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Eight Dawgs Invited to NFL Combine


ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia football program had eight former players invited to the 2016 NFL Combine, according to a league announcement on Thursday.

The Bulldogs are tied for second in the Southeastern Conference with their eight selections.  The Combine is slated to start on Feb. 24-29 in Indianapolis, Ind.

Defensive end Sterling Bailey (Gainesville, Ga.), outside linebacker Leonard Floyd (Eastman, Ga.), fullback Quayvon Hicks (Blackshear, Ga.), outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins (Hamilton, Ga.), running back Keith Marshall (Raleigh, N.C.), nose tackle Chris Mayes (Griffin, Ga.), wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell (Valdosta, Ga.) and offensive tackle John Theus (Jacksonville, Fla.) were a portion of the 300-plus players invited to this year’s Combine.  All but Floyd, who was a junior in 2015, were seniors for Georgia last season.

The schedule for the Combine is as follows: Feb. 24 – media interviews for RBs, OL, Special Teamers; Feb. 25 – media interviews for QBs, WRs, TEs; Feb. 26 – media interviews for DL, LBs, on-field workouts for RBs, OL, Special Teamers; Feb. 27 – media interviews for DBs, on-field workouts for QBs, WRs, TEs; Feb. 28 – on-field workouts for DL, LBs; Feb. 29 – on-field workouts for DBs.

The 2016 NFL Draft is scheduled for April 28-30 in Chicago.

KIRBY SMART 1/13 presser transcript (from UGA)


ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia head football coach Kirby Smart met with the media on Wednesday at a press conference inside the Butts-Mehre Building. Below are his comments:


Opening statement…

“It’s great to be home. It’s great to have one job. I’m ready for questions, y’all shoot them away.”


On finalizing the defensive staff…

“It’ll be a work in progress at some spots. Glenn Schumann is going to work primarily with the inside backers. Kevin Sherrer outside backers. There’ll be times when they meet together. There’ll also be times where I’m very involved defensively. That’s the position that I’ve enjoyed coaching most of my Alabama career, was the linebackers. I’ll be working with those guys, with the inside guys, with Coach Schumann and Kevin also. Coach (Mel) Tucker will work with the (defensive backs) and be the defensive coordinator also, obviously.”


On focusing on his job here and balancing two jobs at once…

“I cannot explain how well I slept last night. Number one, we won the national championship at the University of Alabama. To be able to finish that the right way was a relief. Obviously we did not perform the way I wanted to perform, but we won the game. To know that those players achieved what they wanted to achieve, and then to get into this room yesterday and meet with this team, the University of Georgia team, my team -everybody told me when you get to do that finally, and it’s the only thing you have to worry about, it would be a great relief. A burden off your shoulders. That’s what it’s been for me. I feel much more relaxed. I got to meet with those guys and have a conversation with them. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. It was the first time I’ve gotten to do that without something else lingering.”


On his schedule in the near future…

“No down time now. Now’s the hottest time there is for recruiting. We’re getting ready to get back on the road. We’re going to attack the road. We’re going to try to go get the best players we can. We’re going to build this thing through recruiting, which you have to do. No down time now. It may feel like a down time to me, from what I’ve got. Every hour I’ve got, every waking moment we’ll be on the phone with a prospect, with support staff, with some kind of role player, to make this place as good as we can.”


On the strengths and weaknesses of Georgia’s roster…

“I know from playing them offensively more than anything. We had to play them (at Alabama) so I got to observe it. To pinpoint one area, I think as a whole we always have to build from the lines. It’s hard to play good SEC football without great offensive and defensive linemen. I think there’s a lot of skill players within a five-hour radius of here. But I think you have to have great O-lines and D-lines, and that’s where we want to start the building blocks to build a great program. To say I know exactly what’s here, I’d be lying if I told you I knew exactly what’s here. Especially maybe defensively, I don’t get to see those guys as often. A lot of them I got to recruit, so I know a little bit about it from that, but not where I need to. I do know that we have to go out and get great players, and there’s a lot of great players in this area.”


On his recruiting pitch after winning another national championship…

“They know coming in that there’s a certain standard of excellence that I’m used to that they’re going to be held to. There’s also a certain standard of expectations that they’re going to be held to at the University of Georgia. If they understand that and they know what the expectation is, to be great, to win championships, to do things the right way, to go to the SEC Championship, to win the SEC East, when you build all those things with building blocks, you focus on what it takes to get you there, not the actual result — I think they’ve seen that product. They’ve seen me be part of that product for nine years. I really want them to understand that those are the goals and that’s what we want to do. I think there’s proof in the pudding. We’ve got to use that in recruiting, and we will.”


