ATHENS – Jeb Blazevich was going through the dinner line Thursday night when Brice Ramsey got his attention.
“You hear the big news?” Ramsey said. “They’re coming back!”
Ramsey didn’t say who “they” were. There was no need.
“I could guess,” Blazevich told the media a day later, smiling. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel were returning, in news that surprised their own Georgia teammates as much as it did everyone else.
Less than three weeks ago, the mood around the Georgia fan base was downcast, a disappointing 7-5 regular season having finished with a home loss to Georgia Tech. Since then, the recruiting news has been almost all good, and Thursday came the stunning news that the star tailbacks as well as outside linebackers Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy would be returning for their senior years.
That’s pumped the fan base back up, and that has its way of reaching the players as well, especially the ones also returning next year.
“To see them be so selfless with their talents and say this is what’s best for me, but I’m also going to give back to this team for another year,” Blazevich said. “No matter what, Georgia’s always going to be here. But for me, it’s this group of guys, and for them to be coming back for another year, it’s really special. I’m really pumped that they decided to pour back into Georgia.”
It has a way of exciting even players who aren’t going to be back next year.
Starting center Brandon Kublanow, a senior, pointed out that he’ll still have plenty invested in the program once he leaves.
“It’s exciting to see the direction the program’s going in,” Kublanow said. “It’s huge for the program. It’s huge that they’re going to have great leadership next year. It’s going to show the new guys the way. So it’s very exciting for Georgia.”
Chubb and Michel were both likely to be drafted, probably in the mid-rounds, but perhaps higher. Chubb had even made up his mind to leave before deciding his heart was still at Georgia. Michel, also saying his heart said to stay, never came as close as Chubb to leaving.
Blazevich, who got to know both tailbacks so well the past few years, said he ultimately wasn’t too surprised and could have seen their decision going either way.
“If you’d talked to me freshman year I’d have said those guys are three-and-out, and they’re the reason people are saying you should go two-and-out, just because they have that talent level,” Blazevich said. “But knowing who they are, and the heart they have for this team, and the love they have for everybody, I wasn’t too surprised.”