Georgia Bulldogs: Mackensie Alexander

Five things: Georgia-Clemson

August, 30, 2013
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No. 5 Georgia and No. 8 Clemson will end a 10-year hiatus in their historic rivalry Saturday when the Bulldogs visit Death Valley n in one of the most intriguing matchups of opening weekend.

Let’s examine five key elements involved in a game that could impact this season’s BCS championship chase:

Big-play offenses: Las Vegas is predicting two of the nation’s most-prolific offenses to combine for around 70 points on Saturday night. And research provided by ESPN Stats and Information gives us plenty of reasons to see why many analysts expect a high-scoring game between the Bulldogs and Tigers.

Beyond simple scoring and total offense stats, they both ranked among the nation’s top big-play offenses a season ago. Georgia ranked first nationally or tied for first in touchdowns of at least 20 yards (31), 30 yards (22) and 50 yards (12) and led the nation with an average of 7.09 yards per play.

Clemson, meanwhile, led the nation in completions of 25 yards or more (51) and touchdown passes that covered at least 25 yards (20). Clemson’s Tajh Boyd had 11.2 percent of his passes go for completions of at least 25 yards, which was the highest of any quarterback in the country who attempted at least 150 passes.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray led the nation in yards per pass attempt (10.1) and percentage of attempts to gain 20 yards or more (16.1).

Both quarterbacks improved their accuracy on passes of 20-plus yards last season, with Murray completing 46 percent of such throws (an increase of 17.3 percent) and Boyd hitting on 51 percent (an increase of 14 percent).

Will Watkins step up?: With Georgia breaking in a largely rebuilt secondary, this game would seem like a prime opportunity for Clemson’s 2011 All-American receiver Sammy Watkins to exploit the Bulldogs’ youth.

Watkins talked a big game about beating Georgia during the offseason, but will he reclaim his spot as the Tigers’ top receiving target after losing that title last fall to DeAndre Hopkins. Watkins was third nationally in all-purpose yards (2,288) in 2011, but totaled fewer than half as many a year later (1,073). His touchdowns-per-touch ratio dropped from 1-in-9.6 to 1-in-17.8, as well.

Clemson quarterbacks targeted Watkins 44 fewer times (from 123 in 2011 to 79 last year) and his catch (82 to 57), receiving yardage (1,219 to 708) and touchdown (12 to three) totals all dropped severely.

Hopkins led the nation with 11 touchdown catches of 25-plus yards last season, so the Tigers desperately need Watkins to live up to the standard he set in 2011 and replace some of the departed star’s production. Watkins is more than capable, posting 11 TD catches of 25-plus yards in his first two seasons as a Tiger.

Pound the run?: An interesting subplot to Saturday’s game is how Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will attack Clemson’s defense. The Tigers also have some concerns in the secondary -- this on the heels of surrendering 7.32 yards per pass attempt a season ago. But conventional wisdom seems to dictate that Georgia uses its powerful running game -- paced by All-SEC pick Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall -- to extend drives and provide time for its defense to rest between series against Clemson’s up-tempo offense.

Both players averaged better than 6 yards per carry last season, due in large part to their capabilities as home-run threats. They combined for 12 runs of 25-plus yards, eight of which went for touchdowns. Gurley alone had 27 carries that went at least 15 yards, which tied for fifth in the FBS.

Clemson ranked 57th nationally against the run last season, surrendering 155.92 yards per game on the ground in Brent Venables’ first season as the Tigers’ defensive coordinator. The Tigers were 71st against the pass at 240.3 ypg.

Murray on the big stage: Fair or unfair, Saturday’s game -- and the upcoming matchups with South Carolina and LSU in September -- will serve as another referendum on Murray’s status as a big-game performer.

[+] EnlargeTray Matthews
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsDespite big-name offensive talent, Georgia-Clemson could come down to young defenders like Tray Matthews.
Georgia’s quarterback caught plenty of guff over shortcomings against ranked opponents well into last season. He’s 3-11 in his UGA career against teams that ended the season ranked in the AP Top 25 with 23 touchdowns versus 16 touchdowns against those teams. He’s 25-2 with 72 touchdowns and 16 interceptions against teams that finished unranked.

The positive sign for Murray is that he has won two of his last three games against opponents that finished the season as a ranked team: Florida and Nebraska last season. Following an atrocious first half against Florida last season, Murray has tossed seven touchdowns against three interceptions in 10 quarters against ranked opponents, including the SEC championship game loss to Alabama.

Fresh-faced defenses: Let’s have some fun with numbers concerning Georgia and Clemson’s defensive depth charts.

