your case, but are you aware of Will Anderson Jr., and they play similar roles for these two teams. Could you expand on that topic?

I think that position is a position that ties the front to the back. And when you're in the middle kind of it takes extreme toughness to play at that position. And you've got to have some coverage skills. You've got to understand the defense inside and out. You certainly can become a very good leader. 

If you had a quarterback on defense, I think it would be at the linebacker position because they make so many calls. And Will, certainly, does that. He's an exceptional rusher, twitchy, plays so hard, high motor, physical toughness. A lot of the same things you can say about Nakobe, although they play different positions.

Could you talk about the dynamics of playing an opponent two times in close proximity? I think you were part of that with Alabama and LSU and certainly in a game of this magnitude. And second part, if you could touch on this, you alluded after the game, talking about Alabama had a five- or six-hour start getting ready for this game. I think you've been on both ends of that as well. Is that a true advantage, even those few hours can make a difference?

I don't know that it makes a huge difference when there's a normal space between the game. We played in a unique situation the last time we played them with the Rose Bowl turnaround, the national championship was extremely short. And with the Rose Bowl not changing their date it made for a West Coast flight that was a really, really, really quick turnaround. We actually played the earlier game in that scenario. And they played the later game. But the turnaround was quicker. 

This turnaround is a little different because of the amount of time in between them. I was just referencing that we finished a little bit later and didn't get home until the next day. But when you're playing a rematch game, I think a lot can go into it in terms of you've got to be careful because you've got things and games in your breakdown that might change this game in terms of we didn't have the SEC Championship game, obviously, in our breakdown, then the playoff game. And what tendencies changed, what matchups we're looking for, who is in, who is out. There's a lot of things that go into it. 

But at the end of the day, you're really not as worried about what they're doing; you're worried about what you're doing and how well you can do that is the most important part.

Your guys responded well to the tough loss against Alabama. Is it harder to have the same edge coming off a game where everything went right, or is given that everything is on the line, is that an issue at all?

You're saying coming off of playing well? How does that affect this game?

Because they were coming off a loss that they had maybe more of an edge wanting to prove something that they were as good as they showed earlier in the year.

We're focused on playing them and this game is irrelevant of the game we just played. And it's really separate from the SEC Championship, other than obviously will be using that tape to look at matchups and look at tendencies and things. 

But we're certainly -- we've worked really hard the last, whatever, 30 days at getting better at us. And it was never about Michigan or Alabama or Cincinnati. It was about us. It doesn't change on who your opponent is. You try to scheme to find matchups. But at the end of the day we've been trying to get our players better regardless of who we were going to play.

Just double-check on Brock Bowers, you touched on him. He dinged his shoulder a little bit a couple of weeks ago. Any further word on him?

He's good. He was good in the game. That same shoulder has bothered him all year, to be honest. It's not like it's something new that just came up. It bothers him from time to time at practice. It happens to a lot of our players, to be honest with you. I had it when I played. It's something you have to just deal with and in the offseason we'll get a look at it, see if it needs to be repaired surgically or whether or not it's something that he can rehab and continue to strengthen the muscles around it. But he's a football player. It's not going to go away in season. A lot of our guys are dealing with that.

Question about the dynamic that Alabama occupies, the mental space it occupies in the heads of either you, your coaching staff, your players, the Crimson Tide has taken on a bogeyman quality for Georgia in that they're the benchmark to which often this program is compared but also one that seems to always get the best of your team. How do you handle that mental dynamic whether you're preparing your athletes to play them for a second time in such a short time span?

First off, what is the bogeyman? What did you reference it as?

I said Alabama is a bogeyman to Georgia football.

I don't know exactly what that is, so it's hard for me to answer that question, other than they've also been a problem and a thorn for any team they've played besides ours. We have that in common with a lot of teams they've played, they have a really good football team, really good coach, really good program. 

It starts with really good football players. And they've done a good job recruiting those. And the I think when you look at the skill set of some of the guys they've had come through there, and I know myself, just looking at the last two or three times we've played them, I think somebody said either six or seven first-round wideouts have all played. And that skill set is pretty unique. I don't think there's any team in the country that's had, however many it's been, the run they've had on those. And it makes -- you've got to play well. You've got to play well in the red area. You've got to play well situational football. You can't turn the ball over and expect to beat good football teams. Those are things that we have done when we played them. We turned it over. And we can't do that. 

