THE TEN AT 10
1. Isaiah McKenzie and Sony Michel had 214 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns between them against Vanderbilt this past Saturday. Their touchdown runs covered 108 yards.
It’s hard to believe that these two high school teammates from South Florida each decided to play football at Georgia. And it’s even more unfathomable to think that the Bulldogs almost didn’t take McKenzie.
For their presence, UGA has assistant coach Bryan McClendon to thank, who appropriately was named recruiter of the year by 247Sports.com that season. He had recruited both athletes since their first year at American Heritage High School in Fort Lauderdale.
“We didn’t offer Isaiah until very late in the process,” Richt said. “In fact, he didn’t take his official visit until after we signed him. That’s how late in the game it was for him. But Coach McClendon had been on him for the longest, way back when he was an eighth grader I think. So we knew about Isaiah and we knew he had some special ability. We just didn’t offer him until we had (a scholarship) available to give.”
2. Interestingly, McKenzie went into his senior season at Heritage not even mentioning Georgia as one of his favorites. That’s because he didn’t hold an offer from them. At the time, he listed Notre Dame as the favorite among a top three that included Rutgers and West Virginia.
McKenzie actually committed to Notre Dame after a mid-October visit his senior season. “ND Nation stand up! @JoyStick_Izzy is headed to South Bend!!!” he said via Twitter.
But as he continued to post incredible highlight videos of his broken-field exploits that season, more and more teams came forth with offers. Florida came after him hard after the New Year. So did Virginia Tech and Ole Miss. In fact, he had only hats from the Hokies and Rebels in front of him when he pulled a UGA hat out from under the table and surprised everybody on national signing day in February of 2014.
“Coach McClendon did a good job and Sony did a good job of keeping Isaiah alive in the recruiting process,” Richt said. “Thankfully he decided to come here.”
3. Georgia is thankful Michel decided to come, too. He was always the Bulldogs’ main target. McClendon had identified him as the top back in the South in the class of 2014 and went after him hard.
But Georgia didn’t necessarily envision him being multi-dimensional threat he has proved to be. They were looking at him as a straight-up, I-formation tailback.
With Nick Chubb getting the primary tailback reps, the Bulldogs have been utilizing Michel as often as a slot-back as they have as a straight running back. It’s the best way to get both players on the field at the same time.
“We knew he had some skills where you could throw him the ball out of the backfield and everything.,” Richt said. “But we didn’t sit there and start inventing things for him as a receiver.”
Through two games, the 5-11, 208-pound Michel is the Bulldogs’ second-leading receiver with 109 yards on four catches and a touchdown. He is averaging 48.5 yards per game total offense and has also been back deep on kickoffs, along with receiver Reggie Davis. He hasn’t yet had a chance to return one, however.
“He is a gifted receiver and he’s a good kick returner as well,” Richt said of Michel. “He probably could be a good punt returner. Great back, great receiver, return man, and he’s really one of our better special teams players, too. Overall, he’s one of the better players we have, and we need to use all of his gifts.”
4. Michel and McKenzie were two of 60 players that Georgia played against Vanderbilt this past Saturday. That’s an extremely high number for an SEC road game. Conference rules allow teams to travel just 70 players.
“We played a bunch,” Richt conceded. “We had nine true freshmen on defense alone on that last drive. We had Bellamy in there and I can’t remember who the other guy was but everybody else was a true freshman. So we played a bunch of guys.”
Actually it was eight freshmen on that last defensive possession. It also included first-year player Chuks Amaechi, a junior college transfer from Arizona. Amaechi benefited the most from Lorenzo Carter getting ejected from the game for targeting. He played 37 snaps at outside linebacker and was credited with half a sack and half a tackle for loss.
5. Obviously South Carolina comes to Sanford Stadium reeling a little bit. Not only did the Gamecocks lose to Kentucky in their SEC opener last week, but they also lost starting quarterback Connor Mitch in the process.
Mitch was originally sidelined for a broken collarbone suffered against the Wildcats. But as it turned out, the hip bruise he’d incurred in the North Carolina game the week before had become infected and he had to be hospitalized on Sunday.
But it’d be naïve to count out the Gamecocks, who were posted as 17-point underdogs early in the week. Not only does Steve Spurrier believe he has a capable backup in Perry Orth, but he also has a change-up alternative in freshman Lorenzo Nunez of Kennesaw. Nunez came in and had two carries for 40 yards against Kentucky.
Richt and the Bulldogs, who have lost four of the last five to South Carolina, aren’t taking anything for granted.
“Any team that has a loss is always a dangerous team to play the next game,” Richt said. “It’s human nature to want to correct things. Your pride gets hurt a little bit and you come back and have a great performance. So we’ve got to be ready.”
