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Georgia looks to make a statement against #20 Arizona State

Tom Crean’s Hoop Hounds will be looking to establish some momentum when they play host to Arizona State tonight in Stegeman Coliseum.

The Bulldogs (5-3) have been up and down in Crean’s inaugural season, showing flashes of explosiveness (especially offensively) but at times have also looked like a team learning new schemes. The Sun Devils (7-1) will be the stiffest competition they’ve faced by a mile. Coach Bobby Hurley’s team just suffered their first setback of the season, losing to #6 Nevada a week ago after leading the Wolfpack by 12 at the intermission.

This is a tournament level team coming off a hard loss to a great team. Georgia meanwhile hasn’t played in 12 days since dispatching Texas Southern at the Stege back on December 3rd. Talk about a rough group to knock the rust off against. On the flipside, if the Red and Black can hang with this group, it could be a nice confidence booster for the looming conference schedule.

Tip-off is at 6:00 pm Athens standard time with television coverage on the SEC Network. This will be our official Open Thread for the night’s festivities.

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

Let’s Go Bowlin’: Your Saturday Bowl Open Thread

It’s bowl season everybody!

College football’s own exhibition season gets underway this afternoon with a series of games that won’t decide the national championship but nevertheless should be more entertaining than doing all the household chores you’ve been putting off since August.

Your full bowl season television schedule remains right here. For today the action kicks off at noon on ABC with Alcorn State and North Carolina A&T in the Celebration Bowl. 1:30 brings the Cure Bowl on the CBS Sports Network, pitting the school formerly known as Louisiana-Lafayette against Tulane in a Pelican State throwdown.

On ESPN at 2:00 pm there’s a matchup of surprisingly good football teams as North Texas takes on Utah State in the New Mexico Bowl. Fun fact: the New Mexico Bowl is the only annually televised sporting event which originates in the state of New Mexico. I think the rest of us kind of owe it to them to watch it.

The Las Vegas Bowl hits the air on ABC at 3:30. Herm Edwards’ Arizona State Sun Devils will be taking on the #21 ranked Fresno State Bulldogs. Fresno is the favorite, but let’s be honest, you should never bet against the Herminator. Oh, who am I kidding? You should always bet against Herm.

5:30 brings the Camellia Bowl between Eastern Michigan and Georgia Southern (ESPN). The Eagles are returning to the ranks of the bowl eligible. Your Georgia Southern fan neighbor is aware of this. But he still hates Tyson Summers. Which is a nice break for Brian Van Gorder.

Finally, at 9:00 pm Appalachian State and Middle Tennessee State square off in the New Orleans Bowl (also on ESPN). Let’s stay up together and see if Rick Stockstill becomes the eleventy-billionth person to make a bad late night decision in Nawlins.

We’ll have a separate thread this evening’s UGA basketball game against Arizona State. Until then, happy bowling, and....

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

Bulldog QB Commit Headed Elsewhere?

Georgia could be calling an audible on the class of 2019.

Rumors that John Rhys-Plumlee may be headed elsewhere for college could have a silver lining.

It was just last week that we were talking about the spectacular senior season put together by Bulldog quarterback commit John Rhys-Plumlee. This week, as Signing Day approaches 247Sports crystal ball predictions are pouring in for the Magnolia State star to stay home and go to Ole Miss.

What gives? There’s no doubt Georgia needs to sign a quarterback in this class. It seems that Rhys-Plumlee may be interested in playing another position. There’s also the very real possibility that the lure of the home state school may win out.

That being said, Georgia also appears to be trending up for a series of blue chip recruits at other positions. The ‘Dawgs also recently received a visit from Hawaii QB Dillon Gabriel, an impressive prospect who picked up an offer in November.

An optimistic mind might well view Plumlee’s potential defection as a chance for the Bulldogs to take only one quarterback and instead use a scholarship on offensive lineman Evan Neal or tailback Trey Sanders if one of those guys has surprisingly decided to come to Athens. We’ve reached the point at which Georgia has more elite players available than slots every single season.