But as far as the mental capacity, mental mindset of our guys, they're excited. They earned another opportunity to go play a really good football team. Now we've got a really good football team. Our guys are physical, excited and looking forward to this opportunity on the biggest stage there is.

You guys didn't get much pressure on Bryce Young in the first meeting. What can you do to change that and how important a dynamic is that in this game?

It's really important. They did a good job -- number one, he did a good job of moving around in the pocket, of creating time. He's really way more illusive than people give him credit for. Extremely good athlete. Has elite spatial awareness. He knows where people are, where his people are, where he's protected, where he's going with the ball beforehand. And it wasn't for a lack of trying. And we brought a lot of different pressures. They did a good job picking those pressures up. 

And at the end of the day, there's four or five guys that are one-on-one up there. Somebody's got to win one-on-one. And a lot of times you're better at pressure when you're not on the field as long and you're winning some third downs. We had some really critical third-down losses that, hey, they didn't beat us. We busted. And you can't do that, not and beat a good football team. You're giving them extra snaps every time that happens, and you can't do that.

Wanted to ask you, I think one of the remarkable things about these two programs is that obviously you recruit a lot of good players, but so many to the point where I think people will ask, wow, if you want to play early, wouldn't it be better to go someplace else because there are so many good players on these rosters. How do you sell in recruiting even if you don't play right away, this is still the best place for you to be surrounded by these other great players?

Because the truly great players understand that no NFL scout or general manager or head coach has called me and said how much time did Roquan Smith, how much did Nakobe Dean play as a freshman. That's not what they care about. They care about the intangibles, size-speed criteria, leadership skills, how good a football player are they in year three. That's what they want. They start evaluating those guys really hard in year three. You want to be the best player you can be in three years. 

Where do you go to do that? You go where you can compete against really good people in practice. You get millions more snaps in practice than you do in a game. So you want to go against the best, where does the best pass rusher want to go? Against the best tackles. Where does the best tackle want to go? Against the best pass rushers. Where am I going to develop the best? Where have they proven that they can take me from a really talented player to a disciplined team-buy-in, NFL-type offense and defense and special teams and they can grow? 

The kids looking for that, they can find that at these programs. So it's an easier decision than you think, because it's not just about playing early. I've seen a lot of guys play early and not get better and not grow, not have the same nutrition, the same strength staff. And they might not leave as good as they would have, but they played early. I've seen some guys get inpatient here and there and leave and have regret over leaving because if they had stayed they would have been a better football player for staying.

Obvious storyline is Kirby Smart versus Nick Saban. I know the players on the field decide it, but this is your sixth year building this program. I guess this would be your fifth straight top-10 finish. Do you embrace that, or is it something that you prefer to downplay? And in terms of just how fluid is it in game -- I think we've seen you lead at halftime in three out of these previous four matchups. It looks like a chess match from the outside. How true would that be?

It's been games of momentum. They've done a good job at momentum in the second half. Each game has been different. And it will never be about he and I. I know he won't make it that and I won't make it that, because that's for you guys to do that. 

It's about the players. It's about those guys making plays and putting them in a position to be successful and the guys that, the players that make the meaningful plays, the plays that are conversions -- the red areas, the turnovers or not turnovers, the explosive plays that determines the outcomes of games, not he and I.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Post Game Notes

Dawgs Return To The CFP And Headed To National Championship Game: Tonight Georgia made its second appearance in the College Football Playoff, again as a No. 3 seed, and beat 2nd seed Michigan 34-11. The MVPs were seniors Stetson Bennett (offense: 21-for-31, 307 yards, 3 TDs; 3 rushes, 32 yards) and Derion Kendrick (Defense: 2 INTs, 5 tackles) The first time in the CFP came when the 2017 SEC Champions outlasted No. 2 seed Oklahoma 54-48 in double overtime in the Rose Bowl Game. Then, it fell to No. 4 seed Alabama 26-23 in overtime in the National Championship Game in Atlanta.

Up next, Georgia will face No. 1 seed Alabama (13-1) in the 2022 National Championship Game on Jan. 10 in Indianapolis. UA won the 2021 SEC Championship over #1 UGA 41-24 in Atlanta on Dec. 4. UA leads the all-time series 42-25-4 and has won the last seven meetings with four of those during the Kirby Smart era.