On any surprises with juggling coaching at Georgia and Alabama…

“There were time constraints, obviously. I knew what a bowl schedule, what a national championship schedule, what a playoff schedule was like at Alabama. I’ve been through all of those. I knew it was going to be grueling from that aspect. It’s not like there’s a lot of free time. The biggest challenge, again, I would say was finding time to hire the staff, finding time to talk to people to hire the staff. I’m used to a process for hiring staff where you have a group of people sitting in a room making a decision. I was forced to make a lot of these decisions with two or three people as opposed to 10 people. That was the biggest difference and the most trying thing. But I got what I wanted in all of those scenarios. I think we’ve put a great staff together, certainly one that’s very cohesive. I’m looking forward to working with them.”


On any parting advice from Nick Saban…

“Not so much advice. I think the advice that he’s given me is nine years of experience. The other night he was very appreciative and supportive. He told me that any way that he can help me, he wants to keep that relationship open. He’s always been that way. He is a developer of young men, developer of coaches, promoter of the game. As many times as I’ve been with him, he wants to promote the game of football, the same as I do. It’s my lifeline. It’s what my father did. I want football to be better. He’s always been about the guys who worked for him being the best they can. He’s always been in support of that. We left in a moment after the game. He was very appreciative of me staying and helping. Obviously we didn’t play real good, he wasn’t fired up about that. But we won the game.”


On the special teams unit and the offensive staff…

“I’ve got a lot of respect for the job Shane (Beamer) has done. I’ve known Shane personally a long time. I think he’s a very good recruiter. He’s been in the Southeastern Conference which I think is critical to be able to coach in this conference. I think he’ll do a good job with special teams. I’ll be very involved with that, and so will the other staff members. We’ve got other guys on our staff who’ve worked with those units as well. James Coley, he and I have worked together. When I was at LSU, my first full-time coaching job, he was a GA. He did an amazing job as a grad assistant. I don’t know how many years ago that was — 10, 11, 12 years ago, he did a great job. He’s gone and been really successful. He’s been with some great programs. He’s been with Jimbo (Fisher), he’s done a good job out on his own. I’ve got a lot of respect for the job James does and the person that he is as a recruiter. He’s also been very involved in special teams and coached those, and he’ll help on those units as well. Dell McGee, who I had the great fortune of recruiting his high school. Every time I’ve gone to Dell’s high school, I’ve always thought about the respect I had for him as a person first and foremost.I can’t tell you how many times Coach Saban and I went through the whole Gabe Wright and Isaiah Crowell process where I thought ‘Man, this guy is a really reputable person. He’s going to be a great college coach one day.’ He took the steps to do that. He went and worked at Auburn. He went and got his job at Georgia Southern. He did a great job recruiting for two years. I don’t think there’s a person more qualified for this position, as far as in the state. Well respected as a person, as a coach, has proven himself, and he’s done nothing since he’s been here to disappoint me at all. I’m looking forward to working with Dell. As far as those kids, they really like him. I think it’s a great deal for us.”


On getting multi-year deals for the assistants…

“I think there’s a misnomer out there among the media and among some other people. I think when you talk to agents and you talk to different people – are multi-year deals great? Sometimes they are. You’ve got to read all the stuff in the contract. What’s the buyout? What are the clauses that come with that? Me personally, or when you talk to a lot of NFL coaches, a lot of them don’t want multi-year deals because it locks them in a lot of times. It’s a two-way street. Each guy was dealt with on an individual basis. Some of those decisions they made, some of them I made, some of them were mutual agreements. I didn’t always like a multiyear deal, personally, as an assistant. If I do my job, I recruit good players, and we win football games, I’m going to have opportunities. Opportunities create leverage, create movement, create a situation where you can go advance. Sometimes that advancement can be hindered by multiyear deals, depending on the wording. I was happy that we were able to create a great staff, but each one was dealt with on an individual basis. I think each one of them got what they wanted.”


On what he expects as Georgia’s offensive approach…

“We’ve got to win football games. Ultimately we’ve got to do what’s best for our offensive system and what we have. What we have here right now, a situation with our quarterback environment where we’ve got to compete to find the best guy for the job. Of the three guys, four guys we’ve got here, we’ll be able to compete and find that out. If a dual guy comes along that we’re going to recruit, I’ve played against Jim Chaney. I’ve coached against him. You go back to his history at Tennessee, he had some quarterback runs. He had some things where he had to use that. If that’s your best way to run the ball is with your quarterback, then you’ve got to use that. If your best way to run the ball is to hand it Derrick Henry or to Nick Chubb, then you do that. You do whatever you have to do to win the game. If that becomes a dual-threat quarterback, then we cross that bridge when we come to it. I do think that creates challenges for the defense. If you find the right guy, which I agree with you there have been a lot of good ones to come out of this state, then you use that. You also recruit to the style of quarterback you have, and that allows you to get other positions, whether it be running back, receiver. You also recruit to a NFL criteria of can this kid advance and go on to play in the NFL? More and more dual threat guys are doing that in the NFL. That’s opened the door to it. Would we be open to it? Absolutely. Can Jacob (Eason) do that? I don’t know that right now.”