Actually, South Carolina doesn’t have much recent history of playing Georgia off a loss. The Gamecocks won the previous week in each of the last five. In fact, the last time they played coming off a loss was 2008 when they fell at Vanderbilt the previous week. The Bulldogs won that one 14-7.
6. There was no ice cream for Georgia’s offensive linemen coming off the Vanderbilt game. And for that, John Theus takes total and complete blame.
“I can say it was my fault,” the senior left tackle said Monday. “So I probably need to go buy some of the guy’s some.”
Quarterback Greyson Lambert carried on the tradition established by Aaron Murray to buy all his offensive linemen ice cream if they keep him from getting sacked in a game. He was able to make good on that promise after Louisiana-Monroe, but not Vandy.
Theus was beaten by defensive end Jay Woods for what turned out to be a sack and fumble, eventually recovered by guard Greg Pyke. Otherwise, Theus reports that the line had a pretty good game, improving from the first week, when it also had a good day.
7. Richt reported on his radio call-in show Monday night that Nick Chubb should be close to 100 percent for Saturday’s game. He said the star tailback “didn’t miss a snap” in practice Monday due to the twisted ankle he incurred late against Vanderbilt.
Chubb had 189 yards against the Commodores and is currently second in the SEC in rushing at 154.5 yards per game.
Richt also named Chubb as one of the captains for Saturday’s game. He’ll join Theus, nose guard Chris Mayes and outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins.
8. The FedExCup Playoffs will continue this week at the BMW Championship in Illinois and the Bulldogs remain well represented. The top 70 players still alive include No. 5 Bubba Watson, No. 15 Kevin Kisner, No. 32 Harris English, No. 37 Chris Kirk, No. 48 Brendon Todd, No. 50 Brian Harman and No. 58 Russell Henley. After the BMW Championship, the top 30 will advance to the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.
Watson and Kirk will be playing for the United States in the Presidents Cup in South Korea Oct. 8-11. Watson played in the match in 2011, going 3-2, and Kirk will be making his debut.
The team is made up of the U.S. players who earned the most official FedExCup points, beginning with the 2013 BMW Championship through the 2015 Deutsche Bank Championship, with points earned in 2015 doubled. The rest of the U.S. team will be Jordan Spieth, Jimmy Walker, Zach Johnson, Jim Furyk, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Patrick Reed and Matt Kuchar. The International Team includes Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Branden Grace, Marc Leishman, Anirban Lahiri, Charl Schwartzel, Thongchai Jaidee and Danny Lee.
9. Meanwhile it wasn’t a great showing for Georgia’s Lee McCoy in the Walker Cup matches this past weekend at Royal Lytham & St. Annes Golf Club in England. McCoy went 0-2-1 in his three matches as the Great Britain and Ireland team defeated the United States 16.5-9.5. McCoy and his Georgia teammates will resume the fall portion of their schedule Sept. 25-27 in the DICK’S Sporting Goods Collegiate Challenge Cup in Kingston Springs, Tenn.
10. This & that: On Saturday, Georgia football players will wear a commemorative helmet sticker to help raise awareness for the battle against prostate cancer and honor former commissioner Mike Slive, who battled the disease during at the end of his career. Richt, basketball coach Mark Fox and baseball coach Scott Stricklin made a comical video about men over 50 getting checked regularly that will be shown for the second straight week on the video board at Saturday’s game. … September is also National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and Georgia’s coaches will be wearing lanyards with gold whistles and wristbands and the players will be wearing wristbands and helmet stickers on Saturday as part of the “Blow the Whistle on Kids Cancer!” campaign. A donation will be made to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. …
The Georgia soccer team finally got its first win of season. An early goal in the 14th minute by senior Bella Hartley on a penalty kick lifted the Bulldogs (1-5-1, 0-1 SEC) over Samford (4-4-0) Sunday night in Birmingham, Alabama. The win marks the first for new head coach Billy Lesesne. … Georgia assistant swimming coach Stefanie Williams completed the IRONMAN Wisconsin event in 14 hours, 1 minute, 31 seconds on Sunday. She did the 2.4-mile open water swim in 1:30:50, the 112-mile bike ride in 6:50:13 and the 26.2-mile run in 5:47.34. Williams, a 28-time All-American for the Lady Bulldogs from 1999-2002, came in 1,436th out of nearly 3,000 competitors. … The Georgia men’s tennis team claimed the Division I singles and doubles titles at the Southern Intercollegiate Championships Monday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. Sophomore Wayne Montgomery won the singles championship for the second consecutive year, and seniors Austin Smith and Ben Wagland won the doubles crown.