ATHENS — Georgia had one of the most experienced teams in college football this season, and it’s showing up with the possibility of a record Senior Bowl class this season.
This past season will not count against any of the players’ eligibility clock in college football, and if they return they do not count against the team’s 85-man scholarship list.
But already, five of the Bulldogs’ seniors have made it known they aren’t returning after accepting their Senior Bowl invites:
• OG Ben Cleveland
• CB DJ Daniel
• TE Tre’ McKitty
• DL Malik Herring
• DB Mark Webb
Quarterback Jamie Newman has also been invited, but Newman has made it clear he will represent Wake Forest rather than Georgia. Newman was a graduate transfer with the Bulldogs from last January until leaving the team after the first scrimmage in August.
Georgia still has two games scheduled in the regular season at Missouri at noon next Saturday and at home against Vanderbilt on Dec. 19.
The Bulldogs are also expected to play in what would be their fourth-straight New Year’s Six bowl, projected to match up with Cincinnati.
The Senior Bowl, which takes place on Jan. 30 in Mobile, Ala., matches the top outgoing seniors in a North-South all-star game.
But the real value for the players is that it’s more of an NFL combine event with general managers, head coaches and scouting directors on hand to meet with the player and watch the one-on-one drills.
The game is a strong barometer of which players will be invited to the NFL combine and are being scouted as NFL draft picks.
Senior Bowl executive director Jim Nagy told DawgNation on Sunday that more UGA players have invitations, though he did not specify who they might be.
It would seem likely that safety Richard LeCounte, outside linebacker Jermaine Johnson, inside linebacker Monty Rice and defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt could be on that list.
UGA coach Kirby Smart said last week the opportunity to stay and graduate should encourage some of the seniors to stay
“I think that’s a great thing, because they get a chance to possibly graduate,” Smart said. “There are so few redshirt-seniors on any team anymore. It just doesn’t happen. We’ve got Ben [Cleveland] and Prather [Hudson], but those are the only two. For the rest of the guys, it would be an opportunity to graduate from college and possibly play again.”
Senior defensive tackle Julian Rochester suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 31 and is expected to rehabilitate and return for another season.
Senior receiver Demetris Robertson had planned to walk on Senior Day before the Vanderbilt game was canceled, but he has said he’s leaving all of his options open.
Other Georgia seniors who do not have high NFL draft stock who could return and not count against the 85-man scholarship limit:
• OG Justin Shaffer
• OLB Walter Grant
• MLB Nate McBride
In 2013 UGA set the record for its most players in one came dating back to Porter Payne appearing in the first Senior Bowl in 1950.
A group of six Bulldogs took part in the all-star game that year: Sanders Commings, Bacarri Rambo, Shawn Williams, John Jenkins, Cornelius Washington. and Tavarres King.