Georgia Bulldogs: Dyshon Sims

We're closing in on the start of spring practice at Georgia, so this week we will take a look at five position battles worth watching this spring.

The first two installments covered the competitions at safety and defensive line. Today, let's move to the offensive tackles. Georgia lost a longtime starter in left tackle Kenarious Gates and have two part-time starters returning.

[+] EnlargeJohn Theus
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMIJohn Theus has started 21 games during his first two seasons at Georgia.
Returning starters: Entering his junior season, John Theus has already started 21 games. He manned the right tackle spot for all 14 games in 2012 and started the last seven games of 2013. He and the versatile Kolton Houston, who started the first six games last season, handled most -- if not all -- of the significant snaps at right tackle last fall.

Departures: Gates was never a star, but he was reliable, closing his career starting 33 consecutive games split between guard and tackle. He was exclusively the Bulldogs' starting left tackle for the last two seasons, so Georgia has a significant hole to fill in protecting new quarterback Hutson Mason's blind side.

Returning reserves: This is where things get interesting. We know that rising juniors Xzavier Ward and Zach DeBell are tackles, and we assume that Theus and Houston will remain at the position, but position coach Will Friend doesn't hesitate to juggle rotations. Seniors Mark Beard and Watts Dantzler and redshirt freshman Aulden Bynum are each listed as guards, but all of them have the size and ability to play tackle. If Friend doesn't like the way things are shaping up -- or even if he does and simply wants to weigh all of his options -- don't be surprised if he shuffles some of these guys inside and out.

Newcomers: Bynum is the only possible tackle who redshirted last season, but the Bulldogs signed three potential tackles last month in Dyshon Sims, Kendall Baker and Jake Edwards -- none of whom will arrive on campus until the summer.

What to watch: Offensive linemen are accustomed to players at other positions getting all of the attention, but the tackle races rank among the most important position battles for the Bulldogs this spring. Friend's offensive line had an up-and-down season in 2013, but it might get off to a much better start if Theus and Houston -- or a different candidate -- lock down the tackle spots by proving they can handle the job during spring practice. Houston didn't even know if he would be able to play at this time last year thanks to a long-running NCAA eligibility dispute. He definitely looked rusty at times, particularly when trying to anticipate the snap count in noisy road venues. Now he has a season of steady playing time under his belt, and most of the other leading tackle candidates have played in big games as well. Someone simply needs to prove to Friend that he deserves the job. Otherwise, expect to see Georgia continue to rotate players in and out until Friend discovers a combination that he likes.

UGA position groups to improve: No. 4

February, 11, 2014
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Georgia doesn't open spring practice until March 18, so we'll use the next few weeks to look ahead to those all-important workouts and preview what to watch once the Bulldogs get started.

Today we continue a series where we examine five position groups with room to improve. After touching on the inside linebackers on Monday, we move on to the offensive line group that must replace three starters.

4. Offensive line

[+] EnlargeDavid Andrews
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMIDavid Andrews returns to anchor the offensive line.
Battling for No. 1: This is perhaps one of the most interesting position groups to watch this spring. Offensive line coach Will Friend seemed fairly comfortable with most of his lineup last fall, with center David Andrews, left tackle Kenarious Gates and right guard Chris Burnette starting all 13 games and left guard Dallas Lee starting 12. It was the right tackle spot that felt like a revolving door at times, with John Theus starting eight games and Kolton Houston six. With Gates, Burnette and Lee all out of the picture now, there should be plenty of competition to fill their spots -- and just as much at essentially every position but center, where Andrews seems entrenched as a starter. Friend seemed to like what then-freshman Brandon Kublanow brought to the lineup last season at guard, so he might be one candidate to keep an eye on during the spring. But who Friend will insert into the tackle spots seems difficult to predict. Theus and Houston certainly had their ups and downs last season, but they are far and away the most experienced tackles on the roster at this point.

Strength in numbers: Georgia finally has depth along the line that seemed to be lacking for far too long. Guards Watts Dantzler, Mark Beard and Greg Pyke could all be candidates for legitimate playing time -- and maybe even starting jobs – but reserve tackles Xzavier Ward and Zach DeBell only add to the mystery at their position, having contributed very little on game day to this point. Reserve center Hunter Long is in a similar situation since rising senior Andrews has taken essentially every significant snap over the last two seasons.