On the blueprint for recruiting…

“In the coaching profession, everybody plagiarizes and takes ideas from other people. I didn’t invent any blueprint.  When it comes to recruiting, everybody recruits their own individual way. My recruiting style is different than Nick Saban’s recruiting style. I have to recruit the way I feel comfortable recruiting. Building relationships and bonds with those people, and building trust, is the way I like to do it. I like spending time with them, getting to know them, bringing them in, getting them on campus as many times as you can. That’s how you develop relationships. At the end of the day, that’s what a person decides where they’re going to school on is the trust with that coach. To say I have the blueprint or what that blueprint is, I can’t really put that into words. It’s kind of intangible at times.”


On meeting with the current players and building relationships…

“I told each one of them I plan on having individual meetings where I sit down and get to meet each one of those guys. It’ll probably be after signing day, to be honest. Up until then, they’ve already met the new strength coach. They’re going to meet with their position coaches. I’ve gotten to meet with some of them individually, as we’ve gone along the last two days. The weekends will be important. We’ll have a lot of players coming in. We’ll have players involved in that recruitment. I’ll get to be around the players at that time and spend time with them. Getting to know them will be a slow process, and getting to know them the right way. I do believe probably 30 or 40 percent of them I already have a good relationship with. I know most of these kids through recruiting. But some of them I haven’t spent time with. So I’ll spend time with them and get in a better situation moving forward.”


On changing the culture at Georgia…

“I think culture is very important any time you take on a new job. Not that anything was completely broken before, but this culture has to be created by Coach Smart and Coach Smart’s staff. We’re doing that right now. We’re doing that in the weight room on day one. We’re going to make sure every kid understands that. It’s a tough, competitive culture. But it’s going to be done through our eyes, our window. That’s what we want to establish in the offseason. That’s the point of the offseason — create toughness. To make kids be comfortable being uncomfortable. I think that’s important for them to have to do. I had to do it as a coach. I think when you step outside that box it makes you a better person. We’re going to challenge these kids to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”


On spring practice…

“We didn’t go in depth about spring practice, nothing like that. This was a general meeting. This was more of a get to know you meeting and spend time with them. I went over and ate with those guys in the environment they eat in each day, just being around them. It was not specific to spring practice. We won’t broach spring practice until a little bit further down the road.”


On evaluating Georgia’s players…

“We’ll watch tape in the coming weeks, especially after signing day, of these players. We’ll get to see them in their games, absolutely we’ll do that. A lot of this is a clean slate in the perspective that they’re starting in the weight room new, they’re starting academically new. They’ve got a fresh slate with all of us. But what they’ve laid out on tape is on tape. That’s your resume as a player, not your resume as a person. A lot of our coaches have already watched that. The ones who have been hired and been in house, they had bowl games to watch that, evaluate that. I haven’t had that luxury, to be honest. That’s something that I look forward to being able to do – to watch and observe.”


On what Georgia’s offense must improve on…

“I faced it and had success. We had our complications when we were in the SEC Championship Game. They moved the ball on us. We haven’t always had ultimate success. I do think that at this program, at this University, you will always be able to recruit talented running backs. You always want to be able to run the football, because you can’t win football games if you can’t run it. If you can only run it, you will lose football games, too. You’ve got to be able to have balance, which is why we hired the staff we hired. I think it creates a great balance, using a guy like Coley, who has been in a lot of different passing systems, has coached in the NFL, been around Jimbo, done some things. He and Chaney have similar lineage. They’ve both been around Scott Linehan, who’s a great offensive mind. We’ve got to have balance. What’s the one thing we’re going to have to improve? We’ve got to throw the ball better than we have in the past here. I think we can do that with the people we have here. We’ve got to improve the offensive line, we’ve got to get bigger people, we’re got to get more depth. We’ve got to be able to survive a couple of injuries because they’re going to happen. It’s inevitable. It’s going to happen. You’ve got to be able to survive those. There’s a lot of areas to improve on. We’ve got to improve on defense, too. All that can be done through recruiting and in the weight room, and that’s what we’re focused on right now.”


On the strength and conditioning program…

“I envision it looking very detailed, very organized. We’re going to structure it in a way that I’m comfortable with. Scott (Sinclair) and I have sat down and talked about that. That was part of the interview process and that’s probably what intrigued me most about him. He’s very personal. He enjoys being around the players. He thinks if you get to know them that they will work hard for you. They’ll buy into that. I believe in that. We have a lot of similar beliefs. We also had a lot of similar people we worked with. The guys I worked with at Alabama, they worked prior too. Very reputable guy. Very good reputation. He did a very good job at Marshall. I felt very strongly that he was the right guy to hire. Then Ed (Ellis) coming with him, they made a great tandem. Those two have worked together before and done really good things. I like what they’ve produced. They’ve been able to develop players at places they’re at to play at the pro level. The guys at Central Florida, a lot of their former players called and reached out to me. I felt really good about those guys.”


