ATHENS — So thanks to Sony Michel’s little joy ride, an otherwise quiet and relaxing Independence Day got turned on its ear. Maybe I’m just talking about myself but, judging from some pretty funny and sarcastic social media posts, some Georgia fans had their holiday bliss altered as well.
In any case, you can’t lock these guys in a padded room. Michel now has had surgery to repair the fracture in his left forearm suffered in a Sunday evening ATV accident. And now, we wait to see how quickly he recovers and how soon he can get backing to toting the pigskin for the Bulldogs.
In the meantime, as some of us head back to work this week, here’s what Georgia fans need to know.
1. Thank goodness for Brendan Douglas
He may not be as dynamic or explosive as his junior counterparts Michel and Nick Chubb, but the Bulldogs certainly are thankful for Brendan Douglas this morning. Heading into preseason camp, which begins in about four weeks, he is now your de facto starting tailback.
A 5-foot-11, 215-pound senior from Augusta, Douglas has played a lot for Georgia. He has appeared in 36 of a possible 39 games for the Bulldogs with one start, against Kentucky last year. He has rushed for 715 yards in his career, has averaged a respectable 4.1 yards per carry and has scored five touchdowns.
Douglas has been dealing with an injury of his own. He had surgery this past winter to repair a broken left wrist. But he didn’t let it slow him down at all for spring practice. While he was required to wear a non-contact jersey, Douglas participated in all 15 of the Bulldogs’ practices, including the G-Day Game.
Douglas has posted career highs of 17 carries and 84 yards rushing, both in the 2013 Vanderbilt game. The longest run of his career was 17 yards against South Carolina that same season. His career highlight was a flipping, heels-over-head touchdown at the end of a 15-yard run in a 34-0 win over Missouri in 2014.
2. Eyes turn to freshmen
While Douglas gives the Bulldogs an option at tailback they can depend on, it’s the two freshmen signees who will be feeling the spotlight when camp opens the first week of August. Georgia signed Elijah Holyfield out of Atlanta’s Woodward Academy on national signing day in February, then added Brian Herrien as a late-qualifying signee in May.
Holyfield is a well-known name not only because of his father, heavyweight boxing champion Evander Holyfield, but also because of his feats as a high school running back. The 5-11, 209-pound back ran for 2,804 yards and scored 46 touchdowns his final two years at Woodward — missing games and playing hurt his senior season — to earn AJC Super 11 honors and become a consensus four-star recruiting prospect. He was profiled in DawgNation’s Next Generation series earlier this year.
Herrien had to overcome a slow academic start to his high school career but was able to meet NCAA qualifying standards when he graduated from New Manchester High in Douglasville in May. The 6-1 , 210-pound rushed for 1,873 yards and scored 14 touchdowns on a 5-5 team as a senior this past season.
Another intriguing option is converted wide receiver Shaquery Wilson. The Bulldogs moved Wilson (6-1, 200) to tailback in the spring when they had only Michel, an injured Douglas and some walkons to work at the position. Wilson had nine carries for 24 yards in the G-Day Game and scored on a 7-yard run. Coach Kirby Smart said in speaking stops this summer that Wilson would remain with the running backs.
I wonder if A.J. Turman wishes now he’d stayed around?
3. More Olympic hopefuls for UGA
Georgia sophomore Keturah Orji posted a single jump on Monday and that’s all she needed to win the triple jump qualifying round and advance to the finals at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field Trials in Eugene, Ore.
Orji, a native of Mount Olive, N.J., traveled 46 feet, 6 inches on her one and only attempt in the triple jump to qualify automatically for the finals and win the event. Tuesday is a rest day, so there will be no competition at all in Eugene. Orji will have to wait until Thursday night to try to punch her ticket for Rio de Janeiro.
Odds are good that she will. Orji’s year has included sweeps of both the SEC and the NCAA titles while establishing collegiate and American records.
On Wednesday, UGA senior Shelby Ashe will get her shot in the women’s hammer throw competition and former Bulldog Kibwe Johnson will compete in the men’s hammer throw.
Also seeking a top-three finish and Rio pass at the trials are male sprinter Kendal Williams (200 meters) and junior Kendell Williams (heptathlon). Along with Orji, they have all recorded Olympic standards in their respective events.
4. Big swimming presence in Rio
Georgia’s huge swimming contingent in Rio will now include coach Jack Bauerle. The Bulldogs longtime head coach was chosen as an assistant for the men’s team on Sunday.
That’s fitting considering the Bulldogs will have eight U.S. swimmers and 12 overall competing in the Rio Games Aug. 6-13. This will be Bauerle’s third appointment with USA Swimming. He served as the women’s head coach in 2008 and as a women’s assistant coach in 2000. He attended the 2004 and 2012 Games as a personal coach.
“Any time I get to represent the USA and UGA at the Olympics, it’s a real honor,” Bauerle said. “I am absolutely elated to be chosen. I’m very thankful and I’m excited. It will be a busy time for all of us, but we’re going to make a lot of special memories.”
5. More Diamond Dog in the pros
Recently-graduated shortstop Nick King is now a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. A two-year starter for the Bulldogs, King went undrafted last month. He initially signed with the Schaumburg Boomers, an independent team in the Frontier League, but his contract was purchased by the Pirates after four games and King was assigned last week to the Class A West Virginia Black Bears.
Five of King’s teammates were already playing professional ball this summer:
- Center fielder Stephen Wrenn, a sixth round draft pick of the Houston Astros, plays for the Tri-City ValleyCats and leads the New York Penn League in home runs (6) and slugging percentage (.764) while batting .327 with 11 RBI in his first 13 games.
- Left-handed pitcher Bo Tucker, a 12th round pick of the Los Angeles Angels, has made four relief appearances for the Orem (Ore.) Owlz in the Pioneer League. He has a 3.38 ERA in 5.1 innings with three walks and eight strikeouts.
- Right-handed pitcher Heath Holder, a 25th round selection of the Colorado Rockies, also is in the Pioneer League with Grand Junction. He has made a pair of relief appearances for a total of 3.2 innings with no walks and four strikeouts.
- Catcher Skyler Weber, an 18th round selection of Oakland, is batting .250 with a double and an RBI in six games for the AZL Athletics in the Arizona Rookie League.
- Right-hander Robert Tyler, a supplemental first round pick of the Rockies, has reported to the Boise (Idaho) Hawks in the Northwest League but has yet to make his debut.