New on the scene: In guard Josh Cardiello and swingman Aulden Bynum, the Bulldogs add two candidates to the rotation after redshirting last fall. Both players participated in spring practice as early enrollees last year, although it was apparent they were unlikely to contribute on a veteran line in the fall. This year's line signees -- tackles Dyshon Sims, Jake Edwards and Kendall Baker and guard Isaiah Wynn -- are not expected on campus until summer, so they will need to have surprisingly strong August camps in order to crack Friend's rotation in the fall. Sims and Wynn, who was the No. 106 overall prospect in the ESPN 300, seem like the most probable contributors among the freshmen.
Georgia has another top-10 class lined up for national signing day, but its final ranking next week could rise or fall depending on how the Bulldogs finish within their own state -- particularly whether they land their top remaining target, Lorenzo Carter.

As it stands, the Bulldogs have commitments from two of the top six players from Georgia, but that's it among the Peach State's collection of elite prospects. Heavily recruited players such as linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Ohio State) and quarterback Deshaun Watson (Clemson) were among those who checked out Georgia before committing elsewhere.

Mark Richt's staff still has a chance to finish on a strong note, however.

[+] EnlargeLorenzo Carter
Miller Safrit/ESPNLorenzo Carter is the top remaining recruiting target for Georgia.
The Bulldogs seem to be in good shape to land five-star defensive end Carter (ESPN's No. 14 overall prospect and No. 3 player at his position). Other targets such as ESPN 300 prospect Wesley Green (No. 120 overall, No. 13 cornerback, uncommitted), Bryson Allen-Williams (No. 162 overall, No. 10 outside linebacker, committed to South Carolina) and Andrew Williams (No. 174 overall, No. 17 defensive end, uncommitted) are among those lurking as possible final members of the class.

Otherwise, this recruiting class -- one that could be slightly smaller than normal -- adequately addresses Georgia's immediate needs. Let's look at how Georgia addressed some of those positions:

Secondary: Georgia's weakest position segment last season could use some immediate help -- and it will get it in cornerbacks Shattle Fenteng (No. 3 overall prospect, top cornerback on ESPN's Junior College 50) and Malkom Parrish (No. 77 overall, No. 10 athlete). Georgia recently added three-star athlete Dominick Sanders at corner. Green -- who is scheduled to join Carter and others on a visit to Athens this weekend -- and three-star athletes T.J. Harrell and Tavon Ross remain as targets.

The possible shortcoming here is that safety was an inconsistent position for Georgia last season and the Bulldogs have only three-star prospect Kendall Gant lined up so far.

With Josh Harvey-Clemons suspended to open the season, senior Corey Moore, rising sophomore Quincy Mauger and oft-injured Tray Matthews might be the only early options, but keep an eye on Harrell and Ross between now and signing day.

Running back: With Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall entering their third seasons on campus, Georgia needed insurance policies at tailback.

The Bulldogs locked that up in a big way with the current headliners in this class, Sony Michel (No. 19 overall, No. 2 running back) and Nick Chubb (No. 63 overall, No. 7 running back). It will be interesting to see how Richt's staff juggles a glut of talented ball carriers just a year after injuries to Gurley and Marshall created depth problems.

Tight end: With Ty Flournoy-Smith getting kicked off the team last summer and Arthur Lynch exhausting his eligibility in the fall, Georgia had a need at tight end. Jeb Blazevich (No. 101 overall, No. 2 tight end/H) could become Georgia's next great pass-catching tight end thanks to an impressive combination of size (6-foot-5) and soft hands.

Offensive line: Replenishing the line of scrimmage is always a priority, and with Georgia losing starting guards Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee, signing a top prospect such as Isaiah Wynn (No. 106 overall, No. 6 guard) will be particularly valuable. The Bulldogs are also set to sign four-star tackle Dyshon Sims and three-star prospects Kendall Baker and Jake Edwards.