In short, Kirby Smart is probably going to find a way to maximize the scholarships available. Until later...

Go ‘‘Dawgs!!!

Georgia pairs big commitment with not-so-subtle recommitments as Signing Day approaches

“Five stars to the left. . . .everyone else pick up your Georgia Tech orientation packet and Quick Lane Bowl goodie bag on the right.”

Obviously the big recruiting news of the day in Bulldog Nation is the commitment of Oxford, Alabama standout Clay Webb. But if you follow many Georgia recruits on social media you may have noticed that Webb wasn’t the only one making a big announcement today.

Many of Georgia’s committed prospects, including several who had been rumored to be considering other options, posted today about how solid their commitment to the University of Georgia is. As we have discussed on many occasions, in the world of Kirby Smart recruiting, there are no accidents. This seems like a pretty clear, coordinated effort to ward off any speculation and squash any momentum-stealing that might take place in the last none days before the early National Signing Day.

I can’t say whether it was Coach Smart’s idea specifically. Heck, it could have been Nolan Smith’s for all I know. But somebody decided today was a good day to quiet any doubts about how solid Georgia’s 2019 class is.

With several elite prospects still on the board, the message seems pretty clear: Georgia’s coaches and recruits want you to know that this class may be getting bigger, and the foundation it’s been built on isn’t getting any smaller. Until later . . .

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

Scouting report: Clay Webb

The headline is splashy all by itself. After all, it’s not every day that the state of Alabama’s top high school football prospect, and a five star offensive lineman at that, chooses the Georgia Bulldogs over the Alabama Crimson Tide.

But a closer look shows why Clay Webb’s commitment to the Red and Black is even better news than you imagined.

The eyeball test

Webb’s listed by various recruiting services around 6’3 and 295 pounds. Assuming that’s accurate he carries the weight pretty well. He has a solid lower body and will likely put on a few pounds in a college nutrition and strength program. I could see him playing in the 305-310 pound range early in his college career. Webb is an early enrollee, and those few months between January and July of 2019 could make a huge difference for him in this respect.

We’re less concerned with things like arm length with a center than with a left tackle, for instance. But Webb’s arm length is sufficient should he find himself blocking one-on-one in space.

The tale of the tape

There isn’t a lot of game footage on Webb from the last couple of seasons. His Hudl page doesn’t have anything from the last two years, for example.

But Webb’s been a frequent, impressive visitor to elite camps during that time, and there’s a good bit of footage of those performances. Here’s a mashup of some of his camp work from SB Nation Recruiting’s own Bud Elliott.

Two things stand out about Webb from this footage. One, ironically, is actually his feet. Webb’s got a quick foot set, which is critical at center. You’re looking for a guy to snap the ball and get his first two steps down as quickly as possible, whether pass setting or getting in position to run block.

The other thing I like is that he’s great at using his body to, and this is a very technical recruiting term, “fight in a phone booth.” At center you don’t have a lot of room to string guys down the line, use their momentum to carry them away from the plays, and engage in a lot of balletic jiu jitsu. You’ve got to win a man-on-man battle in a three foot by three foot box. Webb’s solid lower body mass and good, quick hip set allow him to do that against big, SEC-caliber bull rushers.

Webb is also a state champion heavyweight wrestler, and it shows. He has a wrestler’s intuitive understanding of leverage and the ability to adjust on the fly to take advantage of it. If Webb has any parts of his game that still need work, it would probably be dealing with faster, edge rushers, and stalemating bigger 3-4-type nose tackles. At this point he’s big, but not as big as he’ll need to be, and his preferred style of blocking (getting a body on defenders then sinking his hips to halt progress) doesn’t work against guys who are faster and use a lot of lateral movement/spin moves. See this Rivals Atlanta camp footage to get an idea of what I’m talking about.

There’s no such thing as a “can’t miss” prospect. But because of his athleticism and size Webb strikes me as a guy with a pretty high floor. I have a hard time imagining he won’t make an early impact.

