Georgia Bulldogs: Blake Sailors

ATHENS, Ga. -- One of the prevailing images from last Saturday's win against Tennessee was Georgia's players dogpiling on top of Marshall Morgan to celebrate his game-winning 42-yard field goal in overtime.

It capped a day where the sophomore claimed the SEC's special teams player of the week award for the second straight week after booting the longest field goal in Neyland Stadium history, a 56-yarder in the first quarter, and the game-winner in OT. But it wasn't much fun to be in Morgan's position at the time.

[+] EnlargeMarshall Morgan
AP Photo/Wade PayneGeorgia kicker Marshall Morgan kicked a 56-yard field goal against Tennessee, the longest on the road in school history.
“I was trying to get them off me,” said Morgan, whose Bulldogs (4-1, 3-0 SEC) host Missouri (5-0, 1-0) on Saturday. “That's a lot of weight. I've got asthma.”

Otherwise, the Bulldogs' special-teams effort was memorable for the wrong reasons, continuing what has been a season-long trend. Collin Barber had a punt blocked for a touchdown -- the second time that has happened this season -- and Blake Sailors received a five-yard penalty for defensive delay of game after Georgia forced a third-quarter punt, giving Tennessee a fourth-and-1 that prompted the Volunteers to instead go for a first down.

Vols running back Rajion Neal then broke a 43-yard run that set up his game-tying touchdown run when Georgia's defense could have been off the field if not for the rarely-seen penalty.

“If you make a movement that it looks like you're trying to get somebody to jump offsides, if they jump offsides, it's on the defense. It's on us in that case,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “I've never really seen that happen before and it was pretty crucial, obviously. We had a great stop and they were in a position to punt. I think it was a fourth-and-1 or less and they get the long run. A lot of bad plays happened after that point, and we learned a lesson. Can't do it.”

Quayvon Hicks -- one of three protectors in Georgia's punt shield lineup along with Arthur Lynch and Josh Dawson -- said there was a miscommunication on the play and accepted blame for the Tennessee block.

“I put that all on me,” Hicks said. “I would say it was a miscommunication, but it was something that could have been prevented. It will be something that we're really working on, especially me as a player, to make sure that it doesn't happen in the future.”

Hicks could have saved the day if he had blocked Jalen Reeves-Maybin before he darted through to deflect Barber's punt, but front-line blocker Leonard Floyd also barely got a hand on Reeves-Maybin.

Their collective whiff allowed the Tennessee rusher to break through, and Lynch said the decibel level in Neyland Stadium played a direct role in the miscommunication.

“It's so much easier going out and practicing and doing it, even if it's full-speed practice because you kind of have that communication barrier and it really was a lot louder than I think a lot of people thought,” Lynch said. “Lucas Redd looked at me and was like, 'I had to read your lips.' That was one of the things that you just can't have those types of setbacks. I think we've cleaned it up.”

A skeptic might point out that Georgia has vowed to clean up its special-teams errors several times recently, only to see another mistake lead to an opponent touchdown. Asked what he thinks the team needs to do to remedy those miscues, Hicks was direct in his response.

“It's really not what we think, it's what we're going to do,” Hicks said. “Thinking, that's a part of football that really doesn't matter. I think Coach can only do so much. I know we're a very close team, so we're going to do what we have to do this week to make sure that not only in the Missouri game, but here on out, that that doesn't happen anymore. It's just something that could have been prevented. It could have cost us the game.”

That seems to be the message that Richt is imparting to his club, as well. Georgia's errors in the kicking game are simply a quality-control issue, where a lack of attention to detail has allowed opponents to steal easy points.

A shaky snap might have cost Georgia the game in its lone loss. The Bulldogs are fortunate that their ensuing mistakes weren't so costly, but they know their luck will likely run out if they don't fix the problems -- and keep them fixed.

“Us as coaches, we've got to do a better job of simulating what's going to happen in the game and coaching and teaching properly where these guys can be more dependable,” Richt said. “So it's a two-way street. Coaches gotta coach better, for sure, and the players have got to take on their responsibilities and take care of business.

“That's the way it is in life, so we're learning the hard way, and just by the grace of God the two times we had blocked punts, we still won the game. But the margin for error is just getting slimmer and slimmer.”

What we learned: Week 6

October, 6, 2013
Saturday's 34-31 overtime win against Tennessee kept Georgia's championship hopes alive, but it might have come at an enormous cost. That's what we'll focus on first in this week's “What we learned.”

Injuries might be Georgia's undoing: The Bulldogs survived on Saturday ... barely ... but what happened at Neyland Stadium might have dealt a devastating blow to Georgia's championship chances. All-SEC tailback Todd Gurley didn't play and should be back before long, but fellow running back Keith Marshall might not be that lucky. Marshall and receivers Michael Bennett and Justin Scott-Wesley all suffered what appeared to be serious knee injuries. With wideout Malcolm Mitchell already out for the season with a knee injury, the Bulldogs could be without many of their top offensive playmakers for an extended period of time. Coach Mark Richt will likely reveal the extent of the damage -- or as he called it after Saturday's win, “carnage” -- on his Sunday evening teleconference.