On filling out the support staff…

“I think in today’s day and age in college football, that’s where the most growth has come. Every school is trying to take advantage of support staff every way they can. What role can they play? What role will the NCAA allow them to do? Try to maximize those benefits. We’re going to try to do that every way we can. The administration here has been very supportive of me and (filling) those roles. Getting people in those roles, trying to fill them. At whatever point we start to hire those guys, we’ll be able to release it. For me, I want to do it the right way. I don’t want to rush into hiring somebody in one of those roles and not feel comfortable with them. I do think there’ll be a little bit of expansion there, and the administration has been very supportive of that.”


On the indoor practice facility and logistics until it’s finished…

“I think you have to take a step back and take two steps forward. Obviously, there’s going to be some logistical issues of which I don’t know all of them yet. I don’t know exactly what all it is. I know it’s going to incur some problems with practice and things like that, but I’m 100-percent on board with that to get the indoor. You’re not going to hear me complain about having to travel to get that. I’m all on board with that. I’m really fired up about it. I’ve seen the plans for it. I think a lot of thought and the right mindset went into that, to build it the right way. Once you’ve got it, it’s yours. It’s your baby. You want it to be done the right way. Logistically, it’ll create some problems for the first season. I do think we can overcome that, and they’re willing to do it. As we incur some problems you’ll know about it.”


On operational changes coming for the program…

“Alabama has the largest staff in any capacity that I’ve ever seen. I don’t know if that’s a fair comparison sometimes when it comes to pure staffing. A lot of those issues have been addressed through the last couple weeks. I think they will be addressed in coming weeks with hiring people and developing a staff. To say that it’s going to be as large as theirs or comparable to theirs, I don’t know if that’s necessarily the truth. We want to do everything we can to win here. Everything I think we need (the administration) we have here too and they want to win. I think that’s an important part. I think you should win here. I think that part of doing that is hiring the best people you can hire in those roles. Do I think we need every one of those roles? No, I don’t. I was there for nine years. I don’t think you need every one of those roles. I certainly think we’ve got to develop that. They’re on board with that and we’ve started in that process. You’ll see that come to fruition in the coming months. To say that I’ll run out right now and hire somebody before I get out recruiting, I’m not comfortable with that either. I want to get this done right the first time, even if it takes a little longer to get done.”


On anticipating transfers…

“You take it as it goes but you accept that that’s probably going to happen. Everybody I’ve talked to, taking head jobs, they’ve dealt with that first transition, changing culture. There’s going to be kids who felt they were so loyal to that coach or that staff or some staff member that they feel they need to take a chance to look somewhere else. Our job is to convince them that we’re here for them too, to build that relationship, to make sure they know that they’re a part of this family. They chose to come to the University of Georgia for a reason. We want to make those reasons the same. Is it inevitable? I do think it’s inevitable. I do think that when you change the culture, sometimes people may not fit that culture, and they’ll choose to leave. There’s regrets about that. It affects your APR, it affects your graduation rate long term. At the end of the day, they’ve got to decide what’s best for them, and we can’t sacrifice our goals and culture for one player.”

Mel Tucker named DC (from UGA)

For Immediate Release

ATHENS——-Mel Tucker, assistant head coach and defensive backs coach at the University of Alabama and former NFL defensive coordinator, has been named defensive coordinator at the University of Georgia according to an announcement Tuesday by UGA head coach Kirby Smart.

Tucker joined the Crimson Tide staff in January, 2015, after serving seven years as an NFL defensive coordinator: two with the Chicago Bears (2013-14), four with the Jacksonville Jaguars (2009-12), and one with the Cleveland Browns (2008). The Jags ranked sixth in the league in total defense in 2011, allowing just 313.0 yards per game. Tucker was Jacksonville¹s interim head coach for the final five games of that season. He earned the additional title of assistant head coach with the Jaguars in 2012.

Tucker was also on the Browns staff from 2005-07 as defensive backs coach before taking over as defensive coordinator in 2008. In that season, the Browns were second in the NFL with 23 interceptions and ranked 16th in scoring defense (21.9 points per game).

Tucker joined Nick Saban¹s staff at Michigan State as a graduate assistant in 1997. After two years there, he went to work as a defensive backs coach at Miami (Ohio) for one season in 1999. In 2000, Tucker returned to work with Saban at LSU for one season before going to Ohio State for a three-year stint (2001-03). The Buckeyes went 14-0 in 2002 and won the BCS National  Championship. Tucker was elevated to co-defensive coordinator in 2004.

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Tucker attended Cleveland Heights High School where he was a football standout and earned a scholarship to Wisconsin. He was a four-year letterman at defensive back for the Badgers and graduated in 1995. Tucker¹s wife, JoEllyn, earned her undergraduate degree at Illinois and her law degree from Rutgers. The couple has two sons: Joseph (12) and Christian (10).