Once Webb gets in optimal physical shape, he’s got the potential to be a multi-year starter at center. With Lamont Gaillard graduating the center spot in Athens is open. Trey Hill filled in admirably as a true freshman, but is probably more natural at guard. Clay Webb has a real shot to earn playing time, and eventually even the starting nod in the middle of the Bulldog line as a true freshman much like Ben Jones and Boss Andrews did before him. Until later . . .

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

Georgia pulls nation’s top center recruit away from Alabama

Kirby Smart and company picked up a huge commitment this morning with the announcement of Oxford, Alabama center Clay Webb that he’ll be playing his college football at the University of Georgia. Webb chose the ‘Dawgs over a host of other offers, primarily from his other finalists Alabama and Clemson. He’s ranked the #1 prospect in the state of Alabama and the #22 player in the country according to 247Sports composite rankings. In short, Webb is one of the bluest of blue chips.

Webb’s commitment is big news for a couple of reasons. Obviously nabbing one of the top offensive line recruits in the country is never, ever a bad thing. But the other aspect of this one that feels pretty good is that Georgia took him right out of Nick Saban’s back yard, and out of Saban’s potential recruiting class. Georgia wants to beat Alabama on the field, and I suspect that’s coming. But a major part of doing that is going to be beating the Tide on the recruiting trail. Recruiting is the life blood of college football. Getting the players the Red Elephants want and need starves them of the stream of blue chip talent Nick Saban’s built his empire on.

This is not the last head-to-head battle between the Tide and ‘Dawgs this recruiting season by any means. The two teams are also battling down to the wire for IMG Academy offensive tackle Evan Neal (the Tide are widely viewed as the favorite here), IMG tailback Trey Sanders (the nation’s top running back, again favored to pick the Tide), and Horn Lake, Mississippi linebacker Nakobe Dean (a toss up between the two, though Ole Miss may come into play as well) among others.

Army/Navy Game 2018: Time, Television, and Preview

At 3:00 p.m. eastern today CBS will televise the 119th iteration of the Army/Navy game (or, as it was known in my house growing up, the Navy/Army game).

Navy (3-9) holds a 60-51-7 series lead, owing largely to the fourteen game winning streak run up by the Midshipmen between 2002 and 2015. The Black Knights of the Hudson (9-2) however are winners of the last two meetings. Six of the last seven matchups have been decided by a touchdown or less.

Army is the favorite behind a solid option offense that’s averaging 7.48 plays per possession, over a play per possession better than the next closest team. The Black Knights are also looking to win the commander-in-Chief’s Trophy for the second year running for the first time in the Academy’s history.

This will serve as the official Dawg Sports headquarters and open thread for a game that both concludes the college football regular season and also means a lot personally to a lot of the folks who frequent this corner of the college football internet. So whether you sing Anchors Aweigh or The Army Goes Rolling Along, we’ve got you covered. Go Army! Go Navy! And . . .

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

Chapel Bell Curve: Sometimes the Blood-Dimmed Tide Gets Loose

Okay, six days is enough time.

It’s probably taken awhile for you to process Georgia’s SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama. Fortunately Nathan and Justin are a step ahead of you. They’ve processed it and podcasted it. I’m not sure which of the stages of grief that is, but it’s in there somewhere.

Looking to hear about how Georgia is cursed?

Want to commiserate about how Georgia “had this one won” until the fake punt?

Ready to fire Kirby Smart and find us a real ball coach?

Then you’re going to be disappointed. And probably sworn at. You probably had it coming.

It’s a sober look at how Georgia played an excellent football game against likely the best team in college football. It didn’t work out, just as the pregame stats said it likely wouldn’t. That happens sometimes.

There’s also a little look ahead to the Sugar Bowl and some Yeats. Full disclosure, like Alabama on a Georgia fake punt, I suspected the Yeats was coming. Unlike Alabama, I wasn’t entirely ready.

Be sure to listen, rate highly in your podcast ratin’ locale of choice, and tell your friends to do the same. Until later...

