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UGA linebacker Roquan Smith (3) runs a drill at practice.

The top 5 rising juniors on Georgia’s roster

Cy Brown

Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Top Dawgs – rising juniors

Today, we continue our class-by-class look at the best players on Georgia’s roster. Next up are the rising juniors.

1) Roquan Smith, ILB — Anyone who reads this column enough knows how much of a Smith fan I am. His lateral movement and quickness is exactly what is needed from a modern inside linebacker. And I think he’s only getting better. Don’t be surprised if you look up at some point in 2017 and see Smith regarded as Georgia’s best player.

2) Trenton Thompson, DT — Thompson was quiet for much of 2016, but that changed during bowl season. Against TCU, Thompson set a Liberty Bowl record with 3 sacks of QB Kenny Hill. Maybe that game was a fluke, but I think it’s more likely that we just saw the beginning of a better, more improved Thompson. I’m not expecting 3 sacks per game, but I am expecting him to be a disruptive force on UGA’s line.

3) Deandre Baker, CB — Baker is the best member of Georgia’s secondary right now, in my opinion. He pulled down 2 interceptions last season and had that big touchdown-saving forced fumble against Tennessee. He works hard and has talent, a deadly combo on the football field. With good players surrounding him in the secondary and in front of him in the linebacker corps, Baker should only improve next season.

4) Natrez Patrick, ILB — As you can see, the depth of this defensive front is absolutely insane, and Patrick, who finished second on the team in tackles, is just another reason why. Patrick plays the “thunder” to Smith’s “lightning” in the linebacker corps, providing the kind of power needed in a prototype linebacker. And they have a symbiotic relationship. When Patrick steps up, so does Smith, and vice versa. Together, they make one of the most dangerous LB pairs in the SEC.

5) Jonathan Ledbetter, DE — I don’t think it’s an coincidence that UGA’s defensive line made the first steps in its season-long journey to self-improvement after Ledbetter returned from suspension. Of course, that wasn’t all him. But Ledbetter is a handful for linemen, freeing up other guys on the defensive front to get to the QB. I expect to see a lot more from him since he’ll get a full season next year.

You probably noticed that all five players come from UGA’s defense, but a couple of offensive players just missed the cut. I have WR Terry Godwin and C Lamont Gaillard as honorable mentions. Godwin has the potential to be in the top 5; he just hasn’t proven it yet. Without Isaiah McKenzie blocking his way in the slot now, Godwin should get more looks this season. Gaillard will make the switch from guard to his preferred spot at center in the spring, and if he’s good enough there, he could earn his way into the top 5.

‘The Godfather’

Seth Emerson was able to go a bit deeper into the life and death of Quentin Moses in a piece published Monday by DawgNation. He spoke with Moses’ family, friends, teammates and neighbors, and it just brings home how special a person Moses was. Read the entire post here.

Cup check

Over at UGA Sports, Patrick Garbin has a really good post that will not instill any more confidence in AD Greg McGarity, if you still had any left.

Garbin looked at the standings in the Directors’ Cup and Capital One Cup — competitions used to determine the best athletic departments in college sports by awarding points to schools who excel in different sports – for the last three UGA athletic directors. So far through his tenure, McGarity is faring worse than both Vince Dooley and Damon Evans.

In Capital One Cup results the last six years, you’ll notice, UGA’s women athletics was a respectable No. 3 in the SEC, with an 18.2 average national ranking. It’s the men sports that dragged the Bulldogs down, ranking only ninth out of 12 conference schools with just 118 points, while averaging around a lowly No. 42 national ranking.

What’s more, the 2017-18 academic year hasn’t got off to the best of starts for UGA athletics as the Bulldogs through Jan. 10 had a combined zero Capital One Cup points for their men and women’s teams, whereas Alabama, South Carolina, Auburn, and Ole Miss — to name a few — have already totaled 36, 18, 9 and 8 points, respectively.

Read the whole post at UGA Sports.

SEC Academic Honor Roll

Seventy-five UGA athletes were named to the fall 2016 SEC Academic Honor Roll. Check here for a full list of Bulldogs who made the cut.

 

ICYMI

Good dog

It was a bold move. Maybe a little too bold.