Dawgs Cap 10-Win Campaign With Close Bowl Victory

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE–via UGA Sports Communications

Jacksonville, Fla. — After jumping ahead 24-3 in the third quarter, Georgia (10-3) was able to hold on and beat Penn State (7-6) by a final score of 24-17 in the Taxslayer Bowl at Jacksonville’s EverBank Field on Saturday afternoon.

The victory over Penn State gave Georgia’s senior class 40 wins for its four-year career.

Freshman wideout Terry Godwin became the first non-quarterback to throw for a score for Georgia since 2005, and the first Bulldog wideout to throw for a score since 1998, when he hit senior Malcolm Mitchell in stride for a 44-yard strike for the first touchdown of the game. Later in the first half, he pulled in a 17-yard touchdown from Greyson Lambert.

After going up 24-3 in the third quarter, Georgia was able to hang on for the seven-point victory behind a strong defensive effort. Georgia was able to limit Penn State’s offensive output to 17 points despite being outgained 401-327. Penn State did not score a touchdown until the first play of the final quarter, and tailback Saquon Barkley was contained to 69 yards on 17 carries. The defensive unit finished the game on the field, knocking down a 43-yard heave on the final play that could have tied the game.

On the offensive side, Mitchell capped off a strong career with five receptions for 114 yards and a score. Tailback Sony Michel also had a strong game to end his sophomore season, amassing 85 yards rushing and flaunting a 21-yard scamper for a score in the third quarter.

The Bulldog defense dominated in the first half, holding Penn State to just 182 yards of offense and 39 yards rushing in the opening 30 minutes while forcing an interception on the game’s first possession. The turnover from Christian Hackenberg was the sixth pick of the season for safety Dominick Sanders.

Offensively, Georgia was sparked by Godwin’s play, which included a 44-yard strike to Mitchell early in the second quarter and a 17-yard grab for a touchdown later to expand the Bulldogs’ lead to 17-3 before the intermission.

After the break, Michel’s 21-yard sprint late in the third quarter extended the lead, just one drive after Georgia took over deep in Penn State territory but squandered the scoring opportunity.

The Nittany Lions broke through for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter with backup quarterback Trace McSorley connecting with Geno Lewis for a 17-yard score to trim Georgia’s advantage to 14 points. Two drives later, McSorley hit DaeSean Hamilton for a score down the seam for 20 yards to make the score 24-17.

The Bulldogs got the ball back with 6:07 remaining in the contest, and behind a methodical drive and several strong runs by senior back Keith Marshall, were able to run the clock down to under 90 seconds. The defense then held long enough to seal the victory for Georgia.

DAWGTIME’s Halftime Tidbits

GEORGIA 17, Penn State 3

  • Pending the result of the TaxSlayer Bowl, Bryan McClendon will become the first Georgia head coach in history (and the most “winningest,” or “losingest”) to have an official coaching record of 1-0 or 0-1.
  • In the first half, Terry Godwin became the first Georgia player to both throw a touchdown pass and make a touchdown reception in the same game since Charley Trippi vs. Georgia Tech in 1946.
  • Senior Marshall Morgan connected on a 44-yard field goal. He had one PAT to finish with four points. He injured his right ankle in the first half and did not return for Georgia’s final extra point of the half. It was kicked by senior Patrick Beless. Currently, Morgan ranks third in SEC and school history with 407 points, trailing only Georgia’s Blair Walsh (412 from 2008-11 and 409 Bily Bennett from 2000-03). Morgan is 64-for-84 in field goals. The 64 field goals ranks fourth in school history while the 84 field goal attempts ranks tied for 5th. Morgan owns the PAT record at 215-for-220.
  • Georgia’s defense posted a scoreless first quarter as the Bulldogs had a 3-0 lead. At that point, PSU had 83 yards of total offense on 13 plays while Georgia’s offense had 30 yards on 12 plays. For the half, PSU had 182 yards on 34 plays and three points. Aaron Davis and Leonard Floyd shared the lead in tackles at the half with five each for the Bulldogs.

Bulldogs Resume Bowl Practice at UNF (from UGA)

Georgia Sports Communications–For Immediate Release

JACKSONVILLE——Under partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper 70s, the Georgia Bulldogs resumed bowl practice here Monday.

The Bulldogs worked out in jerseys, shoulder pads, helmets and shorts on the campus of the University of North Florida. Georgia interim head coach Bryan McClendon and selected Bulldogs met with the media before practice. McClendon confirmed that senior fullback Quayvon Hicks would miss the TaxSlayer Bowl game due to an injury.

“Quayvon will not play in the bowl game; he has a lot to look forward to as he moves on, and you hate to see a senior not get to play in his final game because of an injury,” McClendon said.

With Hicks out, Georgia’s depth at fullback will consists of sophomore Christian Payne and redshirt sophomore Glenn Welch. Hicks had appeared in all 12 games with three starts. Payne has played in seven games this year with no starts while Welch has appeared in 11 games with no starts.