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

Deandre Baker wins Jim Thorpe Award

Bulldog fans have known for a while now that Deandre Baker is the best defensive back in college football. Now he’s got the hardware to prove it.

Baker was named the Jim Thorpe Award winner tonight as the nation’s top defensive back over fellow finalists Greedy Williams of LSU and Julian Love of Notre Dame. Father Deandre as he is known on the Chapel Bell Curve podcast was a force during his senior season. Baker ties for the team lead with 2 interceptions, which isn’t terribly impressive. But he also had 10 pass breakups, a pretty impressive number given that teams tried desperately to avoid him all season.

Great job, Deandre. And...

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

Georgia in home to visit elite defensive back

‘Tis the season for college football coaches to hit the recruiting trail, and the Bulldog coaches are definitely earning their share of frequent flyer miles.

Georgia has been on a continuing journey to upgrade its defensive backfield in the last two recruiting classes. Five of the nine cornerbacks set to be on the Bulldog roster in 2019 will be juniors, so it’s going to be important to pick up at least two and probably three guys capable of contributing at the position as part of the class that will sign on December 19th.

Today a pair of Bulldog coaches stopped by to see one of the prime candidates for one of those slots.

Kaiir Elam out of North Palm Beach, Florida is rated a four star prospect by 247Sports, the #7 cornerback in the nation and the #8 player in the Sunshine State. At 6’1, 182 pounds Elam has drawn interest at safety, corner, and receiver. He holds offers from most of the major college football powers, but it looks like Georgia’s main competition for his signature will be the Florida Gators. I hate Gators, by the way. Just thought I’d point that out.

For the record, the gentleman joining Elam and receivers coach Cortez Hankston in that picture is former UGA standout Bacarri Rambo, who’s been elevated to a recruiting role from his graduate assistant spot with Mel Tucker’s departure for Colorado. I hope seeing Bacarri our there coaching and recruiting makes you feel as old as it does me. Until later...

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

Bulldogs lead league in freshman All-SEC selections

Georgia fans have been very excited this season about the number of freshmen turning in quality performances for the #5 team in the country. Turns out they weren’t the only ones who noticed.

Georgia placed a league-leading five freshmen on the SEC’s All-Freshman team, voted on by league coaches. Or perhaps their GAs who aren’t out recruiting right now. Either way, it’s great news.

Justin Fields made the cut at quarterback after a season that saw him play significant minutes in all but a handful of games. Isaiah Wilson and Cade Mays made the list on the offensive line and quite frankly, while he didn’t make the list, I could make a compelling case for Trey Hill as well. Is the future bright up front for the ‘Dawgs? Yes siirrrr!!!!

Jordan Davis was justifiably honored on the defensive line after a season that saw him go from the bench to becoming one of the more effective nose men in the league. Finally, Jake Camarda got the nod as the league’s top freshman punter after a solid season replacing Cam Nizialek.

Of note, Alabama and Texas A&M had four selections apiece to take the runner-up slot. The ‘Dawgs, Tide, and Aggies are also among the top four teams in recruiting for the 2019 class. In short, from a talent standpoint, it appears the Red and Black are leading a group of teams separating itself from the SEC pack. The future. It remains bright. Until later...

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

Paul Johnson Goes Out Doing Paul Johnson Things

“All I’m saying is if he knows the witness is the real murderer why doesn’t he ever let the Sheriff know before he puts the yutz on the stand?”

You thought that when Paul Johnson announced his retirement recently that was it.

That he would fade gently into that good night.

Quietly take up a life swimming in the three “W”s of college coaches who no longer have to chase W’s on Saturday: whittlin’, whiskey-making, and watching Matlock*.

No way, man.

Paul Johnson, fresh off a loss so bad that Kirby Smart reminded us afterward that if he kept doing it he’d get Johnson fired or retired, is leading his boys on one last march into the glory and pageantry of . . . .the Quick Lane Bowl in scenic Detroit, Michigan.

The Quick Lane is not one of the ACC’s premier bowl matchups. Honestly 74% of Detroiters have no idea it even exists. Half the people in the stands last year thought they’d bought tickets to a live action remake of Moana and were furious when the Rock didn’t show up.

