Georgia Bulldogs: Abry Jones

ATHENS, Ga. -- Like former Georgia teammate Zach Mettenberger a week before him, Aaron Murray wanted to prove that he’s close to full health at the Bulldogs’ pro day on Wednesday -- his first public passing session since tearing his left ACL last November.

Although he didn’t attempt more than 100 throws like Mettenberger did at LSU’s pro day last week, Murray’s battery of agility drills and a wide range of drops, rollouts and throws showed that he should be physically ready to compete when his future team opens rookie camp.

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
AP Photo/John BazemoreAt Wednesday's pro day, Aaron Murray didn't show ill affects from his November ACL injury.
“I think I’ve shown everyone that they don’t have to worry about my injury, that it’s not going to stop me from being able to compete this year,” Murray said. “Now it’s just a matter of what teams like me, what teams don’t and is one going to draft me.”

Murray completed 48 of 54 throws with three drops in Wednesday’s passing session, which was directed by quarterback guru and former NFL assistant Terry Shea. Among Shea’s previous pre-draft clients are No. 1 overall picks Matthew Stafford and Sam Bradford and No. 2 pick Robert Griffin III.

“I thought it went very well,” Shea said. “In four weeks that we’ve been together, I’ve never seen him favor that knee or anything. So I’m really excited that he’s healthy.”

In fact, Murray is apparently ahead of schedule in his recovery. Trevor Moawad, vice president at the EXOS/Athletes’ Performance facilities where Murray conducted his offseason workouts, said the training staff followed a similar rehab schedule as they did with Bradford, who was also coming off an injury when preparing for the 2010 draft.

“I think he’s ahead of probably where he should be at this time and I think come May 8 after the draft, I think he’s going to be able to show up at a team and be right where he needs to be,” Moawad said.

Murray was the featured attraction at Wednesday’s sparsely attended pro day, which represented a significant change from last year, when the Bulldogs had eight players drafted -- four in the first 85 picks -- and three more who made NFL rosters as undrafted free agents.

Murray (No. 129) is the only Bulldog listed among ESPN’s top 150 draft prospects, and only he and tight end Arthur Lynch received invitations to the NFL combine. Nonetheless, 15 former Bulldogs worked out Wednesday before the 23 NFL teams that had representatives on hand -- many of whom still harbor hopes of becoming late-round selections or undrafted free agents.

That group included offensive guards Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee, both of whom snapped to the quarterbacks during passing drills, showing off what they hope teams will view as positional versatility.

“I feel like you get to the next level, they want to have a guy who’s a swingman, who can play multiple positions,” said Burnette, rated by ESPN as the draft’s No. 19 guard prospect. “I don’t want to limit myself to guard. I’ve had a little bit of experience playing center, so I tried to focus on my snaps and stuff like that during this time off. I think it was good for me to be able to do that.”

Another player hoping to catch an NFL club’s eye was defensive lineman Garrison Smith, who ranked fourth on the team with 63 tackles and added six sacks and 10 tackles for a loss. Smith is hardly a flashy player, but said scouts who pay close attention to his performances on film will see an NFL-caliber player.

“I can do it all. I can look good in a T-shirt, I can look good in the birthday suit, it don’t matter. But I’m a football player,” joked Smith, rated by ESPN as the No. 34 defensive tackle prospect. “When them pads get on, it gets real serious. In them trenches, ask about me down there. I’ve got a lot of respect down there and I made a lot of plays.

“Look at game film, look at my stats. I had good games against good teams this year. I didn’t have no amazing games against teams that they say were less of opponents. I had good games against Florida, LSU, Tennessee. They’re supposed to have one of the best offensive lines in the country. Watch the film. That’s all I want people to see: I’m a good player.”

Bulldogs coach Mark Richt agreed with his former player’s assessment, noting that he would not be surprised to see Smith find a way to stick on an NFL roster like the three undrafted Bulldogs -- receiver Marlon Brown and defensive linemen Kwame Geathers and Abry Jones -- did a year ago.