Receiver: Georgia has plenty of bodies here for 2014, but Chris Conley, Michael Bennett, Jonathon Rumph and Michael Erdman will each be seniors and Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell will be fourth-year juniors.

The Bulldogs have secured commitments from ESPN 300 member Shakenneth Williams (No. 297 overall, No. 45 receiver) and three-star prospect Gilbert Johnson. They also are set to re-sign Rico Johnson, who failed to qualify after signing with the Bulldogs last February.

Defensive line/outside linebacker: Keep an eye on this group for the future. If Georgia lands Carter to go along with already-committed Lamont Gaillard (No. 55 overall, No. 4 defensive tackle), that could be the foundation for some outstanding defensive lines in the next couple of seasons.

The Bulldogs return almost everyone along the line from last season, so it is not a glaring immediate need. The 2014 line will be stocked with fourth-year players, though, so this is a good time to restock the depth charts for the future. They already have a commitment from the versatile Keyon Brown (No. 185 overall, No. 19 defensive end), with Carter and Williams potentially joining him. Like Brown, three-star outside linebacker Detric Dukes brings some versatility to the crop of commitments along the line.

Georgia's coaches never gave up on Allen-Williams even after his commitment to South Carolina in April. He insists he will still sign with the Gamecocks, but plans to visit Georgia with Carter and the others this weekend. Stay tuned.
SAN ANTONIO -- The University of Georgia prides itself on power running backs. Look at the names of the past and present as proof.

Herschel Walker. Garrison Hearst. Lars Tate. Knowshon Moreno. Rodney Hampton. Frank Sinkwich. Terrell Davis. Most recently, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.

[+] EnlargeChubb/Michel
Damon SaylesNick Chubb (left) and Sony Michel will face a crowded backfield when they arrive at Georgia.
With most of these players, you can say their first names around Athens, Ga., and everyone knows who you’re referring to. In a few years, the names “Sony” and “Chubb” could be added to that list.

That’s the ambition for two of the 2014 class’ most complete running backs. ESPN 300 running backs Sony Michel (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage) and Nick Chubb (Cedartown, Ga./Cedartown) have been impressive during U.S. Army All-American Bowl practices, and the two are working as teammates in the coveted all-star game before doing so in the SEC.

“I’m going in behind guys like Herschel Walker and Todd Gurley, two of the best running backs ever,” Chubb said. “I’m going to make a name for myself and I’m going to do my best.”

Michel added: “I’m just going in and trying to put my name on the map like they did.”

At first glance, Michel, the No. 2 running back in the country (No. 16 in the ESPN 300), and Chubb, the No. 8 running back (No. 64 in the ESPN 300), fit the description of a Georgia power runner. Both have good size and great speed. Michel is a solid 5-foot-11 and 205 pounds. Chubb is also 5-11 but weighs in at 216.

The idea of being as good as Walker and the distinguished Georgia ghosts of the past will always be in the back of their minds. While the mission is achievable, it’s also a long way off.

Georgia’s 2013 running back group was loaded with depth and seemed almost unfair at times. When everyone was healthy, the Bulldogs had Gurley, Marhsall, Brendan Douglas and J.J. Green to choose from. Gurley and Marshall were the “elder statesmen” as sophomores.

Add Michel and Chubb to the list next year, and the backfield looks even more dominant -- and crowded. Both players understand the risk of not playing early, but they also aren’t afraid of competing.

“There’s always going to be pressure, and people are going to be watching to see if we can live up to it,” Chubb said. “I’ve been doing this since I was young, and I’m going to continue doing it. I’m going to do my best.”

Power running is what they specialize in. When they arrive to Athens, some want to make the “thunder and lightning” comparison.

But “thunder and thunder” or even “lightning and lightning” might be more appropriate. Both are explosive and have that extra gear coaches look for. They have lower-body strength, which allows them to break tackles and punish defenders, and they have great field vision, which allows them to showcase their elusiveness.

One player who is a fan is ESPN 300 quarterback Jacob Park (Goose Creek, S.C./Stratford), a Georgia commit and another U.S. Army All-American. Park has had a chance to get to know both Chubb and Michel in Army bowl practices, and he’s seen both running backs make big plays -- even when a play didn’t look promising.

