Ten@10: Former players help UGA freshmen make transition (updated)


1. We tend to think of freshmen football players arriving on campus as military recruits showing up for boot camp. And to be sure, there is an “indoctrination by fire” element to the whole process as they must adjust to intense academic and athletic rigors the likes of which they’ve never experienced.

But there is also an orientation process that takes place, too, and Georgia is taking steps to make sure that its young pups have a better idea of what they’re getting into on the front end and have a plan for dealing with it.

Former Bulldog Jermaine Phillips (R), who won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Bucs, makes a point to some UGA freshmen in a breakout session during Monday's freshman symposium at the Butts-Mehre. (Photo by Sean Bailey)

Former Bulldog Jermaine Phillips (R), who won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Bucs, makes a point to some UGA freshmen in a breakout session during Monday’s freshman symposium at the Butts-Mehre. (Photo by Sean Bailey)

A couple of former Bulldogs have stepped in to help with that process. Former UGA players Sean Bailey and Antavious Coates, along with their friend Hammond Moore, own a business called Breakout Training — https://www.facebook.com/breakouttraining — that assists young people in character education. With coach Mark Richt’s endorsement, they brought their program to Georgia this year and conducted a freshman symposium Monday evening for a couple dozen first-year players. The majority of the Bulldogs’ 2015 signing class reported to campus on Monday.

The idea is to give these newbies some insights and real-life advice from experience from former players actually went through what they’re about to go through. Bailey and Coates enlisted their five of their friends to assist them in that endeavor: Jermaine Phillips, Fernando Velasco, Rennie Curran, Richard Samuel and Des Williams.

“It was incredible. It was better than I could’ve imagined,” said Bailey, shortly after the event ended. “The way the guys interacted, I really feel like they received the message. There was so much passion in there and the interaction have with them was unbelievable. Coach Richt sat in on all of it. He was interactive during the whole process as well. So I was extremely proud to be part of today’s event.”

Sean Bailey (fourth from left) and several former Bulldogs gathered in Athens Monday night to advise Georgia's freshmen on making the transition to college life. (Photo from Sean Bailey)

Sean Bailey (fourth from left) and several former Bulldogs gathered in Athens Monday night to advise Georgia’s freshmen on making the transition to college life. The instructors were (L-R) Jermaine Phillips, Hammond Moore, Des Williams, Bailey, Rennie Curran, Richard Samuel, Fernando Velasco and Antavious Coates. (Photo from Breakout Training)

2. The fact that each one of those guys had varying degrees of on-field success at Georgia is not a coincidence. Phillips played eight years in the NFL and won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but his career ended abruptly, hastened by a domestic violence charge. Velasco and Curran are still playing pro football. Bailey started his last two years at Georgia as a flanker and led the team in average yards per catch (22.8) and won an SEC title as senior, but lasted only a year in pro ball. Samuel is only a couple of years removed from UGA, where he had a solid career. Coates and Williams both had their careers cut short by injuries.

“There was at least one guy up there everybody could relate to,” Bailey said.

The highlight, Bailey said, was toward the end when they broke out into several small, mentor-led groups for a self-awareness exercise. Each player was asked to list their strengths, weaknesses, dreams and goals and to talk about their failures and their morals. They then reconvened in a large group to discuss the common themes.

“They just kind of talked through different things in a very empathetic setting,” Bailey said. “It was nice to see the players take ownership of that and you could see the bond of that class start forming and it was just awesome. They received our information, took it in and were able to apply it to themselves and their teammates. That was the most powerful moment to me.”

3. Among the participants in Monday’s exercise were about 16 freshmen who were stepping onto campus as student-athletes for the first time. The Bulldogs were hoping that the last 21 of their 30 signees would have joined the team by now. But not all could be here yet.

Three of them — Pat Allen, Deandre Baker and Shaquery Wilson — simply had high school graduation ceremonies to attend. Meanwhile, defensive back Kirby Choates of East Point reportedly will not be ready to enroll until July.

That leaves Westlake defensive tackle DaQuan Hawkins as the lone question mark for the Class of 2015. The 6-foot-4, 302-pound athlete apparently still has some academic requirements to meet and will be attempting to do so. The hope is that Hawkins will be able to get that handled before preseason camp opens the first of August.

We found out a lot of interesting things about Roquan Smith when we visited him in Montezuma a couple of weeks ago. (AJC photo by Chip Towers)

We found out a lot of interesting things about Roquan Smith when we visited him in Montezuma a couple of weeks ago. (AJC photo by Chip Towers)

4. Speaking of freshmen, the “Next Generation” series I’ve been gathering information for over the past couple of weeks is set to begin later this week. The first installment in the six-part series will be on linebacker Roquan Smith of Macon County High.

Smith, you’ll recall, was the story of the day on national signing day in February when he announced on national television that he was going to sign with UCLA, only to change his mind later. After learning that the Bruins’ position coach that recruited him, Jeff Ulbrich, was leaving to take a position on the staff of the Atlanta Falcons, Smith decided he would attend Georgia instead.

But Smith became a precedent-setter when he opted not to sign a national letter-of-intent. Instead he agreed to a non-binding grant-in-aid, which meant he could change his mind again if he so desired. But Bulldogs fans – and coaches – were relieved when Smith checked into his East Campus Village dormitory on Monday and reported with the rest of the freshmen.