“People will see his film. They’ll see his productivity,” Richt said. “From what I’m hearing, if he doesn’t get drafted, he’s going to get into a camp and get a chance to make it. We had Geathers last year didn’t get drafted and made a team. We had Abry Jones, I don’t think he was drafted [and] he made a team. I’m hoping he gets drafted, but if he doesn’t, he’ll get in camp and I think he’ll find a way to stick.”
Continuing our run-up to Georgia's spring practice, this week we'll review the Bulldogs' five best recruiting classes of the past decade.

Today, we'll look at No. 1: the 2009 group that was built around a couple of stars and a larger group of key contributors on one of the best teams of the Mark Richt era (2012).

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesAaron Murray enjoyed a record-setting career at Georgia.
The stars: You have to start with Aaron Murray: a four-year starter at quarterback who went on to set every significant SEC career passing record. The only All-American out of the class was tight end Orson Charles, who left after a standout 2011 season where he was a finalist for the John Mackey Award. But there were multiple All-SEC honorees (including Murray, Charles, offensive guard Chris Burnette and tight end Arthur Lynch) and future NFL players (so far including Charles, receiver Marlon Brown, safety Shawn Williams, nose guard Kwame Geathers, and defensive lineman Abry Jones with more to come in May) within the group.

The contributors: The strength of this group is its depth. More than half of the signees became at least part-time starters at some point and a dozen were valuable members of the 2012 team that finished fifth in the national rankings. Guards Burnette and Dallas Lee started for most of the past three seasons, Williams was one of the emotional leaders of the 2012 club, linebacker Michael Gilliard was one of the team's leading tacklers in 2011, and Brown and Rantavious Wooten overcame injury-filled careers to enjoy solid senior seasons. Brown was one of the highest-rated players in the class, but his impressive 2012 helped him finally break through and become an undrafted free agent signee with the Baltimore Ravens -- and then one of the top rookie receivers of the 2013 season.

The letdowns: There were some notable departures in this group, starting with quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who eventually became a two-year starter at LSU after getting dismissed before his second season at UGA. Washaun Ealey, who led the team in rushing for two seasons, also parted ways with the Bulldogs before the 2011 season. In addition, ESPN 150 signee Dexter Moody never enrolled and cornerback Jordan Love and defensive linemen Montez Robinson and Derrick Lott left Athens early in their careers. Offensive lineman Austin Long was a huge recruit, but struggled with numerous health issues before finally contributing as a reserve in 2012. He left the team over an academic issue before the 2013 season. The off-field issues that robbed UGA of Ealey, Moody and Mettenberger's services are perhaps the biggest disappointments in this class, although the Bulldogs did just fine with Todd Gurley and Murray instead.

The results: There was more star power in other classes, and perhaps one or two of them will still catch up to this bunch before their time at Georgia is over, but the 2009 group was full of blue-collar players who produced for at least two seasons in Athens. The program was at a low point early in the class' tenure, but the group helped Georgia bounce back with consecutive division titles and seasons with at least 10 wins. Their time at UGA ended in disappointing fashion as injuries crippled a 2013 team that started in the top five. Nonetheless, the program is once again on solid footing thanks in large part to this group's on-field production and leadership.
With four players selected in Saturday's final rounds of the NFL draft, Georgia concluded the three-day event with eight players picked -- matching the program's record for most players picked in one year.

Last year the Bulldogs nearly tied the previous program record, eight in 2002, by having seven players selected. They reached the record this year when safety Bacarri Rambo went to the Washington Redskins in the sixth round -- although several players who hoped to hear their names called Saturday went undrafted, including nose guard Kwame Geathers, who opted to skip his senior season in college to enter the draft.

Georgia players halted a conspicuous trend Thursday when outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (17th overall to Pittsburgh) and inside linebacker Alec Ogletree (30th to St. Louis) were both picked in the first round. It had been eight years since Georgia had a defensive player picked in the first round, dating to when David Pollack and Thomas Davis were both first-rounders in 2005.

