Ten@10: UGA’s linebackers give Dogs’ defense a chance

Georgia's linebacking corps, which includes starters Amarlo Herrera (52), Jordan Jenkins (59), Ramik Wilson (51) and Leonard Floyd, was ranked No. 1 in the nation by analyst Phil Steele. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Georgia’s linebacking corps, which includes starters Amarlo Herrera (52), Jordan Jenkins (59), Ramik Wilson (51) and Leonard Floyd, was ranked No. 1 in the nation by analyst Phil Steele. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)


1. A lot of folks aren’t sure how good Georgia’s defense will be in 2014, but everybody seems to be fairly certain the Bulldogs’ linebackers are going to be good. And I tend to agree with that.

Three of Georgia’s four linebackers were named to the Bednarik Award watch list released on Monday. Now say what you will about watch lists (more on that later), but the Bednarik trophy is supposed to go to the nation’s best overall defensive player, so Georgia having three representations gives you an idea why the reputable Phil Steele has ranked its 2014 linebacker corps as No. 1 in the nation. And last time I checked, the one that was left off – senior Amarlo Herrera – is pretty doggone good.

The leader of the pack is Ramik Wilson. The 6-foot-2, 232-pound senior inside linebacker not only led the SEC in tackles this past season with 133, he led it by a goodly portion. He had 20 more than the No. 2 tackler (Missouri’s now graduated Andrew Wilson) and 21 more than the No. 3 guy – who happens to be Herrera. Hence, Wilson was recently named to Steele’s first-team preseason All-America team.

But Georgia is not just stacked in the middle of the second line. The Bulldogs also feature a one-two punch on the outside with pass-rushing specialists Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins. Those two combined for 11.5 sacks a year ago. Just a sophomore and a junior this season, respectively, they figure to be even more effective in their second season playing together. And Georgia is stocked with talent behind them, with Josh Dawson, James DeLoach, Davin Bellamy and 5-star signee Lorenzo Carter ready to come in.

Georgia’s pretty solid on the defensive front as well. Without question, secondary play is a huge concern this year and will be a major focus when preseason camp begins in 22 days. But the Bulldogs’ front seven could help alleviate some pressure by creating some.

Just thought I’d share that to break up all the doom and gloom regarding the Dogs’ defense.

This guy's up for some awards (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

This guy’s up for some awards (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

2. Todd Gurley also had his named dropped on a watch list this week. Gurley was one of 74 players nationwide who somebody thinks should be considered for the Maxwell Award.

The Maxwell is designed to go to “the player of the year in college football,” though it usually goes to an offensive player and most often to a quarterback.
Of course, if Gurley is expected to contend for that award, then he also should be up for the Heisman Trophy, which goes to the “outstanding player in college football.” I’ve never really understood the difference in those two phrases. By my calculations, the same person wins both awards 47 percent of the time (35 of 75), but just once in the last five years. But I digress.

Again, I don’t think winning either is a stretch for Gurley, especially if he can somehow stay healthy for a full season. I went back the other day and reviewed Gurley’s numbers from last year. If you merely glanced at his stat line – 986 yards rushing and 10 TDs in 10 games – you wouldn’t be overly impressed. You’d be more impressed adding in his 441 receiving yards and 6 TDs. That’s 1,430 total yards and 16 scores.

But then there’s this: Consider all the time Gurley missed in the games he did play in. He didn’t play for close to two quarters against Clemson due to a thigh injury, left the LSU game early in the second quarter with an ankle injury, missed the next three games, sat out an extended period of the Florida game with a conditioning issue and played very little against App State and Kentucky. In fact, he had 20 or more carries in just four of the Bulldogs’ games.

I realize some of that is Georgia’s philosophy, keeping its tailbacks fresh and helping ensure they leave Athens with “plenty of tread on the tires,” so to speak. And the Bulldogs will have plenty of options to do that again this season, with the return of a healthy Keith Marshall and Brendan Douglas and the addition of 5-star signees Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.

But there was good reason offensive coordinator Mike Bobo emphasized conditioning and durability for Gurley in the spring. Expect to see more of him. The 6-foot-1, 232-pound tailback averaged 20 touches in 10 games a year ago. If he averages 25 in 12 games, Gurley chances of winning one of those awards – or both — are pretty good, in my opinion.

3. All that said, “watch lists” aren’t something you can put a whole lot of stock in. They’re great publicity-getters for the people handing out awards and give one a general glimpse of who might be a player to watch in any given year. On that note, senior center David Andrews was named to the Rimington Trophy watch and junior tight end Jay Rome was included on the John Mackey list late Tuesday morning.

But the reality is, you don’t have to be on any watch lists to actually win any of these awards. I might be mistaken but I’m fairly certain neither Johnny Manziel nor Jameis Winston were on any watch lists the year they left the New York with a certain significant trophy. Wonder who that darkhorse may be this year.



4. One last thing on Chris Conley’s burgeoning film career. By now most everyone knows that his Star Wars tribute short film, Retribution, was released this past Saturday and has been enjoying mostly-positive reviews. At last check it had more than 125,000 views on Conley’s YouTube channel, which now has well over 300 subscribers.

Meanwhile, it’s below the video window in the comments section of Conley’s YouTube page that we learn from the Bulldogs’ highly-decorated receiver that he is already working another project. And this one apparently won’t have anything to do with Star Wars.

