ATHENS — Georgia football is winning games and competing for championships, but has that success inflated players’ self-value too much?
Kirby Smart made reference to how some Bulldogs “believe they are better than they are, and they read their own press clippings” after the Sugar Bowl win over Baylor.
A veteran NFL writer also weighed in last week on the Ingles “On The Beat” show on DawgNation.
Problem at Georgia?
“I think there’s a problem at Georgia, I think some of these kids are coming out too early,” AJC.com Atlanta Falcons beat writer D. Orlando Ledbetter said on DawgNation’s On The Beat Show last week.
“I don’t know if its the agents pumping them up or gassing them up.”
Georgia had five underclassmen enter the draft this year and four last year.
The jury is out on whether or not quarterback Jake Fromm and offensive linemen Isaiah Wilson and Solomon Kindley made the right decisions this year.
But three of the four who left early following the 2018 season left room for plenty of second guessing.
That was especially true of former team captain Elijah Holyfield, who went undrafted and didn’t appear in an NFL game last season.
“I had a problem with Holyfield coming out last year,” Ledbetter said. “Fromm shouldn’t have been coming out this year, he should have been enjoying his college life. He could have done this and been chasing a backup quarterback job at any point.
“Wilson certainly should have stayed.”
Disappointing draft days
Riley Ridley and Isaac Nauta also had disappointing NFL draft days and rookie seasons.
Ridley was slowed by a hamstring early and appeared in just six games after being selected in the fourth round by Chicago.
Nauta was a seventh-round pick by the Detroit Lions who was listed on the active roster for six games and finished with two catches.
Some players come out early because their family or relatives have financial hardships. Others could have academic shortcomings that leave them no choice.
But in other cases, Ledbetter asserts, it could be a matter of bad advice or players not enjoying their once-in-a-lifetime college experience like they should.
“I don’t know how they (Georgia) are handling this, assistant coaches or the agents, but they are over-gassing these guys up and not giving them good reads on where they will go in the NFL Draft,” Ledbetter said.
“This is the second year in a row the Bulldogs could have kept some of that talent and made a run at a national title again, as opposed to guys going up to Carolina as a practice squad player (Holyfield),” he said. “I don’t know if the kids don’t like school, don’t want to study, or what the situation is, but they have to figure out a way … to keep some of their talent that’s leaving earlier than they should be.”
Kirby’s 2019 take
There are a record-high 111 early entrants in this year’s NFL draft (April 23-25).
It proves what Smart said at last year’s Pro Day correct, where the trend is concerned.
“It is a trend, and I think it will continue to be a trend in college football for every team to deal with, and every team deals with it differently,” Smart said last March. “Our answer is to make sure we have good players in our program so that we’re not having to play true freshmen, but because of the way it is, you’re going to have a young team all the time, there’s not a lot you can do.”
Smart said every case is indeed different.
“Some of that stuff is out of your control, how well does a kid play as a junior, what kind of grades does he get, what kind of choices does he have to make for his family, so everybody is in a different situation and you manage every one differently,” he said.
“You just do the best job you can to handle it, and then you move on, and that’s what we do.”
Georgia early entrants, Smart Era
WR Isaiah McKenzie 5th round, 172 overall, Denver
LB Roquan Smith 1st round, 8th overall, Chicago
DT Trenton Thompson, undrafted
WR Mecole Hardman 2nd round, 56th overall, Kansas City
WR Riley Ridley 4th round, 126 overall, Chicago
TE Isaac Nauta 7th round, 224 overall, Detroit
RB Elijah Holyfield, undrafted
RB D’Andre Swift
OL Andrew Thomas
OL Solomon Kindley
OL Isaiah Wilson
QB Jake Fromm
On The Beat
DawgNation Georgia in NFL Draft