Staunch Defensive Effort To Advance To CFP National Championship Game: Georgia entered as the national leader in Scoring Defense at 9.5 ppg while UM was averaging 37.7 ppg, and the Dawgs won 34-11. UM tallied 325 yards on 63 plays. Georgia leads the nation in Red Zone Defense, and UM was just 1-for-3 including a fourth down stop at the UGA 6 in the fourth quarter. Opponents have made 28 trips this year and 12 times have come away with no points. UM got its lone TD with 4:25 left in the contest, trailing 34-3.

Tonight’s leading tackler was junior Nolan Smith with eight stops and a sack followed by 2021 Butkus Award winner junior Nakobe Dean with 7 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack and a forced fumble (recovered by Devonte Wyatt). Georgia forced a total of three turnovers but did not convert any into points. Dean and senior Robert Beal collected sacks in the first half as they lead the team with 6 and 5.5 this year. Overall, Georgia had four sacks to give them 45 this year.

Senior Derion Kendrick notched two interceptions and five tackles. He collected his 2nd INT to stop UM’s opening drive of the 2nd half, catching it in the endzone. The two INTs tied a Dawg bowl record held by seven others. Tonight was the first 2-INT game by a Dawg since Richard LeCounte versus Arkansas in 2020. Kendrick had a big CFP semifinal game while at Clemson versus Ohio State in a 2019 Fiesta Bowl win, tallying nine tackles and 2 PBU.

Bennett Leads Offense: Coming in tonight, the Dawgs were averaging 39.4 points per game and posted a 34-11 win over No. 2 Michigan who was allowing just 16.1 ppg. Georgia finished with 515 yards of total offense on 67 plays. At the half, Georgia had built a 27-3 lead on 330 yards of total offense on 36 plays.

Senior QB Stetson Bennett improved to 13-3 as a starter (10-1 this year). In the first half, he went 16-for-21 for 234 yards and 2 TDs to nine different receivers. He completed his first nine passes for 92 yards before his first incompletion. With 1:38 left in the first half, he connected for a 57-yard TD pass to Jermaine Burton that finished a 37-second drive in three plays covering 69 yards and made it 27-3. He completed a 39-yard TD pass to James Cook to make it 34-3 with 11:11 left in the game.

The leading receiver was freshman TE Brock Bowers (6 rec., 56 yards, 1 TD), and the leading rusher was senior Zamir White with 54 yards on 12 carries. Senior James Cook had 32 yards on six attempts, and he also had three catches for 99 yards.

Georgia took a 7-0 lead, driving 80 yards on seven plays in 4:11 to start the game. The drive was capped by a nine-yard TD pass from Bennett to Bowers. For Bowers, it was his school record 12th TD reception and his 50th overall catch, which also is a record for tight ends in a season. Georgia went up 14-0 after a halfback pass from Kenny McIntosh to AD Mitchell for 18 yards. It was the first TD pass by a running back since Thomas Brown to Joe Tereshinski (QB) for 9 yards against UF in 2005.

Orange Bowl History: Georgia made its fourth appearance in the Orange Bowl, and the first since 1960 when it blanked Missouri 14-0. The Dawgs are now 3-1 in Orange Bowls. Georgia’s first-ever bowl game was the 1942 Orange Bowl where the No. 20 Dawgs defeated No. 14 TCU 40-26 to cap a 9-1-1 season. Georgia made its 25 consecutive appearance in a bowl game tonight which is the nation’s longest active streak. Overall, the Dawgs have played in 58 bowl games and own a mark of 34-21-3. Georgia is now 2-1 versus Michigan with the other two meetings coming during the regular season in Ann Arbor in 1957 and 1965.

2021 Senior Class Ties Win Marks: Georgia’s senior class now improves to 44-8, and that ties for the most wins by a senior class, joining the 2005, 2018 and 2020 teams. Also, Georgia became only the third team in school history to win a record 13 games in a year, joining the 2002 and 2017 squads.

Summary of Specialists: Junior Jack Podlesny went 2-for-3 on field goals (good from 28 and 43 yards; missed 45) and 4-for-4 on PATs. He is 20-for-25 in FGs and 68-for-69 on PATs. Senior Jake Camarda had two punts (45.5 avg) and handled kickoffs.

Game Captains/Coin Toss: The captains were Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean, Jamaree Salyer and Zamir White. Michigan won the toss and deferred until the 2nd half.