Special teams/defensive issues remain: A feeling of impending doom no doubt swept over Georgia's fan base when the numerous injuries caused the Bulldogs' potent offense to start sputtering. That's because the Bulldogs were forced to lean more heavily on their sloppy defensive and special teams units. Tennessee blocked a punt for a touchdown, got a key penalty against Blake Sailors on an impending punt after a third-down stop -- then turned a fourth-and-short run into a 43-yard gain by Rajion Neal -- and built plenty of late momentum against Georgia's defense. The Vols scored 28 points and rolled up 277 yards after halftime and came within inches of scoring a touchdown in overtime, but Alton Howard's dive toward the pylon saw him fumble the ball through the end zone for a touchback just before breaking the goal line.

Freshmen can run: Little-used tailbacks J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas had to take over with injuries sidelining stars Marshall and Gurley. But the two freshmen delivered, with Green (17 carries, 132 yards) pacing Georgia's running game throughout the afternoon. Douglas scored Georgia's first touchdown of the fourth quarter and also made a key 32-yard catch and run to Tennessee's 13-yard line, setting up Aaron Murray's game-tying touchdown pass to Rantavious Wooten with 5 seconds remaining. It was a terrible position for the freshmen to be put in on Saturday, but Georgia had to depend on them and they responded with a number of key plays that made a difference in the outcome.

ATHENS, Ga. -- Three years of frustration against South Carolina came to an end on Saturday when No. 11 Georgia outlasted the No. 6 Gamecocks, 41-30, at Sanford Stadium.

Let's take a look at how the Bulldogs (1-1, 1-0 SEC) jumped into the driver's seat in the SEC East ahead of South Carolina (1-1, 0-1):

It was over when: Up 41-30, Georgia mounted a clock-eating final drive in the fourth quarter, feeding the ball to freshman Brendan Douglas -- taking his first career carries -- repeatedly. Todd Gurley salted away the win with a fourth-down run to keep the ball in the Bulldogs' hands.

Gameball goes to: Aaron Murray. Georgia's quarterback has faced his share of criticism regarding his play in big games, but he was nearly flawless Saturday, completing 17 of 23 passes for 309 yards and four touchdowns.

Stat of the game: 15-plus. In last season's 35-7 loss to South Carolina, Georgia totaled just four plays that covered at least 15 yards. The Bulldogs had six in the first half alone against the Gamecocks on Saturday, en route to 24 first-half points.

Best call: Shortly after scoring its first touchdown of the game, Georgia successfully attempted an onside kick, which Blake Sailors recovered at Georgia's 46. The Bulldogs got a field goal out of the drive to take an early 10-3 lead.

What it means: Georgia overcame its first-week issues to claim an enormous win in the SEC East race. South Carolina has a more manageable conference schedule, but the Gamecocks now need some help from their SEC counterparts in order to jump the Bulldogs in the standings.

Post-spring position review: CB 

April, 25, 2013
Editor’s note: Our DawgNation post-spring positional analysis continues this week after focusing on the offense last week. Today we examine the cornerbacks:

UGA spring preview: 5 positions to watch 

February, 28, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. -- Coaches always emphasize the importance of competition during spring practice, and there will certainly be more than enough at Georgia once the Bulldogs start spring drills on March 2.

The competition on the defensive side of the ball will be the story of the spring, as coordinator Todd Grantham and company work to find replacements for the 12 departed regulars who figured heavily into the Bulldogs’ defensive plans last fall.

Here are five positions that bear close watching this spring:

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UGA midseason report card: DBs 

October, 14, 2012
Sanders CommingsDaniel Shirey/US PresswireWhile Sanders Commings has proved his worth among the D-backs since coming back from suspension, his effort, including two picks of UT's Tyler Bray, isn't enough to propel the unit.
Editor’s note: Georgia’s football season is at the halfway mark, and the Bulldogs will take this weekend off before resuming SEC play next Saturday at Kentucky. We'll take a look at a different position group each day this week and evaluate how it performed in the first half of the season in our DawgNation midseason report cards.

ATHENS, Ga. -- Considering the depth chart mess that existed within Georgia’s secondary before the season, perhaps it’s no surprise that the Bulldogs have experienced numerous continuity issues in pass coverage.

Whatever the reason, a defense that ranked 10th nationally against the pass last season (176 yards per game) and fifth in interceptions (20) looked nothing like its formerly dominant self -- even after most of the group reunited when All-America safety Bacarri Rambo returned from a season-opening, four-game suspension.