“I’d heard about them and seen them play a couple of times on TV,” Park said, “but when you’re on the same field with them handing them ball and watching them run, it’s completely different.

Vols, Dawgs can lean on OL classes 

December, 12, 2013
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In most cases, missing out on the nation’s No. 18 player would be a crushing defeat.

The battle to land David Sharpe (Jacksonville, Fla./Providence School), the nation’s No. 2 offensive tackle, had plenty of twists and turns with Tennessee and Georgia each taking a turn in the leader’s spot before he pledged to Florida Thursday. In the end, Sharpe saw an opportunity for early playing time and a lack of depth at tackle in Gainesville he couldn’t pass up.

Many fans are going to flock to social media to complain their beloved Dawgs or Vols missed out here, but they shouldn’t. Looking deeper at each school’s situation shows not landing Sharpe wasn’t a swing and a miss at all.


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Summer Recruit Wrap: Georgia 

July, 23, 2013
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With the camp season over and the fall season rapidly approaching, DawgNation takes a look back at the biggest recruiting news of the summer.

[+] EnlargeSony Michel
Davide De Pas/ESPN.comClass of 2014 RB Sony Michel is one of the many big names in Georgia's class.
1. Summer has been very, very good to Georgia
Heading into June, Georgia had five commitments, after going without one in May. Some analysts had pegged the Bulldogs as being off to a slow start for 2014, but with a class of 33 in 2013, Georgia has had to be very selective with this class. Even with a decommitment last week, the Bulldogs have added 12 commitments in June and July, headlined by the additions of five-star defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard (Fayetteville, N.C./Pine Forest) and ESPN 300 athlete Malkom Parrish (Quitman, Ga./Brooks County). As August approaches, Georgia can realistically pick and choose to fill its remaining spots.


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Lessons Learned: Dawg Night 

July, 15, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- The annual Dawg Night recruiting event at the University of Georgia overcame a couple of early setbacks and wound up being quite the success for the Bulldogs’ coaching staff. Right as the campers were finishing up running of their 40-yard dashes, a thunderstorm sent everyone inside the general use room at the Butts Mehre Heritage Hall. When we say everyone, we mean the 500-plus attendees who came to show the coaches what they could do.

There were way too many campers, but the staff managed the large crowd well. They did run the danger of not being able to spend enough time with their primary targets, but the rain delay and staggered arrival times made for a successful weekend. After watching the commitments roll in and talking to some of the prospects in attendance, here are five things we learned.

Shakenneth Williams
Tom Hauck for Student SportsAs expected, four-star WR Shakenneth Williams pulled the trigger on his Georgia offer early on Dawg Night.
Commitment class grows

The Bulldogs started Dawg Night with 12 commits and ended the evening with 15. Wide receiver Shakenneth Williams (Macon, Ga./Rutland) started the festivities by committing during the rain delay. The four-star receiver almost committed when he received his Georgia offer last month. Williams was quickly followed by Florida safety Kendall Gant (Lakeland, Fla./Lake Gibson). Gant immediately went to work on one of Georgia’s top targets, fellow Sunshine State standout Isaiah Wynn. Wynn, an ESPN 300 member and Under Armour All-American game selection, would wait until Sunday morning to make his commitment known.

Offensive tackle Dyshon Sims (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes) indicated during the rain delay that he was about to commit and would once he found his coach. It took him until the final drills to actually pull the trigger. It helped that Mark Richt called his mother to seal the deal in the meantime.

Georgia did lose one commit over the weekend, as Krenwick Sanders (Jessup, Ga./Wayne County) told DawgNation that he had a “drastic change of plans” and was no longer part of the Bulldogs’ recruiting class.


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Roundtable: Dawg Night developments 

July, 15, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- One of Georgia’s biggest recruiting events of the year has come and gone, and the Bulldogs scored at Friday’s Dawg Night camp with four new additions to their 2014 crop of commitments.

Our Kipp Adams and Radi Nabulsi were on hand to cover the camp, getting a first-hand look at the newest Bulldogs commits and more who likely will join them in the coming weeks and months.

That brings us to this week’s roundtable question for our two recruiting gurus: What was the biggest development out of Georgia's Dawg Night camp in your eyes?