Georgia Tech’s players were about as happy to be in the Quick Lane Bowl as you’d expect.

Paul Johnson was determined to go out the way he came into the coaching world: 7-5 and salty as all get out. Extolling the gracious virtues of Ford Field where the game will be held, and flattering his impending hosts, the Great Optiontino remarked:

I lived in Annapolis. It can get really damn cold, especially at the time of year when you’re playing outside. This game is going to be in a great stadium, it’s going to be indoors, it’s going to be fun.

Johnson also previewed his team’s opponent, Minnesota, by saying he hasn’t seen them play a lot this season “but I did get to watch them when they waxed Wisconsin.”

Let’s be honest here: Paul Johnson is now and forever will remain Dollar general Steve Spurrier. Just substitute Navy for Duke, the triple option for the Fun ‘N Gun, and flip the career record against Georgia and he’s basically the Bizarro Ball Coach.

Mark Richt sent one to do beer commercials. Kirby Smart sent the other to, well, I presume yell at pigeons about loafing. History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Until later . . .

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

*Bill Snyder’s actually been doing all three, often at the same time, and occasionally during halftime of the Iowa State game, since 1997. But the man’s an icon so what do you expect?

Bulldog QB Commit Caps Off Monster Senior Season

Wanna know who Bulldog QB commit John Rhys Plumlee kind of reminds me of?

Unbeknownst to Bulldog fans here in the Peach State, UGA quarterback commitment John Rhys Plumlee has been putting together an unreal season for Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg.

Oak Grove recently fell in the Mississippi 6A state championship to Horn Lake, led by Bulldog linebacker recruit Nakobe Dean. But by season’s end Plumlee had lit up scoreboards across the state.

The 6’1, 185 pounder who committed this summer over several competing SEC offers threw for 2834 yards as a senior, completing 187 of 291 attempts for a healthy 64.2% completion percentage and 9.74 yards per pass attempt (Jake Fromm’s only averaging 9.33 yards per attempt. It’s clearly time to bench Jake Fromm, amirite?).

That’s a significant improvement from a junior season that saw him throw for 1759 yards and 14 touchdowns versus 9 interceptions.

Perhaps even more impressive, Plumlee tossed 33 touchdowns this season versus only 3 interceptions. That’s an inspiring ratio. But wait, there’s more.

Plumlee also racked up 1444 rushing yards on 162 carries, a nifty 8.91 yards per rush (D’Andre Swift averaged 6.69 per carry. Bench Swift, too I guess.) Check out this 80 yard touchdown run from the second round of the state playoffs against Petal High.

Those are some wheels. I’m not saying John Rhys Plumlee is going to beat out Jake Fromm and Justin Fields for playing time in 2019. But he’s definitely an intriguing player to get on campus. Until later...

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

Should they stay or should they go? Early look at UGA’s potential NFL early entries (Part I, Offense)

The 2018 Georgia Bulldogs have one game remaining on their schedule. But that doesn’t mean we can’t start getting a feel for what the 2019 Bulldogs may look like. One important part of that process is figuring out which of the draft-eligible ‘Dawgs may take this opportunity to turn pro. This week we’ll take a look at that, starting today with the offense.

Elijah Holyfield

 Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Why he might leave

Running backs only have so much tread on the tires. Leaving as a junior, one who’s so far been very healthy, would put Holyfield one year closer to his second NFL contract, the one which is most lucrative for a tailback.

Holyfield is physically ready for the NFL (and probably to go into battle alongside the other Marvel superheroes, but I digress). While D’Andre Swift has more yards Holyfield has looked the part of an every down NFL tailback, excelling in pass protection and running with power. He’s potentially the most punishing back in the most punishing conference in college football.

The UGA backfield isn’t getting less crowded. With D’Andre Swift returning, James Cook emerging, Zamir White returning from injury, and Georgia looking to bring in two backs as part of the class of 2019, carries will be at a premium next season.