Defensive players dominated this draft class for Georgia, with seven of the eight picks having played under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham last season. Along with Jones, Ogletree and Rambo, nose guard John Jenkins (third round, New Orleans), safety Shawn Williams (third round, Cincinnati), cornerback Sanders Commings (fifth round, Arizona) and defensive end Cornelius Washington (sixth round, Chicago) were picked this year.

Receiver Tavarres King (fifth round, Denver) was Georgia's only offensive draft pick.

Shortly after the draft concluded, defensive end Abry Jones tweeted that he had signed as an undrafted free agent with the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Meanwhile, several other former Georgia players became available to sign with teams as undrafted free agents. In the next few days, Geathers, receiver Marlon Brown, cornerback Branden Smith and linebackers Christian Robinson and Michael Gilliard could sign with teams via free agency.

Post-spring position review: DL 

April, 22, 2013
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Editor’s note: Last week we started reviewing each of Georgia’s position groups at the end of spring practice. We took a look at the offense last week. Today we begin examining the defense, starting with the defensive line:

Returning players/stats: Garrison Smith, Sr. (Eight starts in 2012. 57 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack); Ray Drew, Jr. (23 tackles, 1 TFL); Michael Thornton, Jr. (No tackles); Sterling Bailey, So. (One tackle); Jonathan Taylor, RFr. (Redshirted in 2012)

Newcomers: Toby Johnson, Jr. (ESPN’s No. 4 overall prospect in the 2013 junior college 100, No. 3 DT. Expected to enroll this summer); John Atkins, Fr. (Hargrave Military transfer. Enrolled in January); Chris Mayes, Jr. (No. 87 in 2013 junior college 100, No. 14 DT. Enrolled in January); DeAndre Johnson, Fr. (No. 84 DT. Expected to enroll this summer)

ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia returned from a quiet spring break this week with two spring practices, but the big news around campus was the NFL-bound Bulldogs’ pro day on Thursday.

Jarvis Jones was of course the biggest story at pro day after the two-time All-American skipped the workouts at last month’s NFL combine -- and his day was a bit of a disappointment before a huge crowd of scouts and personnel execs. Nonetheless Jones, ranked fifth on ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board, said it was a good day. He also further discussed going through the draft process and teams’ apparent concerns about his health and potential longevity in the pros.

We caught up with several of the 17 Bulldogs who participated in pro day and discussed how their preparations are progressing, including slimmed-down John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers, linebacker Alec Ogletree, defensive lineman Abry Jones and receiver Marlon Brown.

As for the current Bulldogs, today is a big day, as they will hold their first spring scrimmage at Sanford Stadium.

We updated the progress of rising sophomore outside linebacker James DeLoach earlier this week and also provided some practice updates from coaches and players after practices on Tuesday and Thursday, as well as a photo gallery from Tuesday’s practice.

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UGA pro day notes: Chasing history 

March, 21, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- After 17 of his former players worked out in front of representatives from all 32 NFL teams on Thursday, Georgia coach Mark Richt expressed his opinion that this crop of ex-Bulldogs might set a new program record for the most players picked in one draft.

“I thought they looked great,” Richt said. “I don’t know what kind of times guys ran and all that kind of thing, but if you just look at their body types, how hard they’ve worked and just watched them do the drillwork and how smooth they looked, you could tell there’s going to be a bunch of Bulldogs out of this class make it in the league, and we’re excited about that for them.”

[+] EnlargeMark Richt
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesMark Richt expects at least eight Bulldogs to be drafted off of Georgia's SEC East-winning roster.
Richt’s 2002 draft class holds the program record with eight selections, but it’s highly possible the Bulldogs will have at least that many players selected in next month’s draft. Six players -- linebackers Alec Ogletree and Jarvis Jones, defensive lineman John Jenkins, safeties Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo and receiver Tavarres King -- all rank among ESPN Scouts Inc.’s top 115 prospects. Others like defensive lineman Kwame Geathers, defensive back Sanders Commings and defensive end Cornelius Washington all stand a good chance of getting drafted, as well, with an additional group of Bulldogs hoping to crack the draft’s later rounds or make a squad as an undrafted free agent.