The Bulldogs (9-3) face Penn State (7-5) on Jan. 2 at noon at EverBank Field.  The Bulldogs are looking to win 10 games in a season for the 22nd time in school history. Additionally, the senior class enters the game with a 39-13 record.

“The seniors are extremely important to this program; any program you need good leadership period,” McClendon added. “Our guys have done an extremely good job this year. The opportunity to get 40 wins in a career and a 10-win season that is huge for them.”

Georgia is making its 51st appearance in a bowl game when it faces the Nittany Lions. The Bulldogs are playing in a bowl game for a school record 19th consecutive season.

ESPN will televise the TaxSlayer Bowl, and the broadcast team will feature Allan Bestwick (play-by-play), Dan Hawkins (analyst) and Tiffany Greene (sidelines).

Head Coach McClendon Answers Questions Prior to Break

For Immediate Release–UGA Sports Communications

ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia football team inched closer to the Christmas break with a two-hour workout in helmets and shoulder pads on the Woodruff Practice Fields on Monday.

Monday’s session marked the sixth of seven practices scheduled in Athens in preparation for the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl against Penn State slated for Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla. The Bulldogs will practice again Tuesday morning, then will reconvene at the bowl site on Sunday.

Interim head coach Bryan McClendon met with the media following practice and discussed a variety of subjects.

  • On shaking up the lineup: “We’ll sit down and talk personnel and evaluate everybody who’s gone through bowl practice,” McClendon said. “We’ll see if anyone has earned more playing time, if anyone needs to lose playing time, and go from there.”
  • On Coach John Lilly talking over the play calling for the offense: “It’s similar to how it’s always been,” McClendon said. “It’s a group effort coming up with ideas and tweaking what comes into the game. … Ultimately, it’s what hits the play-caller’s brain best and what he’s comfortable calling.”
  • On Coach Kevin Sherrer taking over the play calling on defense: “Kevin is a very good ball coach,” McClendon said. “He’s run this defense before and called it at South Alabama. He’s got more experience on that end and is comfortable calling the defense.”
  • On freshmen getting a chance to shine in bowl workouts: “Bowl practices are like an early spring practice in a sense because you go back to basics and focus on fundamentals,” McClendon said. “You see a big improvement during that time in freshmen, not just here but everywhere. School’s out so there’s no homework, no papers, no tests, and they can really put their time and effort into what we’re teaching. If the young guys keep improving and work their way into more playing time, we’ll reward them.”
  • On his future after the bowl: “I’ve kept my focus on the bowl and have pushed everything else back,” McClendon said. “But I’ll have three or four days this week to sit down and really investigate and talk to people and come up with what’s best for the McClendon family. On the 27th, all my focus will be back on the bowl game. We’ll be focusing on the game, focusing on the kids and focusing on making UGA the best it can be in Jacksonville.”

McClendon also announced that running back Brendan Douglas (wrist surgery) and linebacker Tim Kimbrough (suspension) will not play in the bowl.

The Bulldogs (9-3) will be looking to win 10 games in a season for the 22nd time in school history. The seniors enter the bowl with a 39-13 record as the class seeks its 40th win. Georgia will be making its 51st appearance in a bowl game when it battles Penn State (7-5). The Bulldogs will be playing in a bowl for a school-record 19th consecutive season.

Russ/Uga IX Passes Away (from UGA)

(Photo by Danny White)

From UGA–For Immediate Release

ATHENS———- Former University of Georgia mascot Uga IX, also known fondly as “Russ,” passed away in his sleep early Monday morning according to the Seiler family, long time owners of the Georgia line of mascots.

Russ, born June 20, 2004, officially retired at the Nov. 21 football game with Georgia Southern turning over mascot duties to Uga X, also known as “Que.”

The half-brother of Uga VII, Russ compiled an overall record of 44-19. He served as an interim Bulldog mascot for a total of 25 games, working nine games during the 2009 and 2010 seasons after Uga VII and VIII passed away. Russ roamed the sidelines at all 14 games during the 2011 season. He then served for two wins at the beginning of the 2012 season before being officially promoted as Uga IX prior to the Florida Atlantic game on Sept. 15, 2012.

The continuous line of Georgia Bulldog mascots has been owned by the Frank W. “Sonny” Seiler family of Savannah, Ga., since 1956.

Dogs’ TaxSlayer Bowl Prep. “Not Bad”

For Immediate–UGA Sports Communications

ATHENS, Ga. — The Georgia football team continued preparations for the TaxSlayer Bowl with a two-hour workout in full pads on the Woodruff Practice Fields on Thursday.

Thursday’s session marked the second of seven practices scheduled in Athens in preparation for the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl against Penn State slated for Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla.

Interim head coach Bryan McClendon said he was pleased with the work he saw put in on Thursday.