After losing 12 key players from last season’s defense, Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham appears set to trot out a large group of newbies. Of the 22 players listed on the Bulldogs’ defensive two-deep in this week’s game notes, 16 of them have never started a college game. Heck, nine of them, including seven true freshmen, have never PLAYED in a college game.

But a number of them -- including outside linebacker Leonard Floyd, defensive lineman John Taylor, safety Tray Matthews and cornerbacks Brendan Langley and Shaq Wiggins -- could play big roles on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Clemson has some experience issues of its own. Ten of the 22 players on the defensive two-deep have never started and three of them are freshmen. They’re expected to be without injured freshman cornerback Mackensie Alexander, who at No. 4 in the 2013 ESPN 150 was Clemson’s highest-rated signee in its most recent recruiting class.

It’s easily conceivable that Saturday’s outcome could be determined by which team’s young defensive personnel acquits itself more effectively in its first game in leading roles.

Jackson has new plans post decommit 

June, 3, 2013
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ESPN 150 prospect J.C. Jackson (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee) became the first 2014 commitment for Florida State when he selected the Seminoles in March 2012. The 6-foot, 185-pound athlete raised some eyebrows earlier this spring when he showed up at the IMG Southeast Regional sporting University of Florida gear. The No. 48 prospect in the country made his intentions clear on Monday after talking to the FSU coaching staff.

We are just hours away from national signing day. I'm going to need all you readers to breathe and count to 10. It's almost here, which means it's almost over.

And with it being almost over, it's time to take one final look at ESPN's RecruitingNation class rankings. On the eve of the biggest recruiting day of the year, the SEC is still keeping it all in the family when it comes to the top classes in the country. The SEC has 12 teams ranked within the top 40 of the class rankings, with five coming within the top 10.

Florida and Alabama remain No. 1 and No. 2. The Gators have 26 verbal commitments, with 11 being ESPN 150 members and 15 being ESPN 300 members. The biggest members of Florida's class are top-rated cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who is the No. 3 player in the country, and top-rated running back Kelvin Taylor, who is the No. 8 prospect overall. The Gators have a few spots open and are still in the mix to sign defensive tackle Jay-nard Bostwick, junior college defensive tackle Jarran Reed and wide receiver James Clark. Defensive end and current Auburn commit Tashawn Bower is also on Florida's radar.

(Read full post)

When it comes to recruiting, the readers believe it's still Alabama's world.

Florida might be No. 1 in ESPN's class rankings, but with more than 7,100 votes cast in our SportsNation poll, Alabama was picked to take home the recruiting class crown by grabbing 40 percent of the vote. Alabama currently has the No. 2 class, with 22 commits (10 ESPN 150 members).

Alabama has a chance to add to its already impressive class with a handful of ESPN 150 members still heavily considering the Crimson Tide, including top middle linebacker Reuben Foster, safety Antonio Conner, defensive tackle Dee Liner and running back Alvin Kamara. Adding a couple of those names might propel the Tide over Florida.

The Gators were third in our poll, as Texas collected 27 percent of the vote to come in second. The Aggies have the nation's No. 7 recruiting class and 32 commitments. A&M has six ESPN 150 members and is hoping to add to that number Wednesday with cornerback Mackensie Alexander and athlete Levonte Whitfield still in the mix.

Florida collected 18 percent. While the Gators would like to add to their class, the headliners might already be in hand. The Gators have a good shot of landing four-star cornerback Jalen Ramsey. He's ranked No. 14 nationally by ESPN recruiting services and is the top remaining prospect on the Gators' board.

Georgia was fourth with 10 percent of the vote, while LSU grabbed 5 percent. The Bulldogs could have a very exciting signing day with Foster, Kamara, Liner, top offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil and stud defensive lineman Montravius Adams still looking at Georgia. Landing a few those big names would shoot the Dawgs up the ranks, for sure.

LSU might not have a very exciting signing day. The Tigers own the nation's No. 6 class, with 26 commitments (six ESPN 150 members), but it looks like the staff is waiting on No. 1 Robert Nkemdiche and Auburn defensive end commit Tashawn Bower. Ole Miss is way ahead for Nkemdiche, while it could be tough to flip Bower.

Position scouting report: Cornerback 

January, 3, 2013
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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 and project how it might look in the future. Today we examine Georgia’s cornerbacks:

[+] EnlargeDamian Swann
Dale Zanine/US PresswireDamian Swann will provide the Georgia secondary with experience and leadership in 2013.
Current two-deep depth chart:
Sanders Commings (Sr.), Devin Bowman (RFr.)
Damian Swann (So.), Branden Smith (Sr.)