Why he might not

A fairly loaded running back class. Iowa State’s David Montgomery, Alabama’s Damian Harris, Washington’s Myles Gaskins, and Stanford’s Bryce Love are just some of the tailbacks coming out in this class. Add in possible entrants like Oklahoma’s Rodney Anderson and Oklahoma State’s Justice Hill, and the competition to be a first day pick at the position looks pretty stiff.

The luxury to finish the drill. . Holyfield was one recruit who bought into what Kirby Smart preached from day one at Georgia. Holyfield’s probably not angling to support his famous dad with an NFL paycheck. He may have the luxury of coming back if he wants to rather than leaving because he needs to.

The UGA backfield isn’t getting any less crowded. No, this isn’t a typo. The loaded Bulldog backfield may lead Holyfield to move on. But it’s just as likely or more so to convince him he can spend another year in Athens without getting banged up by a 250 carry season.

Chances he leaves: 50%. I think this is a true tossup and wouldn’t be surprised either way. It will likely depend in part on his draft grade.

Brian Herrien

NCAA Football: Florida at Georgia Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Why he might leave

Most of the same reasons that apply to Holyfield apply to Herrien. The difference is that Holyfield has gotten a good chance to spotlight his talents during his 147 carry, 956 yard junior season. Herrien’s fallen by the wayside a bit, getting only 46 carries this year for 256 yards. His situation reminds me a little of Danny Ware, who candidly declared for the draft because he knew he wasn’t going to get any more carries in 2007 than he had in 2006. Ware actually turned what seemed like a mistake at the time into a decent pro career, including two Super Bowl rings.

Why he might not

Herrien likely needs to show he can be more productive to avoid going undrafted. Leaving this year would be a big mistake, one I doubt he’ll make.

Chances he leaves: 20%. I just don’t see Herrien getting the kind of draft grade at this point he’d need to justify leaving.

Riley Ridley

NCAA Football: Auburn at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Why he might leave

The junior has had a banner season, catching 38 passes for 498 yards and leading the team with 9 touchdown receptions. He really doesn’t have a lot left to prove at the college level.

Family tradition. Ridley’s brother Calvin left Alabama after his junior season and became a first round draft pick by the Falcons. That family experience means Ridley knows what to expect and has seen the draft process.

Why he might not

The chance for a true breakout season. Georgia returns a ton on offense in 2019, including both Jake Fromm and Justin Fields. However with Terry Godwin graduating and Mecole Hardman (more on him below) possibly gone, Ridley could become the top receiver in the Bulldog offense.

Chances he leaves: 80%. I’d be pretty surprised if Ridley’s back in Athens next season. He’s physically ready to turn pro and with a good combine and pro day could work himself up to a 2nd or 3rd round draft grade.

Mecole Hardman

NCAA Football: Georgia at South Carolina Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Why he might leave

It will be tough to top 2018. Hardman led the Bulldogs in receiving with 34 receptions for 540 yards. Hardman also averaged 15.9 yards per reception, establishing himself as the kind of legitimate big play receiver NFL offensive coordinators love.

Versatility. Hardman can run the ball (except when Jim Chaney’s giving it to him on jet sweeps from the 5 yard line). He can also return kicks. NFL personnel types love that type of Swiss army player.

A so-so receiving class. Ole Miss’s A.J.Brown may be the only receiver selected in the top 15 picks. After that there’s a solid drop off at the position to guys like Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards of South Carolina and Miami’s Ahmman Richards.

Why he might not

Not ready for prime time. Hardman’s season wasn’t perfect. He still struggles at times against physical coverage (at 5’11, 183 he doesn’t have ideal NFL size). And while he had some electric kick returns, he also had some muffs and drops at critical times.

Chances he leaves: 45%. If you pressed me I think Hardman gets a 4th round grade and stays. But I’m just shy of a coin flip on this one and wouldn’t be surprised to see him declare. If he and Ridley both leave the ‘Dawgs could be out 3 of their top 4 receivers from 2018. Not ideal.

