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Hearts and Minds
There is no secret to Kirby Smart’s recruiting success. He has locked down the state of Georgia.
Despite a smaller population than California, Texas or Florida, Georgia is near all three in terms of producing NFL talent. Smart is the first UGA coach to consistently keep the Peach State’s best players at home. In 2017, he landed 12 of the top 20 players in the state. He has seven of the top 20 so far in 2018, including four of the top 5. 2019 figures to be just as bountiful, with three of the top 20 committed and plenty more with heavy interest.
In an excellent story for ESPN, Adam Rittenberg goes over the “perfect storm” that led to UGA’s recent domination of the Peach State. He points to Smart’s commitment to being a constant presence in the recruiting hotbed that is Atlanta and to outwork the competition on the recruiting trail. More important, though, Rittenberg noted Smart’s deep connections within the state. Smart played high school and college football in Georgia, and his dad was a high school coach in the state. He is a Georgian through and through.
Those connections to high school coaches throughout the state are serving him well, as was clear in Rittenberg’s story. The high school coaches quoted in the piece were full of praise for Smart.
“Maxing out the talent here, not only is it a necessity but it will do wonders for being a champion,” said Rome (Georgia) High School coach John Reid, who coached 2018 Georgia signee Adam Anderson. “Everyone feels [Georgia is] going to be good for a while. Kirby’s just taken it to another level over there.” …
“He’s done a great job of preaching about doing it for the state school,” said Chris Slade, the coach at Atlanta-based Pace Academy, which has sent standout offensive line recruits Jamaree Salyer and Andrew Thomas to Georgia in the past two classes. “Being a Georgia guy and playing at Georgia, he can speak with a lot more conviction, as opposed to a lot of other coaches.” …
“He doesn’t big-time you when he’s around,” [Houston County coach Ryan] Crawford said. “He understands the importance of the high school football coach, and he lives it with his life and his dad. He also knows the state of Georgia is a hotbed.”
Make sure you read Rittenberg’s entire piece over at ESPN.
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Lady Dogs’ winning streak snapped at 7 games
The Lady Dogs’ seven-game winning streak ended Thursday night in Baton Rouge, La. Georgia fell to LSU 71-60 and now is 19-3, 7-2 in the SEC.
Freshman guard Que Morrison was Georgia’s top scorer with 15 points, but she was outscored by two LSU players. Junior forward Mackenzie Engram added 8 points, including her 1,000th career point at Georgia. She is the 38th player in program history to score 1,000 or more points.
The Lady Dogs will return to Athens and prepare to face Ole Miss on Sunday afternoon at Stegeman Coliseum.
Gym Dogs split with assistant coach
Georgia gymnastics assistant Charlie Tamayo is no longer with the program, as first reported by Emily Giambalvo of the Red & Black. Tamayo joined the staff in May 2017.
“I have performance expectations for myself, my assistants, our student-athletes, and all the staff members in the gymnastics program,” Gym Dogs coach Courtney Kupets Carter said in a statement to the Red & Black. “Those performance expectations were not being met at an acceptable level.”
Tamayo’s departure leaves Josh Overton as the only assistant on staff. However, former Gym Dogs head coach and 10-time national championship winner Suzanne Yoculan Lee works with the team as a volunteer assistant.
Can Stetson Bennett move up QB depth chart?
Walk-on quarterback Stetson Bennett drew plenty of praise from Georgia’s defense and its coaches for his mimicry of Baker Mayfield in the buildup to the Rose Bowl. With Jacob Eason transferring, Bennett will be the de facto No. 3 quarterback on Georgia’s roster next season, a huge step up even for a guy who has been a really, really good scout teamer. But is there a chance Bennett can go above and beyond and beat out Justin Fields and become the second-string signal caller? Seth Emerson of DawgNation tackled that question on Thursday.
It is extremely unlikely that Bennett would beat out Justin Fields for the No. 2 spot in the 2018 season. A player like Fields ― a consensus 5-star prospect and the No. 1 quarterback in the country by many accounts ― doesn’t come to college to sit. The expectation is that Fields, an early enrollee, will undergo a crash course to be ready to play next season, and Georgia likely will have a package ready especially for him. Fields is going to have to be ready to play, just the way Fromm was ready when Jacob Eason went down last season.
But Bennett’s presence and the confidence that his coaches and teammates show in him helps Georgia in a lot of other ways. To start, he can continue to give the Bulldogs’ defense those great looks against the many mobile quarterbacks and spread teams they face every year. Secondly, it keeps Georgia from having to be desperate to sign another quarterback in this class. It’s clear the Bulldogs wouldn’t be afraid to put him in a game if needed. …
“We’re very fortunate to have a quarterback like Stetson Bennett,” coach Kirby Smart said. “He’s not the stature [a coach prefers], but he’s made plays all year similar to Baker. … He’s not as strong as Baker, but he does a great job of scrambling, adding time to plays. He can give us at least a good picture.”
Correction: Georgia gymnastics assistant coach Josh Overton was identified incorrectly in the original post. DawgNation regrets the error.