Georgia Bulldogs: Kosta Vavlas

UGA position groups to improve: No. 5

February, 10, 2014
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.

We begin today with the first installment in a series where we examine five position groups with room to improve. Today's first group is Georgia's inside linebackers.

5. Inside linebackers

[+] EnlargeJosh Harvey-Clemons, Connor Shaw
AP Photo/John BazemoreAmarlo Herrera (pictured) and Ramik Wilson performed well at inside linebacker for Georgia, but the duo could use some help from their younger teammates.
Battling for No. 1: Since rising seniors Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera -- players who ranked first and third in the SEC with 133 and 112 tackles, respectively -- return, the starting lineup is probably set. In his first season as a starter, Wilson posted one of the biggest tackle totals in program history, while Herrera won the team's defensive MVP award after the season. The duo played nearly every significant down on defense, hence the big tackle totals, but they could stand to perform a bit more consistently -- particularly in pass coverage. Neither player wants to come off the field, but Georgia would benefit from younger players proving they deserve some playing time and alleviating the physical burden on Wilson and Herrera.

Strength in numbers: This will be an interesting group to watch this spring as the depth chart continues to evolve behind the seniors. Georgia signed a big group of inside linebackers last season, but their contributions were largely limited to special teams. Reggie Carter (one start, eight tackles, 0.5 tackles for a loss) made the biggest splash early before undergoing knee surgery, which knocked him out of the lineup for the last five games of the regular season. The other freshmen who played -- Tim Kimbrough (11 games, five tackles, one TFL), Johnny O'Neal (eight games, four tackles) and Ryne Rankin (seven games, five tackles) -- and special teams ace Kosta Vavlas (13 games, 11 tackles) barely made an impact on scrimmage downs. With a new position coach, Mike Ekeler, joining the staff to work with this group, spring will be a valuable time for Ekeler to familiarize himself with his players and begin determining who is equipped to play a bigger role in the fall.

New on the scene: After signing four inside linebackers last year -- plus a safety in Paris Bostick who converted to the position last year -- ILB wasn't a terribly high priority in this recruiting cycle. Bostick is coming off a redshirt season and will add to the depth this season, plus the Bulldogs' only inside linebacker signee, Detric Dukes, should join the team over the summer. It wouldn't be a big surprise to see Dukes redshirt in the fall. Georgia's departed coaches liked what Bostick brought to the table at his new position, so he might be a player to watch in the future.

Post-spring position review: ILB 

April, 23, 2013
Editor’s note: Our DawgNation post-spring positional analysis continues this week after focusing on the offense last week. Today we examine the inside linebackers:

Returning players/stats: Amarlo Herrera, Jr. (Nine starts in 2012. 70 tackles, three tackles for a loss, one interception); Ramik Wilson, Jr. (6 tackles, one TFL); Kosta Vavlas, Jr. (9 tackles)

Newcomers: Johnny O’Neal, Fr. (ESPN’s No. 153 overall prospect in the 2013 class, No. 5 ILB. Expected to enroll this summer); Tim Kimbrough, Fr. (No. 289 overall, No. 11 ILB. Expected to enroll this summer); Ryne Rankin, Fr. (No. 296, No. 13 ILB. Enrolled in January); Reggie Carter, Fr. (No. 32 ILB. Enrolled in January).

ATHENS, Ga. -- Hutson Mason is not a rookie, but he felt like one in some ways during Saturday’s G-Day game.

After redshirting last fall -- his third season in college -- to gain a year of separation between himself and fourth-year starting quarterback Aaron Murray, Mason had to shake off some jitters entering his first competitive game in a year.

[+] EnlargeHutson Mason
Dale Zanine/US PresswireQuarterback Hutson Mason redshirted last season and treated G-Day like a comeback.
“Coming into this, I was treating this like a game for me because it’s been so long that I’ve really emotionally and mentally been like, ‘Hey man, this is game day,’ ” said Mason, who led the Black team to a comeback 23-17 victory over the Red. “I wanted to kind of see how my body would react being out there with 40,000 people. It’s not quite like game day, but you kind of get your body back into that feeling and getting ready.”

It was not a perfect day for the redshirt junior. The Black punted on his first three drives and he scrambled and threw an interception to freshman linebacker Reggie Carter at midfield on his fourth.

“I thought that the pick earlier was the worst decision that I’ve made at Georgia, but definitely this spring,” Mason said. “That was just pathetic. I’ve got to throw the ball away.”

But Mason improved as the day progressed. He threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Jonathon Rumph in the second quarter and drove the Black to two field goals in the fourth quarter to provide the six-point margin of victory.

Mason completed 16 for 27 passes for 191 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

“We slung it around today pretty well and we had a juco guy in Rumph, so he doesn’t really know what he’s doing,” Mason said. “So I was really just happy for the guys to step up and make the most of their opportunities when they needed to.”

G-Day all-stars: Every spring game has its surprise standouts.

(Read full post)

Upon further review: UGA-Kentucky 

October, 22, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. -- Some observations after re-watching Georgia’s 29-24 win over Kentucky from Saturday night:

" The narrative concerning Georgia’s night on defense would have been completely different but for one enormous problem. Todd Grantham’s group was horrendous at defending third-down runs. Clearly the idea was to get Kentucky into third-and-long or -medium situations and make them have to throw. But Kentucky still ran out of those situations and was shockingly successful.