Demetris Robertson

NCAA Football: Austin Peay at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Why he might leave

Not breaking through. After coming to Athens with much fanfare, and delivering an electrifying highlight in his first game in Sanford Stadium Robertson was rarely heard from again. The former five star receiver actually hasn’t notched a reception this season. He has four rushing attempts for 109 yards, but 72 of them came on that one play in the opener against Austin Peay. If Robertson isn’t frustrated by that lack of production I’d be interested to know why.

Why he might not

Man can’t live on potential alone. The flipside to that is that Robertson has nothing to show scouts except his impressive freshman highlights from Cal. Like Herrien I expect scouts would be very leery of a guy who appears to be taking his ball and turning pro when he couldn’t beat out the competition on campus.

Chances he leaves: 25%. Robertson has publicly shown an admirable attitude about earning more playing time. I think he’s far more likely to enjoy a breakout season in Athens in 2019 than to be toiling away to make a pro roster.

Tyler Simmons

Massachusetts v Georgia Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Why he might leave

The depth chart. Simmons found himself seventh on the team in receptions this season, behind even tight end Isaac Nauta and tailback D’Andre Swift. If blue chip recruits Dominick Blaylock and Makiya Tongue make good on their pledges and Jadon Haselwood is reeled back in, they’ll provide additional competition.

Why he might not

Despite what the officials may tell you, Tyler Simmons never takes off early. Just kidding.

The chance to grow into his potential. Simmons looks like a player on the cusp of doing big things. After only logging two catches in Georgia’s first eight games, Simmons caught at least one pass in every one of the last five, and scored the first receiving touchdowns of his career against Auburn and UMass.

Chances he leaves: 15%. I just don’t see it. But I am pretty excited to see what Simmons can do with more opportunities in 2019.

Isaac Nauta

NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Alabama vs Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Why he might leave

An NFL-worthy junior season. After being MIA for most of the past four years, Bulldog tight ends returned to the scene in 2018 led by Nauta. His 29 catches for 429 yards were second only to Hardman and Ridley. Nauta flashed reliable hands and surprising speed downfield (as on the 55 yarder he caught from Jake Fromm in the SEC Championship Game). There’s not a senior tight end in the country who would clearly be taken ahead of him.

Why he might not

You only get one go ‘round. Nauta has a reputation for being a bit of a deep thinker and has a sort of subtle maturity to him. That may partially be a result of well-publicized tough times as a kid. But I could see Nauta deciding to come back to try to win it all.

Chances he leaves: 60%. If there’s a guy on this list who’d likely go high in the draft it’s Nauta. The opportunity is there if he wants it, it’s just a question of whether he does. I imagine Jake Fromm has already started lobbying him hard to come back.

Charlie Woerner

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl-Oklahoma vs Georgia Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Why he might leave

I have to be honest, I don’t have much here. Woerner’s 9 catches for 121 yards showed some flashes, but not an NFL resume

Why he might not

Especially if Nauta does turn pro, Woerner is in line for a much larger role in the UGA offense.

Chances he leaves: 3%. I mean there’s always a chance, but I’d be utterly flabbergasted.

Ben Cleveland

NCAA Football: CFP National Championship Game-Alabama vs Georgia Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Why he might leave

As a redshirt sophomore “Big Country” would be among the biggest players on any NFL roster now.

Why he might not

An injury-plagued 2018 would lead to a lot of explaining to scouts. Cleveland doesn’t really have a solid body of work just yet.

Chances he leaves: 15%. I expect we’ll get to see the big man from Stephens County clearing a path for Bulldog tailbacks for at least one more season.

I’ll be back later this week with a look at potential defensive defections. Until then . . .

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

One final note. There are a handful of guys buried on the roster who are technically draft-eligible but have played very sparingly or dealt with significant medical issues that make them more likely to transfer or take a medical hardship than to up and decide to turn pro.

Countdown to Signing Day: Where Georgia Stands

Georgia just got through going toe to toe with the defending national champions in the SEC Championship Game. Georgia has also signed a top three recruiting class in each of the past three cycles.