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ATHENS, Ga. -- Offensive lineman Dyshon Sims (Valdosta, Ga/Lowndes) joined Georgia’s 2014 crop of commitments on Friday when he verbally pledged to join the Bulldogs at Mark Richt’s Dawg Night camp.


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ATHENS, Ga. -- The list of visitors for the annual Dawg Night camp at Georgia this Friday reads like a who’s who of the Bulldogs’ top recruiting targets. The coaching staff will be hard-pressed to spend quality time with each of the big-name prospects who have said they will attend. We could write a blurb on the 80 recruits we have confirmed so far, but instead here are the top five storylines to watch.


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ATHENS, Ga. -- The Georgia coaching staff has addressed some of its pressing needs for the Class of 2014, but they still have half the class to go. Here are the top five positions of need for the Bulldogs:

Offensive tackle: After missing out on Laremy Tunsil last year and Avery Young the year before, the staff would love to get a bookend tackle to play opposite of John Theus. After starting all 14 games his freshman season, Theus is the perfect example of how a premier tackle can have an immediate impact. Offensive line coach Will Friend hopes that Dyshon Sims (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes) could be that player, as Sims has Georgia on top and just completed a visit to Athens. Sims plans to return for the Dawg Night camp and a commitment would not be surprising.


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It’s Rankings Week at DawgNation. Each day this week, we’ve ranked some aspect of Georgia’s football program and the teams and players the Bulldogs will face in the 2013 season.

Today we’re ranking Georgia’s top five areas of need in the 2014 recruiting class and some of the players the Bulldogs are pursuing to fill those holes.


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ATHENS, GA. -- Offensive tackle Dyshon Sims (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes) has visited Athens several times before. His cousin, Josh Harvey-Clemons, is expected to be the starting strong safety for the Bulldogs this season and Sims has made the four-hour trip to catch some Georgia games. His visit on Friday was different, though. Sims returned to the Classic City as a top Bulldogs target and was treated as such.


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ATHENS, Ga. -- Nick Chubb’s verbal commitment last week was big not only because it added a record-setting rusher to Georgia’s 2014 recruiting class, but also because -- together with a previous commitment from another elite tailback, Sony Michel -- it addressed Georgia’s biggest need in this class.

The Bulldogs have Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, of course, but they will be draft-eligible juniors after the 2014 season. The only other scholarship backs on the roster are brand-new freshmen A.J. Turman and Brendan Douglas, so Michel and Chubb will add depth and the talent necessary to keep Georgia’s backfield train on the tracks.

With that recruiting need addressed, it brings us to this week’s DawgNation roundtable question: Now that Georgia has addressed its most glaring need for 2014, running back, what is the next position Mark Richt’s coaching staff should square away for this recruiting class?

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As we approach the end of the spring evaluation period, the University of Georgia appears to be in great shape to land several top prospects in 2014. DawgNation takes a look at 10 targets that could end up listed in the Bulldogs’ commitment list before all is said and done.

Isaiah Wynn
Tom Hauck for Student SportsThe chance to play with ESPN 150 RB Sony Michel could help land lineman Isaiah Wynn.
DT Lamont Gaillard (Fayetteville, N.C./Pine Forest)
The Bulldogs are the outright leaders for the No. 10 prospect in the country, taking the top spot from Florida after a miscommunication in April with the Gators’ coaching staff led to them getting eliminated from consideration. Schools such as Clemson, LSU and South Carolina could get visits from Gaillard in the next two months, as he is looking to see if any program can shock him and overtake Georgia. But the Bulldogs are likely to get a return visit from the five-star defensive lineman, and a possible summer decision could give Georgia its first five-star commitment in the class.

CB Malkom Parrish (Quitman, Ga./Brooks County)
After two visits to Atlanta, Parrish had Georgia Tech in the lead. The only thing is, at the time those were the only two college visits on which the ESPN 150 athlete had been. A trip to Athens earlier this month shook things up, and now both in-state programs are battling it out for Parrish. His desire to play cornerback in college could give the Bulldogs an advantage over their rivals. Parrish hopes to decide before the end of the summer.


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