ATHENS — It’s a new week for UGA sports. Here’s what Georgia fans need to be aware of:
1. Dogs get plenty of NFL notice
The narrative is it wasn’t a great year in the NFL draft for Georgia, but that’s not entirely true.
The Bulldogs had only five players selected overall, and only Leonard Floyd (ninth overall pick) and Jordan Jenkins (83rd) went in the first three rounds. But in the overall context, it wasn’t too bad, and looked nothing like 2014, when only tight end Arthur Lynch and quarterback Aaron Murray were selected, and then not until the fifth round.
When you add in Georgia’s nine players who received free-agent contracts on Sunday, that’s 14 players overall who will have NFL opportunities this coming season. That’s out of 15 scholarship seniors who finished the season on the team, plus the junior Floyd.
The most players Georgia has had selected in the seven-round draft is eight in 2013 and 2002. And the five UGA had drafted this past weekend is right on the Bulldogs’ average of the last 10 years — 5.2.
Meanwhile, UGA’s ability to produce first-rounders remains pretty stout. Floyd, an outside linebacker who went ninth to the Chicago Bears, represented the 13th Bulldog to be selected in the first round in the last 19 years. Two of those came in the same year (2009) when quarterback Matthew Stafford went first overall to the Detroit Lions and tailback Knowshon Moreno went 12th to Denver.
In case you missed it, Georgia’s draftees in addition to Floyd and Jenkins were WR Malcolm Mitchell (4th round/112th pick) to New England, OL John Theus (5th/145) to San Francisco and TB Keith Marshall (7th/242) to Washington. Receiving free-agent deals were DL Sterling Bailey (Colts), DL Josh Dawson (Falcons), DL James DeLoach (Lions), LB Jake Ganus (Vikings), FB Quayvon Hicks (Titans), PK Marshall Morgan (Bills), TE Jay Rome (Steelers), SN Nathan Theus (Broncos) and DL Chris Mayes (Falcons). Only Dawson and Mayes ended up on the same team.
2. Kirby Smart out front
We should be hearing a good bit from Georgia’s new football coach this week. He’ll at least be in the public eye a lot.
This afternoon and Tuesday Kirby Smart is participating in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge down on Lake Oconee. That’s the annual celebrity golf tournament conducted on the Oconee Course in Eatonton. Smart’s partner is Athens businessman and UGA football letterman David Dukes. They’re in Group 2 and, fittingly, will compete against North Carolina coach Larry Fedora and playing partner B.J. Surhoff. Georgia and North Carolina will face off in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game on Sept. 3 at Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.
This year’s field also includes Urban Meyer, Nick Saban, Dabo Swinney, and newly-retired coaches Frank Beamer and Steve Spurrier. Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson and Jon Barry, who have won the event five times, also will participate. There’s a “skills challenge” Monday afternoon and the actual tournament will be conducted on Tuesday.
Mark Richt, who admittedly never cared much for golf, played in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl Challenge only once early in the tournament’s inception and didn’t fare well. Smart loves to play golf.
Later this week, Smart will speak at UGA Day alumni association events in Macon and Columbus.
3. Baseball suffers a setback
Well, that couldn’t happen.
UGA baseball coach Scott Stricklin defiantly declared before the Georgia Tech game last week that the Bulldogs had a realistic shot at achieving an NCAA tournament bid and he spelled it out in detail. Bottom line, he said, they’d have to go at least 8-7 in the final 15 games to finish with an over-.500 record (29-27). With the nation’s No. 1-rated strength of schedule and a Top 30 RPI, they couldn’t be denied, he reasoned.
Georgia dutifully went out and thumped No. 25-ranked Georgia Tech 13-5 this past Tuesday after that declaration. But a lot of that good work was undone over the weekend as it was the Bulldogs (22-23, 7-14 SEC) who were swept by No. 6 Vanderbilt by the scores of 15-3, 10-3 and 10-3.
Such woeful road showings could prove UGA’s undoing. Though they technically can still finish 29-27, the Bulldogs’ performance against quality opponents on the road this season is smudging their resume. In SEC away games so far — against Mississippi State, Texas A&M, Florida and Vanderbilt — Georgia has gone 2-10 and been out-scored by the combined mark of 100-25.
Yes, those were all highly-ranked teams. But it’s one thing to talk about your tough schedule and another to not at least be competitive against those opponents, home or away.
The Bulldogs’ record stretch of consecutive games against top-25 teams will reach 22 this weekend. They play host to No. 9-ranked Ole Miss (33-12, 12-9) for a three-game set that begins Friday at Foley Field. Based on Stricklin’s own calculations, nothing less than two out of three will do.