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DawgNation photo gallery 

September, 24, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s 48-3 drubbing of Vanderbilt on Saturday provided plenty of memorable moments. DawgNation was on the sideline trying to capture all of those photo-worthy plays and we came up with this picture gallery from the game. Some highlights include:

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s renewed special teams emphasis this preseason has not necessarily resulted in an extra quantity of practice reps, according to special teams ace Blake Sailors.

The emphasis has been on quality -- improved quality of the work in practice and higher quality personnel on those coverage units that struggled a season ago.

“We haven’t done anything more. It’s just the same stuff that we’ve been doing,” said Sailors, who earned a scholarship based largely on his effectiveness as a gunner on special teams. “It’s just Coach [Mark] Richt has usually been kind of lenient, but he’s more strict now and we’re putting more starters and guys like that on it. So they just want to put the best guys out on the field that can play and stuff like that so that we don’t give up those big plays.”

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DN Roundtable: Counting on walk-ons 

August, 15, 2012
On Sunday, Mark Richt announced that seven former walk-on players would receive a one-year scholarship for the coming school year. Cornerback Blake Sailors and running back Brandon Harton had received scholarships last year, and those were renewed by Richt. Fullback Merritt Hall, wide receiver Rhett McGowan, safety Connor Norman, linebacker Kosta Vavlas and cornerback Luis Capella were awarded scholarships for the first time. With only 71 players on scholarship, Richt had plenty of room to add walk-on players. With Georgia’s history of productive walk-ons, the question arises:

“Which of these former walk-on players will contribute the most this season?”

David Ching: It definitely looks to be Merritt Hall. He's the only member of that group who's occupying a starting position at the moment, so that kind of gives it away. Even if he does not start throughout the season, I expect him to contribute beyond a special teams role this season. You could probably say that about a few other players on this list -- McGowan, Norman and possibly Sailors jump out at me first -- but Hall seems to be the safest bet at this point.

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ATHENS, Ga. -- A moment of great celebration for most of Georgia’s football team actually has a bit of a downside for Bulldogs coach Mark Richt.

Richt announced during a team meeting on Saturday night that five walk-ons -- cornerback Luis Capella, fullback Merritt Hall, receiver Rhett McGowan, safety Connor Norman and linebacker Kosta Vavlas -- would receive one-year scholarships for the first time and that scholarships for former walk-ons Blake Sailors and Brandon Harton would be renewed for another year.

While that was an exciting moment for the new scholarship players, Richt said he also knew it was one of great disappointment for other Georgia walk-ons.

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Around the Hedges in 80 Days: B. Sailors 

August, 13, 2012
Nineteen days remain until Georgia kicks off its season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 1. In the days counting down to the opener, DawgNation will profile, with our “Around the Hedges in 80 Days” series, a Bulldogs player we expect to make an impact. We will review each player’s career thus far and project his long-term potential as we progress through our alphabetical list, from center David Andrews to receiver Rantavious Wooten.

19. Blake Sailors
Junior, cornerback
5-foot-11, 187 pounds

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia is clearly counting on freshman offensive lineman John Theus to contribute immediately, so it helps that the Bulldogs have an All-America pass rusher to go against him during preseason practice.

[+] EnlargeJohn Theus
Radi Nabulsi/ESPN.comVeteran linebacker Jarvis Jones says John Theus (above) isn't the only newcomer to garner his 'focused' attention.
Jarvis Jones, who led the SEC with 13.5 sacks last season, said he has already worked against Theus -- whom ESPN rated as the nation’s No. 5 offensive tackle prospect in the 2012 signing class -- “all the time” in the first six days of practice.

“I’m trying to make it my business to have him ready for Day 1 when we tee it off,” Jones said.

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Preseason previews: Secondary 

July, 30, 2012

Editor’s note: With Georgia set to open preseason camp Thursday, DawgNation will break down each position group and the storylines to watch in August. We finish our look at the defense today by examining the Bulldogs’ secondary.

Where do you start when assessing Georgia’s secondary entering preseason camp?

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Sixty-three days remain until Georgia kicks off its season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 1. In the days counting down to the opener, DawgNation will profile, with our “Around the Hedges in 80 Days” series, a Bulldogs player we expect to make an impact. We will review each player’s career thus far and project his long-term potential as we progress through our alphabetical list, from center David Andrews to receiver Rantavious Wooten.

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Spring practice No. 13: G-Day nears 

April, 12, 2012

ATHENS, Ga. -- Typically by this point in spring practice, Coach Mark Richt expects a fairly listless performance from his players with the G-Day game only a couple of days away.

Richt said after Thursday’s final practice in full pads that he was surprised by the level of intensity the Bulldogs displayed.

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Peach State: Top Tier Recruiting Ground?
California, Florida and Texas are largely considered the "Big Three" in college football recruiting. But national recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton joins ESPN's Phil Murphy to explain why Georgia deserves to be in the top tier and has numbers to prove it.