“Overall, not bad, not bad at all,” McClendon said. “We want to make sure every day is a good day, with good effort and good will to compete. We saw that today. I was proud of the way the guys came out and worked. The guys came out today and worked hard and competed well and worked hard on their fundamentals. Now we want to make sure tomorrow is better than today. It’s that simple. We need to get better every single day. That’s the goal.”

The Bulldogs (9-3) will be looking to win 10 games in a season for the 22nd time in school history. The seniors enter the bowl with a 39-13 record as the class seeks its 40th win. Georgia will be making its 51st appearance in a bowl game when it battles Penn State (7-5). The Bulldogs will be playing in a bowl for a school-record 19th consecutive season.

The TaxSlayer Bowl will kick off at noon on ESPN on Saturday, Jan. 2. The broadcast team will feature Allan Bestwick (play-by-play), Dan Hawkins (analyst) and Tiffany Greene (sidelines).

McClendon Previews TaxSlayer Bowl (from UGA)

ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia interim head coach Bryan McClendon previewed the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl matchup vs. Penn State with media members on Wednesday. He offered the following comments:


Interim Head Coach Bryan McClendon

Opening Statement…

“We are just really focusing on the bowl game. As far as the opponent that we’re coming up against, they’re very formidable, very formidable. It’s a team that’s definitely good enough to beat the gauntlet of its conference, especially its division. They have a quarterback (Christian Hackenberg) that everyone’s projecting to be a top-10 pick. They’ve got a Lombardi winner at defensive end (Carl Nassib). They’ve got their other defensive end that I think is just as talented as he is, just a little bit younger. Saquon Barkley is a guy who I thought, back when I was coaching running backs and recruiting those guys, he was just as talented as any of those guys that was out there. He’s playing well for them. They’ve got a kid who’s playing pretty good for them at receiver as well, just about to take the 1,000-yard mark for them. I think a lot of Coach (James) Franklin. I think the job he did at (Vanderbilt) was second to none, to be honest with you. He’s a guy who did great things for that program. You knew he wasn’t going to be there for very long. He has Penn State playing at a high level there, too. He’s a guy who is very familiar with us, very familiar with our brand of ball, and he’s going to have his team ready to play.”


On the coaching staff for the bowl game…

“Todd Hartley, who was special teams coordinator at Marshall who came here and we were lucky to get him here in any capacity, he’s going to handle the special teams. He’s going to do all of the special teams, all of our kicking units. Coach (John) Lilly is going to handle the offense. Coach (Kevin) Sherrer is going to handle and call the defense. Guys who we promoted to put on the field were Sam Pettito, a guy who’s very familiar with the defensive backfield. He’s a coach who did a lot. He was a coach who we were trying to get over here in any capacity, and he’s been very good. He’s very familiar with that, he can teach that, and he’ll do a very good job with that. Courtney Coard is going to have some of the responsibility as far as the outside backers. The outside backers are going to get kind of rolled up a little bit with the defensive line, and Coach (Tracy) Rocker is going to head that up. Kevin Sherrer, he’s going to handle the interior backers, the inside backers. Sam is going to help him out as far as that goes. On-the-field GA’s will be there, working with the same groups they’ve been working with. Olten Downs is another guys who we’re going to put on the field. Coach Downs is just a tremendous coach, and we’re lucky to have him. He’ll be on the field as well. He’s going to help out with my group — the receivers. He’s been helping with those guys all year in a capacity where he wasn’t a guy who was able to do stuff on the field outside of charting and things like that. As my role changed a little bit, he’s going to have a new role to take in, a bunch of the team aspects and things like that. (Steve) Shimko (will handle the quarterbacks). “Shimmy,” he’s been there every step of the way with those QB’s. He’s going to take on full responsibility with those guys.”


On having staff turnover in prior bowl games…

“Even last year, to a certain extent, helps with Mike (Bobo) having to take a job and having to do things a little bit different. Guys had to adjust to that a little bit. All of that stuff helps. To be honest with you, I think the guys just being in constant communication with the team, getting in front of those guys every single day, those guys have been great. They’ve been great. They’ve been kind of ‘Hey coach, you tell us what to do and we’ll do it.’ Those guys have been great.”


On his future at UGA…

“It’s kind of all about the kids. It’s been about the kids. That stuff will take care of itself a little later on, but right now everything is just geared toward this bowl game, getting the team ready for the bowl game so we can go out there and have a good showing.”


On managing the change with the coaching staff…

“The preparation part of it, not a whole lot. Just the game planning and things like that, that’s a little bit different. The actual preparation part of it is not going to change a whole lot.”


On learning on the job…

“I’ve learned the kids are the easy part. Everything else, dealing with the adults, is what eats up a lot of your time, to be honest with you. What I have learned is how much goes through the head coach and how much input you actually do have on every decision that’s made. That’s why it’s super important to have good people around you. It really is.”