Here is a recap of all 14 of Kentucky’s third-down plays:

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UGA's special teams struggles continue 

October, 21, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Imagine if you dare what might have happened if Connor Norman hadn’t saved Georgia by recovering an onside kick with just less than four minutes to play in the Bulldogs’ 29-24 win at Kentucky on Saturday.

Georgia had just allowed Kentucky to tiptoe back into the game with a 75-yard touchdown drive and was clinging to a 5-point lead when Wildcats kicker Joseph Mansour tapped an onside kick that had nearly trickled the necessary 10 yards when he crouched to dive on the loose ball. Only Norman raced to dive on the ball a split second before him, preventing Kentucky from attempting a potential game-winning drive that could have devastated the Georgia program and its fans.

“Connor was heads up to go in there and snatch it and be strong enough to convince the officials that it was his. So it was a huge play,” a relieved Georgia coach Mark Richt said after the game. “It was a lot of huge plays in the game, but Connor did a great job.”

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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. -- 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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DN Roundtable: UGA superlatives 

June, 27, 2012
A few weeks into summer provides the perfect time to get out the yearbook and look at what classmates wrote on the blank pages. After reading all the invitations to “Stay cool!” and “Let’s hang out!” one invariably turns to the awards section. In this week’s DawgNation Roundtable discussion the DN staff, with input from one UGA fan, is giving out the Georgia Bulldogs’ version of the senior awards. But we are not limited to the seniors -- we have opened up nominations to the entire team.

Most likely to succeed

David Ching: Ty Frix. Believe it or not, Frix -- who graduated in May -- is the only biomedical engineering major on the football team.

Radi Nabulsi: Jarvis Jones. He will be a first-round draft pick, and he is disciplined and wiser than his years suggest.

Kipp Adams: John Theus. He has the mindset and talent to play on Sundays. He also is used to winning, with three state championship rings at Bolles High School in Jacksonville, Fla.

Comeback_King: Aaron Murray. He is smart and talented.

Best dressed

DC: As a sports writer, I'm not sure I'm very well-equipped to answer this question. I'll say John Jenkins because he has worn house shoes that amused me at post-practice interviews.

RN: Kosta Vavlas. Who else shows up for post-practice interviews in a silver silk shirt and purple tie?

KA: Tavarres King. Tavarres has always had a professional approach to his attire.

CK: Marlon Brown. The guy has some serious swagger.

Most spirited

DC: Shawn Williams. He brought some much-needed swagger to the defense last year.

RN: Brandon Burrows. Despite numerous injuries he keeps fighting to get back.

[+] EnlargeMitchell
Scott Cunningham/Getty ImagesCoaches have stated repeatedly that 'most athletic' receiver-turned-cornerback Malcolm Mitchell is one of the best defenders on the team.
KA: Christian Robinson. He has been a great ambassador for the Bulldogs through the last four years, and he showcases his passion for UGA on Twitter.

CK: Shawn Williams. Just watch him play.

Most athletic

DC: Jay Rome. Playing both basketball and football (even if he redshirted) as a freshman is pretty impressive.

RN: Malcolm Mitchell. The best receiver and the best cornerback, according to the staff.

KA: Malcolm Mitchell. He is a burner with outstanding leaping ability and body control. Watch out for Josh Harvey-Clemons in the future though, as he has Boss Bailey level athleticism.

CK: Malcolm Mitchell. The best wide receiver is now Georgia’s best cornerback.

Best hair

DC: T.J. Stripling. I don't think I've ever seen a football player with more hair.

RN: Christian Robinson. This week his faux-hawk has been bleached blond.

KA: T.J. Stripling. Stripling’s listed weight on the roster would likely be 5 pounds less if not for his flowing locks of hair, which he has maintained since high school.

CK: Isaiah Crowell. You’ve got to love the dreads.

Most likely to be President of the United States

DC: Aaron Murray. He's a friendly, charismatic kid and is already a pro at talking a lot and saying nothing.

RN: Arthur Lynch. Loves politics and will carry the northwest and the south easily.

KA: Ray Drew. Anyone who knows Drew knows he has the charm, charisma and the public speaking ability to lead his peers.

CK: Chris Burnette. Great guy.

Most dependable

DC: Christian Robinson. From a media perspective, he's our cleanup hitter. Understands what you're asking and gives thoughtful responses.

RN: Kenarious Gates. The coaches started leaning on him as a freshman and still do so now.

KA: Michael Bennett. Bennett has made several tough catches to extend drives, and could have the best hands on the team.

CK: Jarvis Jones. Brings 100 percent to every game.

Class clown

DC: Tavarres King. He tweeted a picture of John Jenkins sucking his thumb while taking a nap. Gutsy move to pull on a 335-pound man, but King can pull off that kind of stuff.

RN: Zander Ogletree. His mouth is picking up where Aron White’s left off.

KA: Garrison Smith. Always upbeat, Smith can get a group roaring with laughter at any given moment.

CK: Watts Dantzler.

Most likely to marry a supermodel

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