THE TEN AT 10:
1. Sony Michel says he’s pretty good at returning kickoffs. Trouble is, he has always attended school with a friend nicknamed “Joystick” because he does it so well.
That’d be fellow sophomore Isaiah McKenzie, who also attended American Heritage in Fort Lauderdale while Michel was setting rushing records there in high school. McKenzie tied two Georgia records last year by returning three kicks for touchdowns last season, including two punts.
“That’s his thing,” Michel said of his close friend. “I just have to call him out to keep him on top of his game, because I know he’s the kick-return guru.”
Michel was back deep for kickoff returns in the Bulldogs’ opener against Louisiana-Monroe this past weekend, while McKenzie was not. McKenzie was coming off a hamstring injury, so Georgia didn’t want to take a chance of him aggravating it.
Michel did not get a chance to return one Saturday as the Warhawks kicked away from him. No doubt they had seen Michel’s touchdown return against Louisville in the Belk Bowl. It was nullified due to penalty, but Michel’s special wares were on full display before being undone by the yellow hankerchief.
McKenzie was suspended for the bowl game and wasn’t in Charlotte. But Michel heard from him immediately after the return.
“He called me and said ‘it took you 15 seconds to get down there,’” Michel said, laughing.
2. Make no mistake about it: Michel and McKenzie are friends. But kick returns are a competitive endeavor for them.
Michel’s opportunities were limited last year because of injuries and McKenzie’s presence. Missing five games with a shoulder injury, he returned just two for a total of 37 yards.
McKenzie was primarily a punt returner for the Bulldogs last season, but he fielded 11 kickoffs for 301 yards in returns, including a 90-yard score against Kentucky.
This year, Michel was excited about getting tabbed again for the job. He hopes to bring the same dynamic to the duty that Todd Gurley did last year. Gurley had a kickoff return for touchdown against Clemson and had another nullified by penalty against Auburn.
“You watch Todd do things like that and you want to go out there and do the same thing,” said Michel, who watched Gurley take it to the house twice.
Receiver Reggie Davis was back deep with Michel on Saturday. But once McKenzie’s hamstring heals sufficiently, it’s anticipated that he and Michel could end up back there together.
But don’t expect the two South Florida natives to be exchanging notes.
“I don’t ask his advice,” Michel said. “It’s a competitive thing. He just goes off what he knows, I go off what I know. He knows enough to get to the end zone.”
3. When Greyson Lambert transferred to Georgia this summer, one theory as to why he might be successful with the Bulldogs was he would be surrounded by more play-makers in Athens.
That was evident on both of his touchdown passes Saturday as he hit tight end Jeb Blazevich for a 15-yard TD and split end Malcolm Mitchell for a 28-yard on a flag route.
On the pass to Mitchell, Lambert’s high-arcing throw was to his outside shoulder and Mitchell made a mid-air adjustment to come down with the ball.
“Put it around him and he’ll go get it,” Lambert said. “That’s very comforting.”
On his first-quarter throw to Blazevich, the tight end was tightly covered on his out-route, but Lambert led him low and outside and Blazevich made a diving catch.
“Jeb made a great play,” said Lambert, who was 10-of-14 for 141 yards in the game. “Knowing I’ve got guys to throw to like Jeb and Malcolm is nice. Both of those catches were not easy catches. Knowing I can put the ball in their general area is comforting.”
Brice Ramsey’s touchdown pass to Michel also illustrated a play-maker’s special skills. Michel caught Ramsey’s throw in tight traffic, splitting two defenders and shaking another on his way to a 31-yard score.
“We’ve got a ton of great players here,” Lambert said. “Being able to hand it off to stable of running backs and throw it to anybody and have them make plays helps you be able to stand in there and take those shots. It was a lot of fun.”
4. One Georgia player who is particularly eager to get back to Nashville is Brendan Douglas.
Douglas was a true freshman and forced into a starting role with both Gurley and Keith Marshall sidelined with injuries when the Bulldogs last played there on Oct. 19, 2013. Douglas had 84 yards rushing on 17 carries, but had a critical fumble late that prevented Georgia from making a comeback in the 31-27 loss.
“I was just fighting for extra yards and the ball slipped out,” Douglas said Monday. “It was a while ago, but I still think about it, I guess. I try to forget about it and learn from it and move on.”
There’s no guarantee Douglas will get in the game at tailback. He’s currently fourth on the depth chart behind Nick Chubb, Michel and Marshall.
“I’m just going in there this year and taking it like another game, preparing the same way and get ready to play every day,” he said.
5. There will be plenty of Georgia representation on the Vanderbilt sideline when the teams meet on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Commodores feature 21 players from the Peach State, many of whom play primary roles.
Vandy’s starting quarterback is Johnny McCrary from Decatur’s Cedar Grove High School. Defensively, the Commodores are led by linebackers Darreon Herring of Stone Mountain and Nigel Bowden of Macon. Sophomore Caleb Scott of Suwanee is one of their top receiving targets.
Suffice it to say, playing the Bulldogs provides extra incentive for the state residents.
“Georgia is a big game for us,” Bowden said last month. “A lot of Georgia players on our team didn’t get scholarship offers from there. So there’s a lot of animosity behind it. So it’s a game we look forward to.”
6. Vanderbilt will be hosting the SEC Network and its ESPN GameDay-style SEC Nation pre-game show on campus Saturday. The show will be broadcasted from The Commons, which is located on the south side of campus on Peabody campus off 18th Avenue South.
Meanwhile, tickets are still available for the game. They are $65 each and can be purchased online at http://www.vucommodores.com/tickets/vand-tickets.html
7. Congratulations to UGA alum and longtime offensive coordinator Mike Bobo for getting his head coaching career off to a good start. The Colorado State Rams, whose primary color is green, held an “Orange Out” for their opener against Savannah State and rolled to a 65-13 victory.
Like Georgia, the Rams were breaking in a new quarterback. Sophomore Nick Stevens was 20-for-28 and threw for five touchdowns in his first start. Colorado State rolled up 598 yards against their overmatched visitors.
Bobo will have a considerably tougher challenge this week as Colorado State prepares to host Minnesota Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (CBS). The Gophers had a chance to win against No. 2 TCU before falling 23-17 last Thursday.
8. The UGA Athletic Association announced this week the formation of “The Magill Society,” a new fundraising initiative designed to honor the late Dan Magill, known to many as the “the greatest Bulldog ever.”
Created in the same vein as the Bill Hartman Fund, which is where football ticket donations go, the Magill Society is designed to solicit funds for Georgia’s major facilities projects. This, of course, includes the Indoor Athletic Facility for football and the tennis complex expansion.
It takes a donation of $25,000 or more to be admitted into the Magill Society. But donors will get double-credit for their donations into the Hartman Fund ticket priority system. For more information go to http://www.georgiadogs.com/genrel/090415aaa.html
9. Two Bulldogs — Bubba Watson and Chris Kirk — will be playing for the United States in the Presidents Cup in South Korea Oct. 8-11 by virtue of their top-10 finishes after the Deutsche Bank Championship. Watson played in the match in 2011, going 3-2, and Kirk will be making his debut.