These things are not coincidental.

We’ve learned over time that being a great Xs and Os coach isn’t enough to win a national title. College football supremacy requires the Jimmys and Joes, as well. There’s even a pretty good formula to tell you if you’ve got a shot to win it all.

College football’s early National Signing Day will take place on Wednesday, December 19, 2018, a mere 16 days away. We’ll have plenty of recruiting odds, ends, tidbits, and predictions over the next couple of weeks. But if you haven’t been following along the whole time, here’s where things stand.

Kirby Smart: Really Good At Recruiting

It should come as no surprise that Georgia is in pretty good shape. The rest of the SEC’s elite football teams aren’t suffering either. Georgia is currently #3 in 247Sports’ ranking of the top classes for 2019.

Alabama is back at the #1 spot, Texas A&M and Jimbo Fisher have been inviting recruits to sniff that new program smell and making the sale without even throwing in the free cup holders. The Aggies are at #2. Ed Orgeron’s recruiting pitch remains as incomprehensible as ever. But a good year for talent in Louisiana, where the Bayou Bengals almost can’t lose, has Da Coach O’s team at #4.

“Too Soon, Jimbo.”

The good news for Georgia fans is that, like Vin Diesel in a movie street race, Kirby hasn’t really hit the Nos yet (so far as we know....that fake punt might have been a symptom of disorientation, one of the hallmarks of nitrous oxide exposure). The Athenians have 18 pledges for this cycle. Alabama has 22 commits of the 25 they can count for this cycle. TAMU has 24, and LSU 20. In short, Georgia can pack in as many as seven more commits before even considering whether they might part ways with any current commits/players to make more room.

Where My (Future) ‘Dawgs At?

And the ‘Dawgs have plenty of big time recruits remaining on the board. While we’ll talk about these players in more detail soon, Georgia is involved in the recruitment of enough four and five star recruits to expect some pleasant news right down to December 19th, and perhaps beyond.

Bulldog fans and Dawg Sports readers love the big guys, and Kirby & Co. seem to agree. Georgia remains a player for Oxford, Alabama standout Clay Webb, the nation’s top center prospect. The 6’3, 295 pounder may play in the heart of Tide country, but he has family in Athens, GA and has a fondness for Sam Pittman (don’t we all?).

Coach Pittman is also still working on a couple of tackles to add to the class along with mammoth Rhode Island native Xavier Truss. West Virginian Darnell Wright and Illinois native Trevor Keegan would each be outstanding additions to Pittman’s growing stable of large sons. Wright is also considering Alabama, Tennessee, and Ohio State. The Vols have early playing time to offer, which may be hard to turn down. Keegan will be a battle with Big Ten powers Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State, though Clemson remains an option as well. I like Georgia’s chances to land one of these guys, with Keegan being the guess. Yes siiirrrr!

Defensively the ‘Dawgs already have six commitments up front. A couple of those appear less than solid, however. If Georgia picks up an “off the board” sleeper prospect at any position, defensive line may be it.

The Red and Black are also looking to add elite linebacking talent. The primary remaining target here is Mississippi five star Nakobe Dean, who is also considering the home state Rebel Black Bears, Alabama, LSU, and Florida State among others.

Perhaps the most closely watched recruitment over these last couple of weeks for ‘Dawg fans will be that of Cedar Grove wide receiver Jadon Haselwood. Haselwood, the nation’s top wide receiver and the top prospect in the state of Georgia, was a longtime commitment to the Red and Black before opening things back up in October.

At the time many thought Miami was the chief competition. I continue to believe that Oklahoma, the alma mater of Haselwood’s dad and possessor of perhaps the most high-powered offense in the Power 5, is actually the team to be concerned about. With the loss of Jayson Stanley, Terry Godwin, and Ahkil Crumpton, and Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, and Tyler Simmons all draft eligible, Georgia needs elite receivers ready to play from day one. Haselwood has to be viewed as a top priority.

In short, we’re in for an eventful couple of weeks. Until later...

Go ‘Dawgs!!!

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