On players’ reaction to the staff changes…

“They’ve been good. All of them have been very, very receptive to everything I’ve been saying. All of those guys have been excited a little bit. I don’t know what they’re expecting and everything else, as far as that goes. Those guys are excited. The thing is we just have to show those guys that we’ve got it. We’ve got it. We’re okay. Regardless of everything that may be getting printed out there or tweeted out there, whatever. The only thing we can control is what we can control. That’s what we’re going to focus on. Just make sure you’re zooming in their focus every single day. Knowing I have to do the same thing, a lot of that stuff I have to do myself as well. All that stuff has been good. Those guys have been great.”


On the message to the players…

“I think the message has to change week-to-week, day-to-day. Anything that stays one way gets stagnant, and you hear it all the time so you tune it out a little bit. That’s why I’m supporting that you pick out a few things to make sure you’re focusing on today. Today, guys, this is what we’re focusing on. Tomorrow we’ll do something a little bit different. Always being able to tie it in to the one common thing — but I think the message, as far as the emphasis each day, has to change. To answer that question, it’s changed a lot. The thing you can’t focus on is the stuff that you can’t control. The only thing that we’re going to do is focus on what we can and do a great job at that.”


On personnel… 

“Quarterback situation is what it is right now. Greyson (Lambert) is starting. Brice (Ramsey) is right there backing him up. That part of it hasn’t changed. I do think guys, at quarterback just like every other position, can earn more reps based on how they practice.  If Brice comes out there and practices well or whoever comes out there and practices well or the backup guard comes out there and practices well he’s going to earn more playing time. As far as that goes, I think everybody is going to stay consistent. The theme is you earn what you get, and the best player is going to play. The most productive players are going to play. The guys that give us the best chance to win, those are the guys that are going to play. That really hasn’t changed. Who may be at what position and things like that will be up to what gives us the best chance to win personnel wise and how we match up against Penn State.”


On advice from Coach Mark Richt…

“I reached out to him the first day and said ‘Hey man, I’m really going to need some input from you.’ His main thing was just to make sure that I think through everything in the aspect of how this is going to affect 125 kids and the whole staff, not so much what’s best for five people or 10 people or anything like that. You’ve always got to think of the greater good when it comes to certain things. Coming from a position coach, you’re thinking about what benefits your position more times than not. When you’re going to coach to make a request, going to coach and saying hey can we do this or can we do that, you’re thinking about how it’s going to benefit your guys. You’ve got to do that for everybody now. That’s the one thing that has been really eye opening, in that regard. That was his help.”


On if this experience will lead to head coaching opportunities in the future…

“I definitely see how it could help. To look at anything beyond this bowl game, to be honest with you, is kind of difficult to do right now. Will it help in the grand sense of things? I think it could. To be put in this position definitely helps you understand and have a better appreciation for the guy in this position, for sure. As far as anything like that, looking beyond this bowl game and beyond everything that’s going on that you’ve got to manage in this position, is kind of hard to do right now.”


On the passing game this season…

“I think at times it showed glimpses. I definitely think there’s always room to improve, so that’s what we’re going to focus on, on the improvement part of it. Hopefully, like I said, you try to make it to where you’re not one-dimensional at any point in the season and definitely not at any point in a game. At times, that happened. You just try to make sure that you’re balanced enough and effective enough in both the passing game and the running game where that won’t happen.”


On his initial reaction to being the interim head coach…

“Surprised. Not in a bad way, but just surprised. And excited – excited about the opportunity to be able to do it. Very rarely does a guy who’s working his way up the ranks get put in a position like that in a school that he loves, at his alma mater. I’m very honored, but surprised initially.”


On his view on the broad impact of the bowl game…

“I see this game as an opportunity and the last game of this season. It’s an opportunity to give these seniors those 40 wins and get a 10-win season. Outside of that, I’d be lying if I said I saw it any other way. That’s how I look at this game.”


On incoming coaches and their role leading up to the bowl…

“I’ve definitely talked with them. As far as them doing anything outside of observing or just kind of walking around and getting a feel for the personnel that they’re walking into, they don’t plan on doing anything more than that. That’s all they’re going to be doing.”


On what he told his children regarding the coaching profession…

“When all that happened to Coach Richt, obviously my three-year-old daughter doesn’t care. As long as daddy’s home and we can have tea time, that’s all that matters to her. My 8-year-old son, he’s the one that’s in the middle of it all and likes to be in the thick of things. When all of that happened to Coach Richt, I had to explain to him what happened, where we are here. It wasn’t so much that I worried about his reaction, but just when he went to school. I wasn’t so much worried about the kids, but the adults coming to ask him ‘So what’s your dad going to do’ and all that other stuff. I just really wanted to kind of brace him for that kind of stuff. But it comes with it. That’s what I told him, it comes with it. With every job, it has its things that it comes with and that’s just this profession, that’s the business of this.”


On his children’s reaction to him becoming interim head coach…

“They were excited. He didn’t really say anything too much. I told him we were going to do a press conference, and I asked what I should do. He said ‘Just make sure there’s nothing in your nose.’ I said okay, I think I can handle that. He’s excited.”