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Aside from tailback Isaiah Crowell, no player in Georgia’s heralded 2011 recruiting class arrived with more hype than defensive end Ray Drew. And yet the rising junior struggled to make much of an impact in his first two seasons as a Bulldog.

But after working his way into the defensive line rotation late last season and acquitting himself well -- including an eight-tackle game against Georgia Tech, a single-game total that tied for second among Georgia’s defensive linemen last season -- Drew entered this spring with a newfound confidence that he can perform at the college level.

“The more you play, the more comfortable you get,” Drew said. “And then after I had my game against Georgia Tech where I think I had about eight or nine tackles there, I guess it kind of just freed me and it was kind of like, ‘OK, let’s go.’ ”

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SEC's DLs, LBs strong at combine

February, 21, 2013
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Several of RecruitingNation's SEC sites will look this week at the players headed to the NFL combine, which begins Friday in Indianapolis, and other predraft camps. Today: Defensive linemen and linebackers.

Georgia Bulldogs


Georgia’s time to shine in Indianapolis will arrive Monday, when the defensive linemen and linebackers take the field for their combine workouts. The Bulldogs will have six players on the field, including a trio -- John Jenkins, Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree -- who have a strong chance to become first-round draft picks in April.
  • NG Kwame Geathers (Position rank: No. 14)
    Strengths: Geathers’ greatest strength as a pro prospect is his size (6-foot-6, 355 pounds), which will likely convince an NFL team to draft him earlier than his college production might indicate. There is always a place in the league for oversized defensive linemen who can occupy multiple blockers, and Geathers certainly has the pedigree to become a longtime NFL performer, with several family members having played in the league.
    Weaknesses: Of the draft-eligible juniors who opted to leave Georgia early, perhaps Geathers’ decision was the most questionable. He has never been a regular starter and was an inconsistent performer for much of his career. A team will likely draft him based on potential, but he still has a lot to work on before he becomes an NFL regular.
    Comparison: Kade Weston. Much like Geathers, Weston was a massive interior lineman at Georgia several years back. The New England Patriots drafted him in the seventh round of the 2010 draft, but injuries kept him from playing for the team. He spent last season with the Edmonton Eskimos in the CFL.

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Rising stars: Five to watch on D 

January, 11, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Mark Richt said Thursday that he wants his up-and-coming defensive players to ask themselves, “Am I going to be good enough to help this team win a championship?” as they work toward playing bigger roles in 2013.

There’s no question that if the Bulldogs return to the SEC championship game for a third consecutive year, those defensive players will have made enormous strides to get them there. They return every key offensive player except receivers Tavarres King and Marlon Brown, but lose 12 important defenders.

So let’s take a quick look at five key players who will lead the rebuilding effort for Georgia’s defense this fall -- and then three more to watch for good measure.


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Bulldogs plan to remain among elite 

January, 11, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- As Mark Richt turns the page from one season to the next, Georgia’s coach insists that his expectations will not change this fall.

The Bulldogs lose 12 key defensive players from a team that finished fifth in the final Associated Press poll and fourth in the USA Today Coaches Poll -- the third-best finish for a Richt-coached Georgia team in both polls -- but Richt said he still expects his team to rank among the national elite.

“We plan on being that. We hope to be that. We’ve got to earn that,” Richt said Thursday afternoon on his season-wrapup teleconference.

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ATHENS, Ga. -- This won’t be the most crucial offseason of Todd Grantham’s relatively brief time at Georgia -- that honor goes to 2010, when he started installing his 3-4 scheme shortly after joining Mark Richt’s staff in January -- but it might be the one with the most roster uncertainty.

The Bulldogs will lose 11 key players off its 2012 defense, and that number could grow to 12 if junior nose guard Kwame Geathers declares for the NFL draft, so spring practice will feature major competition within every defensive position group.