And now, he flat out refuses to discuss the whole UCLA debacle. I tried several times to get him to share some details about the experience and his interactions with them since, to no avail.

“I don’t really have a comment on that; I’m just going to let it lay where it lay,” Smith said. “I try not to remember that day. I’m just happy to be a Georgia Bulldog. My main focus is just getting up there and doing what I can do to get on the field and help my teammates out.”

5. It’s always interesting to find out what numbers each player is going to get when the new freshmen arrive on campus. There’s usually at least a little bit of a shakeup.

I was interviewing Juwuan Briscoe, the defensive back from Waldorf, Md., last week, and he told me that he’d requested the No. 3 from UGA, but didn’t know whether or not he was going to get it. That number was, of course, worn by tailback Todd Gurley they last three years. Briscoe wore 1 as a senior last year at Thomas Stone High and 2 as a junior.

And Terry “Showtime” Godwin, the 5-star wide receiver from Hogansville, wore the number 4 the last couple of years at Callaway High. But that currently belongs to junior tailback Keith Marshall.

Evidently , Godwin has inherited the No. 5 jersey that Damian Swann wore so well the last four years. That’s based on the fact that Godwin has changed the handle on his twitter account, @TerryGodwin_4, to “Cinco #5.”

6. Five is a number that is relevant to Georgia when it comes to Phil Steele’s recently-released All-SEC team. There were five Bulldogs that the respected analyst included on his preseason All-SEC team. They were tailback Nick Chubb and guard Greg Pyke on offense, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and defensive end Jordan Jenkins on defense and punt returner Isaiah McKenzie on special teams.

Chubb, a 1,500-yard rusher as a freshman last year, and Floyd, a junior coming off shoulder surgery, were also tabbed as first-team All-Americans by Steele. McKenzie was second team, Pyke third and Jenkins fourth.

As always, Steele went deep in his All-SEC evaluations. He picked four teams. Other Bulldogs represented were offensive tackle John Theus and Mckenzie as a kickoff returner on the second teams, outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter and safety Quincy Mauger on the third team, and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, defensive back Dominick Sanders and place-kicker Marshall Morgan on the fourth team.

7. [UPDATED] The Georgia men’s golf team defeated tournament host South Florida 4-1 on Tuesday morning in the match play quarterfinals of the NCAA Championships at Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. The Bulldogs advance to the semifinals to take on SEC champion LSU this afternoon at 1:30 p.m. Golf Channel’s live coverage will begin at 3:30 p.m.

Juniors Lee McCoy — who was named a First-Team All-American Tuesday morning — and Sepp Straka and freshman Zach Healy were the first three victors for the Bulldogs. Senior Mookie DeMoss was leading and sophomore Greyson Sigg was trailing when play was halted.

This is the Bulldogs’ third appearance in match play since that format was adopted for the 2009 season and they are now 3-0 in quarterfinal matches. Georgia went 1-1 in 2009 and 2-1 in 2011. The Bulldogs won national championships in 1999 and 2005, both under Coach Chris Haack.

Georgia entered the NCAAs seeded 26th out of 30 teams and ranked 28th and 33rd in the two polls.

Said McCoy, “I’m pretty sure if they had a pre-NCAAs bracket, we would not have been on it. But here we are in the semifinals. We’re having the time of our lives.”

8. The Georgia track & field teams notched five more qualifiers in individual events and one relay team for the NCAA Championships after competing on the final day of the NCAA East Prelims Saturday evening in Jacksonville, Fla.

Freshman standout Keturah Orji, the 2015 SEC Outdoor Champion and American junior record holder in the triple jump, finished first in her signature event with a mark of 43-10.75. Orji owns a school-record mark of 46-4.25, which came just a few weeks ago at the SEC Championships.

Also qualifying on the day were Tatiana Gusin, Leontia Kallenou and Chanice Porter in the high jump and Nick Vena in the shot put. The men’s 4×400 meter relay team of Ayrian Evans, Drew Branch, Jamario Calhoun and Raytez Jenkins also qualified for Nationals with a season-best mark of 3:05.12.

The 4x400m relay squad won their heat and finished seventh overall, in addition to moving into eighth all time in the school record books. The squad of Branch, Calhoun, Jenkins and Reggie Glover turned in a time of 3:05.73 earlier this season, which currently ranks tied for 10th in school history.

The top 12 finishers in each event from both the East and West (Austin, Texas) regions advance to the finals of the NCAA Championships. Multi event athletes Garrett Scantling and Maicel Uibo (decathlon) and Quintyuna Chapman and Kendell Williams (heptathlon) have already qualified for Nationals.

9. Congratulations to recently-matriculated Bulldog Jonathon Rumph. The former junior college transfer who could never get his career off the ground at Georgia landed a free-agent deal with the New York Jets. He was one of 24 players to try out for the team.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound receiver from Cayce, S.C., showed glimpses of ability while with the Bulldogs. But his efforts were continually hampered by a chronic hamstring problem. Rumph played in five games for Georgia. He made 11 catches for 176 yards and a touchdown. He missed the season’s first eight games because of a hamstring injury.

10. This & that: Nice little update in USA Today on Mike Bobo and his adventures at Colorado State. We’ll be heading out to Fort Collins to visit the former UGA quarterback and longtime offensive coordinator later this summer. … UGA offensive lineman Matt Stinchcomb (1995-98) and defensive back Scott Woerner (1977-80) are on the 2016 College Football Hall of Fame ballot.

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