Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. The year 2016 ended, and 2017 began with a bang for the Georgia Bulldogs. It began with a crazy comeback for the men’s hoops team to beat Auburn in their SEC opener on Thursday, continued with a Liberty Bowl win on Friday and finished with another pair of huge in-state commitments on Sunday. So, let’s give it up for the New Year.
With the season under wraps and most fans looking forward to how the team will shape up in 2017, and finishing their final evaluations on how Kirby Smart and his crew performed in his first season, we’re not going to go too in-depth on the Liberty Bowl. (Check back through the DawgNation archives over the last few days for plenty of deep coverage of the game.) But, as we do after every game, we’re going to look at the 5 best UGA players from the game. And with some standout performances on offense and defense, this edition of “Top Dawgs” was the most difficult to decide on all season.
Trenton Thompson — Where has this Thompson been hiding all year? In the Liberty Bowl, Thompson more than doubled his sack total for the season, jumping from 2 to 5 sacks this season with his 3 against TCU. And there were other times when he was a nano-second away from his fourth of the day, only for Kenny Hill to elude him at the last possible moment. Still, that pressure kept Hill off-kilter. Thompson’s bull-rushing up the gut also took away inside runs for Kyle Hicks. He was a one-man wrecking crew and disrupted the Frogs’ game plan almost single-handedly. If he can tap into whatever he tapped into Friday next season, interior linemen of the SEC beware. Trenton comin’.
Lorenzo Carter — The other major disruptive force on defense was outside linebacker Carter. As an edge rusher for the Dawgs, Carter’s job is to wreak havoc, cause chaos and, hopefully, force a few turnovers. The Liberty Bowl was a good day at work for him, as Carter managed a pair of forced fumbles on each side of halftime that helped drastically swing the momentum in Georgia’s favor during that crucial point in the game. Carter has improved from a mechanic to one of the best players, if not the best, on Georgia’s defense. If he progresses in the offseason the way he did as the season wore on, his decision to stay in Athens for another season may be an even bigger coup than we first thought.
Nick Chubb — After watching Chubb struggle through the 2016 season and the first three quarters of the Liberty Bowl, I thought either a) he had lost something after the injury last season and would never the same player again, or b) he is back to his old self and he was a fool for coming back to UGA for his senior season with an offensive line that probably won’t be much better than the (bad) one this season. Then he went out and reminded me that, given enough time, Chubb always gets his. In the final two minutes of the third quarter and the entire fourth quarter, he rushed for 123 of his 142 yards, setting up the lead-taking field goal and scoring the game-clinching touchdown in the process. Oh yeah, he also surpassed Todd Gurley for second on Georgia’ all-time rushing list. When Chubb is on top of his game, so is Georgia.
Sony Michel — Thanks to Chubb’s late burst, Michel’s performance was kind of a footnote in Georgia’s win, but it was just as important. He finished with 87 yards rushing, 39 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns, one on the ground and one through the air. One was an easy finish after an amazing play by Isaiah McKenzie on Georgia’s first drive and the other was an impressive catch and run that went 33 yards. Both, however, were crucial scores that kept Georgia in the game as the offense struggled in the first half.
— WeRunThisState (@garunsthisstate) December 30, 2016
Roquan Smith — There is not a player on this football team I enjoy watching more than Smith. And that’s a good thing for me, because when the defense is on the field, Smith will probably be on screen. He’s always involved in plays, wherever they end up, as reflected by his team-leading 95 tackles, 36 more than Natrez Patrick in second. Thirteen of those, nine solo, came against TCU. If you haven’t figured it out already, between Smith, Thompson, Carter and a slew of other Bulldogs who barely missed this list, UGA’s defense is gonna be nasty next season.
Also of note: All five of these players will return for 2017.
New year, new CROOTS!!!
If the Liberty Bowl win didn’t get you a little pumped for the future of the program — and TCU ain’t world-beaters, so it’s OK if you didn’t — Smart’s progress on the recruiting trail should. On New Year’s Day, 4-star in-state defensive backs DeAngelo Gibbs and Tray Bishop committed to the Bulldogs.
— Deangelo Gibbs (@TheHercules8) January 1, 2017
We not done ?? savages only ??
— 6⃣ (@_TrayBishop) January 2, 2017
Here’s some film of Gibbs, the more exciting of the two prospects IMO, to show you a little of what Georgia is getting:
Check out all the reporting from Jeff Sentell of DawgNation to get the scoop on the commitments of Gibbs and Bishop, along with any other players who pledge for Georgia before signing. And, as you can tell from Bishop’s tweet above and top UGA recruiter Richard LeCounte III below, there may be some more “savages” on the way over the next month.
WE STILL NOTTTTTT DONE YET ????
— Richard LeCounte III (@LilEasy_35) January 1, 2017
When the class of 2017 is full of Savages
[This is the part where I would usually include the video, but, like I said, deleted, so here’s a little peek inside]
Regardless, video or not, guys, it finally happened. After years of moaning by fans — and Jeremy Pruitt — the indoor facility is real. Its completion helps Georgia level the playing field with most of its direct competitors in game prep and recruiting departments, so it’s hard to understate how important this is to the program.
- Report card: Kirby Smart’s first year at Georgia (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- Dawgs’ bowl win worth celebrating but verdict is still out on Jim Chaney (Bill King, DawgNation)
- Jacob Eason’s struggles should’ve been expected, but he’ll be better next season (Jeff Schultz, DawgNation)
- Georgia finishes … not strong, but good enough (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- Defensive back Aaron Davis indicates he’s returning to Georgia (Connor Riley, DawgNation)
- Georgia RB Brian Herrien has chance encounter with jersey-wearing fan (Cody Pace, DawgNation)
- Isaiah McKenzie’s departure could be a big one for Georgia (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- Pair of UGA running backs help Jacob Eason scramble better (Jason Butt, Macon Telegraph)
- Lorenzo Carter responds to Kirby Smart’s challenge with a big performance in the Liberty Bowl (Jason Butt, Macon Telegraph)
Even dogs love to pet dogs.