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Ten@10: Georgia football is back in action

The return of tailback Nick Chubb gives the Georgia Bulldogs a lot to be excited about heading into spring practices, which begin Tuesday. (UGA photo)

The return of tailback Nick Chubb gives the Georgia Bulldogs a lot to be excited about heading into spring practices, which begin Tuesday. (UGA photo)

THE TEN AT 10:

1. We interrupt all this talk of seeding and brackets to bring you this gentle reminder: Football is back!

The Georgia Bulldogs return to Woodruff Practice Fields this afternoon for spring practice. Sophomore tailback Nick Chubb will lead the Bulldogs through the first three of 15 practices this week. The annual G-Day spring game will be held April 11 at Sanford Stadium, then will be followed by two more practices later that week.

The Bulldogs are coming off a 10-3 season in which they finished among the nation’s Top 10 teams for the ninth time in Mark Richt’s 14 years as head coach. Sixteen of 25 starters return from that team, including seven off Georgia’s record-breaking offense.

Coaches are eager to get a look at QB Jacob Park operating the No. 1 offense. (UGA photo)

Coaches are eager to get a look at QB Jacob Park operating the No. 1 offense. (UGA photo)

Priorities for the spring period include identifying a starting quarterback among Brice Ramsey, Faton Bauta and Jacob Park, finding a center to succeed David Andrews, establishing  new starters at inside linebacker, identifying some new play-makers at receiver and in the defensive backfield and settling on a new rotation on the defensive line.

And, of course, the Bulldogs’ offensive players will have to make the adjustment to four new position coaches, including new coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Schottenheimer. You can CLICK HERE for a full preview of Georgia’s spring workouts.

Georgia is one of the last of the SEC’s 14 teams to get spring practice under way. Ten other programs have already been going at it, including Vanderbilt, which holds its spring game on Saturday.

2. Of course, there is a lot of excitement regarding Georgia’s first NCAA Tournament bid for the men’s basketball team since 2011. The Bulldogs (21-11) drew a 10 seed and will face seventh-seeded Michigan State (23-11) on Friday at 12:40 p.m. in Charlotte.

Thornton

Thornton

It’s just the 12th appearance in program history and the first for everybody on the 2015 team except senior Marcus Thornton. Thornton, who received a medical redshirt after his third knee injury three years ago, was a freshman on the 2011 squad. That team also drew a 10 seed and went to Charlotte to face Washington.  The Bulldogs lost 68-65.

Thornton feels like that last team might have been a little more in awe of getting to play in the NCAA. This one, which has already played the likes of Kentucky and five other 2015 NCAA tournament teams, is a little more focused on the challenge ahead, he said.

“This team is excited about the opportunity but also very much determined to go and win games in the NCAA tournament,” Thornton said. “Obviously we’ve played some good teams, not just Kentucky, but Gonzaga at a neutral site. I think this team is very equipped to be very competitive and be very well-rounded when we play on Friday.”

As veteran-laden as this squad is and as certain as everybody seemed to be they’d get a bid, the Bulldogs were genuinely excited and obviously relieved when their name was called during Sunday’s selection show. They watched the proceedings at a private party at the home of coach Mark Fox. You can see a video of the moment HERE on georgiadogs.com.

Much more on Georgia’s tournament adventures coming this week.

3. Andy Landers has long had an on-court reputation for being tough on his players. Less recognized, however, is his softer side and the tremendously close relationships he maintains with all of his players, past and present.

“It’s been great playing for him,” senior Krista Donald said Monday. “He’s been the type of coach you just cherish.”

Legendary Georgia women's basketball coach Andy Landers talks to players of his present and past in Mackenzie Engram (L) and Carla Green Williams after his retirement announcement on Monday. (Photo by Chip Towers)

Legendary Georgia women’s basketball coach Andy Landers talks to players of his present and past in Mackenzie Engram (L) and Carla Green Williams after his retirement announcement on Monday. (Photo by Chip Towers)

Said freshman Mackenzie Engram: “Sometimes he’s hard on you on the court, but he’s one of the most important, special, amazing men in my life. I know we’ll stay in touch and always be there for one another.”

Those are two of the players that currently play for Landers. But as you can tell from the outpouring emotional reaction that came from his past players, it’s obvious that he has maintained close relationships with his players for the long haul.