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U.S. Army Bowl: Monday notebook 

December, 31, 2012
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SAN ANTONIO -- ESPN 150 outside linebacker Mike Mitchell (Plano, Texas/Prestonwood Christian) isn’t big on speaking publicly. He’d rather let his game do the talking -- and it speaks volumes.

On Monday, the 6-foot-5, 222-pound linebacker officially confirmed that he will announce his college plans during Saturday’s U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Oregon, Texas A&M and Ohio State are his three finalists.


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UGA's top five remaining defensive targets 

November, 19, 2012
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With verbal commitments from 27 prospects, spots are filling up fast at the University of Georgia. In this feature, DawgNation takes a look at five top remaining defensive targets still on the board for the Bulldogs.

[+] EnlargeMontravius Adams
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comGeorgia is still firmly in the mix for Montravius Adams.
DL Montravius Adams - Vienna, Ga./Dooly Co.

Early on in his recruitment, Adams favored leaving the state. But much like 2013 outside linebacker target Jordan Jenkins, Georgia has slowly improved its standing for the 6-foot-3, 300 pound defensive lineman during the past nine months. With possible early playing time, a connection to the coaching staff and the other commitments -- and the blessing of his mother -- many feel Adams could be favoring Georgia. The official and in-home visits could be critical to any program's chance of signing the five-star prospect.

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DawgNation Q&A 

November, 16, 2012
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I asked for questions on The Pound, DawgNation’s message board, and our readers had quite a few. This week I was asked to make a lot of predictions, projections and prognostications.

DantesInferno60: Do you think Georgia will continue to recruit Steven Nelson (Warner Robins, Ga./College of the Sequoias)?

Radi Nabulsi: I doubt it. When the coaches originally got word that the talented cornerback might be wavering a few months ago, they called Nelson immediately. He continued to remain a commit until this week. When I spoke to him prior to his Oct. 6 official visit to Oregon State, he sounded much more excited about the Beavers than the Bulldogs. I think Georgia moves on from Nelson and continues to try and flip Brendan Langley (Marietta, Ga./Kell) from South Carolina. Also, juco defensive back Riyahd Jones (Columbus, Ga./Garden City Community College) is visiting Georgia on Saturday. He might get an offer in light of Nelson’s decommitment.

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#BlueChipBattles in the SEC

October, 5, 2012
10/05/12
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There are still some elite 2013 recruits who have yet to commit, and multiple SEC schools are in the mix. Will OT Laremy Tunsil go with Georgia, Alabama or Florida? How about CB Mackensie Alexander, who likes Alabama and Georgia?

And then there's S Priest Willis (Florida?), WR Robert Foster (Alabama?) and WR Ricky Seals-Jones (LSU?).

To get the inside info -- and follow all the updates -- click hereInsider.
Plant High School in Tampa, Fla., has been very good to the Georgia Bulldogs. Quarterback Aaron Murray was a star there as was his Panthers Bulldogs teammate Orson Charles. On Tuesday, safety Paris Bostick will announce his decision on where he will play college football and Georgia is hoping the Plant pipeline continues.

“I am going to announce my decision on Tuesday,” Bostick said. “We will have a ceremony or something like that. I know where I am going.”


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Alexander makes it to Dawg Night 

July, 14, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- The biggest surprise during Dawg Night on Friday had to be the appearance of five-star prospect Mackensie Alexander (Immokalee, Fla./Immokalee). Although Alexander has had a scholarship offer from the University of Georgia for months, the nation’s No. 6 overall prospect has not mentioned the Bulldogs much when discussing his recruitment.

Nevertheless, the 5-foot-11, 175-pound cornerback spoke well of Georgia following the on-campus event, held at Sanford Stadium. Alexander spent some time with two of the more well-known Bulldog commitments.

"I liked Georgia, definitely glad I made this trip, but it's still just a trip so it's not like Georgia is my favorite now or anything," Alexander said. "I was chilling with Shaq Wiggins (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek) and Tray Matthews (Newnan, Ga./Newnan) and they were real cool."


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Review: Georgia's VID Day 

March, 5, 2012
3/05/12
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Just in case any of you missed something this weekend, here is a review of everything DawgNation covered this weekend.

  • On Friday, MLK OL Josh Outlaw and 2014 CB Wesley Green visited UGA, and Green left with an offer. Here is the update from Outlaw after his visit, and here is Green's reaction to getting the offer.
  • Here is a piece on the acceleration of the recruiting process.

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