“I kind of put them up on the board the other day and we’ve got some talented guys. It’s just a matter of developing them and working them and filtering it,” Grantham said. “Our depth is going to be better than it’s been the last couple of years, but it’s going to be young. So there’s a little bit at every spot.”

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About Them Dawgs: Garrison Smith

December, 20, 2012
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Editor’s note: Each day between now and Georgia’s Capital One Bowl date with Nebraska, we will review the season for a key Bulldogs player and attempt to project what’s next. Today we’ll look at defensive end Garrison Smith.

No. 56 Garrison Smith
Junior/Defensive end
55 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack

Role in 2012: Smith joined the starting lineup when an injury knocked Abry Jones from the lineup for the rest of the regular season and the junior wound up leading the defensive linemen in tackles.

The good: Smith built off a strong effort last season against Georgia Tech, when he came off the bench after DeAngelo Tyson was injured and played well in his first extensive playing time, by developing into one of Georgia’s top defensive linemen in 2012. Jones played a similar role last season, rarely racking up huge tackle or sack totals, but holding the point so teammates could make plays, which is essential to the defense’s success.

The bad: It would be interesting to see what kind of numbers Smith could have accumulated in a full season as a starter. The situation is understandable -- Georgia had experienced seniors across the board on the defensive line, and Jones was a preseason All-SEC pick -- but Smith fared well as both a reserve and in his seven starts.

Crystal ball: Smith recently said that he plans to return for his senior season, so he should be one of the known quantities within a group that must replace a ton of experience. If he and fellow junior Kwame Geathers return next season, the Bulldogs will be in great shape up front. But either way, Smith will probably be on some preseason all-conference lists and projects as a strong performer in 2013.

Dawgs Snapshot 2013: John Atkins 

December, 18, 2012
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To gear up for 2013 national signing day, DawgNation's Radi Nabulsi is breaking down every commitment in the Bulldogs' 2013 recruiting class.

Vitals: Defensive end John Atkins, Thomson, Ga./Hargrave Military | 6-foot-3, 321 pounds

Committed: September 2, 2011

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About Them Dawgs: Christian Robinson

December, 18, 2012
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Editor’s note: Each day between now and Georgia’s Capital One Bowl date with Nebraska, we will review the season for a key Bulldogs player and attempt to project what’s next. Today we’ll look at linebacker Christian Robinson.

No. 45 Christian Robinson
Senior/Inside linebacker
44 tackles, 6.5 TFL

Role in 2012: Robinson mostly contributed in third-down situations -- although he played a much greater role in defending the option offenses of Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech at the end of the season.

The good: The senior mostly had a quiet season until the final two weeks against Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. He tallied half of his season total for tackles (44) in those two games alone -- 13 against Georgia Tech and nine against Georgia Southern -- and four tackles for a loss. Otherwise, he typically played on third downs while Amarlo Herrera and Michael Gilliard alternated alongside Alec Ogletree on first and second downs.

The bad: Robinson is the first to admit that he isn’t Georgia’s most physically gifted linebacker -- and that was a key reason why he lost playing time to Herrera and Gilliard after opening 2011 as a starter -- instead having to rely on smarts and preparation to get his job done. There were times where opponents exploited that shortcoming with quicker receivers or backs, but by and large he played his role effectively.

Crystal ball: Although he plans to eventually become a football coach just like his father, Robinson hasn’t given up on the idea of playing professional football. He was invited to participate in a postseason all-star game -- the Raycom Bowl in Montgomery, Ala. -- along with teammates Gilliard, Cornelius Washington and Abry Jones. One way or another, he has a promising future in the sport, whether it’s on the field or on the sidelines coaching.

Position scouting report: Defensive end 

December, 18, 2012
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Editor’s note: Over the next several weeks, we’ll take a look at each position on Georgia’s depth chart today and projecting how it might look in the future. Today we examine Georgia’s defensive ends:

Current two-deep depth chart:
Garrison Smith (Jr.), John Jenkins (Sr.)
Cornelius Washington (Sr.), Ray Drew (So.)

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