“I really can’t conceptualize this to be honest with you,” said Teresa Edwards, Lady Bulldog letterwinner from 1983-86 and five-time U.S. Olympian. “It’s going to take a little time. It’s almost unfair I didn’t get a chance to say ‘No, coach. Come on…don’t do it.’ After playing for Coach Landers, I had to judge every other coach I had by him and no one compared. You don’t think about this when you’re playing, but he’s bigger than the game. He’s one helluva coach but that doesn’t compare to the man I love.”

Said Angie (Ball) Watson, captain of 32-4 team in 1999-2000: “Aside from my parents, I don’t know that there’s been a more influential person in my life in a positive way. He helped instill in me mental toughness that I have today as a mom and a wife. Most of all of that comes from Coach Landers. I’m in complete shock and blown away that he’s retiring right now.”

Carla Williams, UGA Deputy Director of Athletics and former Lady Bulldog player and assistant coach:
“I have known Coach since I was 14 years old, and he has helped to shape who I am today both professionally and personally. He, along with Pam, Andrea and Drew, have sacrificed a lot through the years for a program we all love dearly. I’m thankful to him for giving me a chance to attend the University of Georgia as a player and I’m also thankful to him for giving me a chance to be a part of his coaching staff. His impact is immeasurable.”

4. Williams, who played under Landers in the 1980s as Carla Green, will lead the search to find the new women’s basketball coach at Georgia. At least three candidates emerged immediately.

Michael Shafer, who was a longtime assistant for Landers, is currently the winningest coach of all time at Richmond. Sharon Baldwin, who played and coached for Landers, just completed her fifth season at Georgia State. She was named the Naismith assistant coach of the year when she was with the Bulldogs in 1996. And Joni Crenshaw, currently associate head coach for Landers, has a great reputation in the business.

At Landers’ retirement announcement on Monday, Athletic Director Greg McGarity said the Bulldogs would be conducting a national search.

Todd Gurley went to the NFL combine in Indianapolis and talked to teams and reporters but couldn't compete. (NFL photo)

Todd Gurley went to the NFL combine in Indianapolis and talked to teams and reporters but couldn’t compete. (NFL photo)

5. Todd Gurley will be among 21 Bulldogs who will work out for pro scouts during UGA’s annual Pro Day on Wednesday at the Butts-Mehre Football Complex. Gurley, who had ACL reconstructive surgery three months ago, will be limited in what he can do for scouts physically. Richt doesn’t think that will hurt him significantly in the draft.

“He’s a beast,” Richt said with a grin. “He’s a great player. If someone needs a great back, he’d be my first pick, no doubt.”

Wide receiver Michael Bennett, who injured his knee in the Belk Bowl, will also be limited in what he can do for scouts but is expected to participate to whatever extent he can.

Other Bulldogs expected to be put through the paces by NFL scouts include: C David Andrews, DB Tristan Askew, OL Mark Beard, WR Chris Conley, OL Watts Dantzler, DL Ray Drew, WR Michael Erdman, K/P Adam Erickson, LB Amarlo Herrera, LB Jack Loonam QB Hutson Mason, FB Taylor Maxey, LB A.J. McDonald, DB Corey Moore, WR Jonathan Rumph, DB Damian Swann, DL Michael Thornton, LB Kosta Vavlas and LB Ramik Wilson.

6. Gus Felder, the UGA football strength and conditioning coach whose house was severely damaged by fire this past week, sent a letter of gratitude to the Bulldogs’ fans and others who have come forward to help the family. As of Tuesday morning, more than $35,000 of the goal of $40,000 has been raised by 312 people who donated to the gofundme account established for the Felders by Calvary Bible Church.

Felder and his wife Kelly and five children were living in a house in Bogart when a dryer caught fire in the upstairs bonus room late at night last week. Felder was awake and was able to evacuate his family before the upper floor was consumed by fire.

7. Georgia (12-8, 0-3 SEC) got off to a shaky start in SEC baseball play this past weekend at Foley Field as it was the victim of a three-game sweep by Missouri. The Tigers’ pitchers shut down the Bulldogs, holding them to five runs and registering 29 strikeouts in the series. Georgia hit .156 and was outscored 19-5.

Scott Stricklin's club is struggling.

Scott Stricklin’s club is struggling.