“Thank you everyone for the support. Couldn’t have done it without my production team: Grayson Holt on the VFX, Davis Harwell with the Score (http://www.davisharwellmusic.com/) , and Spirit World Productions. I am currently finishing up another script (non Star Wars) that we are going to be shooting in the Classic City as well. Details to come.” – Christian Conley.

5. Speaking of Conley, he was part of the UGA football contingent that made two trips down to Rutledge the last two weeks for the annual Camp Sunshine gathering at Camp Twin Lakes. Each year about this time the Bulldogs take the 45-minute bus ride to the 500-acre camping facility for children with various forms of disabilities. The specific purpose of the Bulldogs’ visits is to interact with children battling cancer. UGA produced a nice video account of one of team’s visits last week.

This is truly one of the greatest Georgia football traditions there is. While the Bulldogs have done it continuously under coach Mark Richt and more attention is brought to it today through multiple social media outlets, it has been going on since Vince Dooley was still the football coach in the 1980s.

6. Good to see Georgia and coach Mark Fox pull off a significant recruiting victory this week. William “Turtle” Jackson, a 6-foot-4, 4-star-rated, point guard prospect from Athens, was committed to defending national champion UConn but flipped to the Bulldogs on Monday.

At least part of the reason Jackson changed his mind is the Huskies recently recruited another player to his position, according to Michael Carvell’s report. Nevertheless, you know it was important for the Bulldogs to secure the services of an elite player that attends high school seven miles from Stegeman Coliseum.

That’s was a continuation of some strong recruiting work by UGA’s staff. Remember, they pried away 6-foot-8 freshman power forward Yante Maten of Michigan from Michigan State and Indiana back in April.

While the Bulldogs were successful in flipping Jackson, however, it didn’t work out so well for another promising prospect. Daniel Giddens, a 6-foot-10 center out of Wheeler High and a 4-star-rated recruit, committed to Ohio State last week. Georgia apparently wanted him badly.

Ladies, Ryan Lochte will be swimming in UGA's pool this week. (AP photo by Daniel Ochoa De Olza)

Ladies, Ryan Lochte will be swimming in UGA’s pool this week. (AP photo by Daniel Ochoa De Olza)

7. I don’t know that much about swimming but I’ve watched enough Olympics to know names like Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte and Amanda Weir. Those are just a few of the world-class swimmers who will descend on UGA’s Gabrielsen Natatorium this week to compete in the “Bulldog Grand Slam.”

Don’t let the meet’s name fool you. This is not a UGA joint. It’s actually being hosted by the Athens Bulldog Swim Club. Of course, the ABSC is headed by Harvey Humphries, who is the associate head coach – and currently interim head coach — of the Georgia Bulldogs.

According to inside-swimming reports, it was a last-minute, kind-of-thrown-together meet to give the top U.S. swimmers a chance to take part in another event this summer. The most important competitions of the summer are just around the corner: The national championships in Irvine, Calif., Aug. 6-10 and Pan Pacific Championships Aug. 21-25 in Australia.

Anyway, if you’re into world-class swimming, they’ll be competing over at the Ramsey Center Thursday through Sunday. Phelps, who is coming out of retirement, is scheduled to compete in the 100-meter butterfly on Friday, the 100 backstroke Saturday, and the 100 freestyle on Sunday. Lochte will go against Phelps in the butterfly and also is registered for the 200 free, the 200 IM and the 200 back.

It remains to be seen how much Lochte can actually do. He’s coming off a knee injury caused by an overzealous fan jumping into his arms and knocking him down last November.

8. Sadly, while the best swimmers in the world are swimming in Georgia’s pool, legendary swim coach Jack Bauerle will be literally on the other side of the world.
Bauerle, who is currently under suspension by UGA and under investigation by the NCAA, left on an extended trip to Taiwan this past Friday. That was the day after UGA released to the public its official response to the NCAA allegations. He also has a trip planned to Indonesia at the end of August. So, yes, you could say Coach Bauerle intends to get away for a bit.

9. Kansas City Chiefs and former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray made an appearance on the Bachelorette last night. His older brother, Josh Murray, is a finalist on that show, which has multiple bachelors vying for the hand of one woman, in this case Atlanta’s Andi Dorfman. Last night featured the family-visit stage of the contest, so it was shot at the Murray’s home in Tampa.

10. This & that: After winning the NCAA heptathlon title in mid-June, UGA freshman Kendell Williams of Marietta captured the 100-meter hurdles championship at the USATF Junior Championships in Eugene, Ore., this past weekend. Williams clocked her third American Junior record of 2014 with a school-record time of 12.87 seconds. That topped the country’s former No. 1 mark of 12.91 set by Kristi Castlin in Gainesville, Fla., in 2007.Georgia’s Michael Cromie, defeated favored Corey Conners 4&3 in the championship match to become the first player in history to win both the North & South Junior Amateur (2007) and the North & South Men’s Amateur. Cromie completed his collegiate eligibility in May. … Georgia gymnastics signee Natalie Vaculik will enroll at UGA this fall and compete for the Gym Dogs in 2015, coach Danna Durante said this week. Vaculik, a member of the Canadian national team, signed with the Gym Dogs in April. She won the bars at the Elite Canada competition earlier this year and finished second while leading Canada to a second place finish at the 2013 Massilia Open in France.

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