That completed a 10-game homestand at 6-4. Seven of Georgia’s next 10 games will be on the road to close out the month of March. That starts Tuesday with a rare road trip to Macon to play Mercer (11-11). The Bulldogs return SEC action at Tennessee (8-8, 1-2 SEC) on Friday.

For the season, Georgia is batting .287 with 20 home runs and has been successful in 29-of-35 stolen base attempts. The team ERA is a solid 2.88 while the Bulldogs own a .976 fielding percentage. All Georgia Baseball games are broadcast on the Georgia Bulldog Sports Radio Network from IMG.

8. The Georgia men’s golf team won the newly reestablished Southern Intercollegiate Championships at Athens Country Club on Monday.

The Bulldogs fired a 1-under-par 575 in the 36-hole event to post a 13-shot victory over Georgia State. The title was Georgia’s third this season and the 56th in coach Chris Haack’s career. The Bulldogs were led by senior Nicholas Reach and junior Sepp Straka, who posted 1-under 143s and wound up fourth. Medalist honors went to Georgia State’s J.J. Grey at 4-under 140.

The SICs were the brainchild of Georgia Athletic Director Herman Stegeman and Athens Country Club founder Lon Dudley in 1934. The first tournament was held in 1935 and ran annually through 1942. It resumed in 1946 and was held through 1965, then was relaunched in 1975 and ran through 1990.

Previous medalists include Wake Forest’s Arnold Palmer (1950), Oklahoma State’s Bob Tway (’79) in 1979 and Centenary’s Hal Sutton in (‘80). Georgia’s winners include Lester Kelly in 1955, Bob Moser in 1959, Cobby Ware in 1960, Vinny Giles in 1966, Chip Beck in 1976, 1977 and 1978, Paul Claxton in 1989 and Franklin Langham in 1990.

“We’re just as happy that we can dust off the old SICs name,” Haack said. “We’ve enjoyed reading about the history of the event and what is means to our program and to Athens. Some of the giants of golf have played in this tournament.

The Bulldogs will return to action Saturday and Sunday in the Linger Longer Invitational. Georgia is the defending champion.

The GymDogs and junior Mary Beth Box are hoping to carry momentum from their win over Utah Saturday into this week's SEC Championships in Duluth. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

The GymDogs and junior Mary Beth Box are hoping to carry momentum from their win over Utah Saturday into this week’s SEC Championships in Duluth. (UGA photo by John Kelley)

9. Georgia will be looking for its first SEC title since 2008 when the fifth-seeded GymDogs join Arkansas (6), Kentucky (7) and Missouri (8) for the opening session of the conference championship meet Saturday at Gwinnett Arena. Seeds 1-4, Florida, LSU, Alabama and Auburn, will compete in the evening session at 6.

UGA goes into the meet on a good vibe. The ninth-ranked Bulldogs (5-6) knocked off previously undefeated Utah this past Saturday on Senior Night in Athens. They will start the SEC competition on vault and end it on floor. Georgia has won a 16 SEC titles, which is more than any other team. Florida and Alabama have nine and eight, respectively.

10. Powered by two national champions and a runner-up performance, the Georgia women highlighted the NCAA Indoor Championships by finishing third in Fayetteville, Ark., on Saturday.

The Bulldog men used two scorers to completed the two-day meet in a tie for 15th place.  This is the best finish for Georgia since the Bulldogs took sixth in 1995. But the Bulldogs lost multi-specialist Maicel Uibo in the meet and were disappointed overall.

“We didn’t reach our goals at this one, but we are happy that we were able to pull out a finish in the top three,” said coach Wayne Norton, whose women’s team finished in the top 10 for the third straight year and for the sixth time since 2004. “As track coaches, we tend to talk about meets as a good one or a bad one. We just happen to be an awesome team who had an average meet. There were a few places where we wanted some more points, but we did have many highlights.”

Williams

Williams

Sophomore Kendell Williams won Georgia its second NCAA individual title of the weekend and the third of her career as she set a collegiate record with 4,678 points in the pentathlon.  Senior Quintunya Chapman complemented Williams, who also set a collegiate record in the pentathlon’s 60-meter hurdles on Saturday, in the pentathlon by taking sixth.

Also on the women’s side, true freshman Keturah Orji finished second in the triple jump at the first NCAA meet of her career while senior Morgann Leleux scored two points for the Lady Bulldogs in the pole vault during the final indoor nationals of her career.


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