Roquan Smith

 

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Han Vance on Georgia football: Six UGA football players had their numbers pulled in the seven-round NFL draft held at the Dallas Cowboys mammoth stadium in Arlington, Texas from Thursday through Saturday.

To nobody’s surprise, the Georgia draft was highlighted by Roquan Smith, the best linebacker in school history. He and the rest looked like this:

Roquan 6-1 225 -8th Bears (from GA)

Wynn 6-2 302 -23rd Patriots

Sony 5-11 215 -31st Patriots

Chubb 5-10 225 -35th Browns (from GA)

LoCarter 6-6 243 -3rd Round (from GA)

Wims 6-4 215 -7th Round

Nice to see them all know where they are going, with many more UGA guys in clear contention for shots at becoming NFL free agent players and making clubs. Davin, Big Trent and DB stat-leader Dom Sanders amongst those awaiting.

Three players from the state of Georgia and three from Florida was an interesting factoid, speaking to both the pure power of this two-state, East Coast southern tip micro-region and the importance of the Cocktail Party, played near the state border. Winning this game helps Georgia continue to get key Sunshine State talent, as it is the one Georgia game you can be assured that virtually every Florida high school kid playing football watches on TV annually. South Florida has proven especially fertile recruiting ground for Bulldogs.

You see the super fans dressed up in the regalia of their respective NFL allegiances, but with this number of draftees, we should have been there en masse rocking the red-and-black, with one of our newly-fabled takeovers. Been a long minute since we showed out at all in my birth state of Texas, taking out the undefeated Longhorns 10-9 in the old Cotton Bowl, the year after Herschel left UGA early for the USFL. Aggies have not faced the Dawgs since joining the league fairly many years ago now, though they visit year after the upcoming. With the rotation no longer a two-year home-and-home of the rotational opponent from the opposite division, could be awhile before Georgia represents in Texas. It could be of good exposure benefit since Texas is another recruiting mecca; Georgia, Florida, Texas, California and Louisiana usually regarded as the top five states.

With a single fifth-round draft pick last year, the receiver and stellar college returner Isaiah McKenzie – who could have been eligible for the 2017 season but had academic issues – the streak was maintained of (now-26) straight seasons with a Georgia player drafted. Then, this year the number swelled to six. A school-tops of eight players were drafted back in 2013. Another obvious benefit of legend Vince Dooley hiring head coach Mark Richt, Richt successfully recruited five of these draftees (Wims a great Kirby get as a transfer).

Roquan joining former teammate Leonard Floyd as Chicago Bears teammates seems excellent, and I project Roquan eventually to the NFL Hall of Fame. He joins a pro team that has highly-valued and had great linebackers throughout the history of the franchise and is a generational talent at stalking the ball. Neat that Roquan passed Floyd as the highest linebacker drafted in school history. Roquan was the highest UGA player drafted since, likewise a generational talent, wideout A.J. Green went fourth to the Cincy Bengals in 2011.

While Georgia’s defense in 2017 featured a departing-early Roqaun (who I call “The Human Missile”) and six senior starters, both the first- and second-string defenses looked very well-prepared and talented on G-Day. Georgia’s spring game won by the first team defense, over the first team offense. The game was generally defensively dominated throughout, save a hot window of play by incoming early entrant freshman quarterback Justin Fields, early in the 2nd half.

With the late drafting of glue hands Javon Wims, Georgia sees pro departure of its most clutch players from last season on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. His consistent clutch catches were easily the most underrated part of the successful formula that led to 13 wins, tying the school record.

SEC champion Georgia had a school-record three first-round draft picks and an early second, dominating at the draft early, on par only the smallest notch below national champion Alabama, who had four players go in the first. Georgia tied a UGA school record with five players selected in the first three rounds and led the country with such through three, in a tie with Ohio State and Bama. Bama had an SEC record (crazy) 12 players drafted by the end of it, though.

Isaiah Wynn became the first Georgia offensive lineman drafted in the first round in 15 years! Sage drafting by Bill Belichick of the Patriots – recall Nick Saban is a protege – in teaming Wynn with late first-rounder Sony Michel. If you watch the tape of Georgia from late last season, you see them playing two-man football more than is usual on any team. Wynn directly cleared many of the holes Sony had the timing and trust to wait and go through. They are amazing together.

My personal favorite outgoing player, Michel successfully paired with Nick Chubb to form the top rushing duo in college football history. Mr. Michel finishes as the number three rusher in Georgia’s uber-storied running back history.

Chubb leaves the University as the number two rusher in not only school history, but he chased Herschel enough to finish as the number two guy in the whole history of the SEC – a league historically dominated by power running football.

Recall Chubb was hurt half of a season, and that Herschel only played three years. Also, recall Chubb taking over midseason as a freshman for then-Heisman frontrunner Todd Gurley, out with a suspension for selling merch and autographs. What an amazing lineage of running backs; there are some seriously huge shoes to fill for Swift and company.

Rose Bowl Reunion: Chubb, who was the Georgia season’s offensive co-MVP and top yardage getter, teams with number one overall pick and Heisman-winner Baker Mayfield on the Browns. “Go git ’em, Bake!” the twangy Choke-lahoma faithful loved to say.

We had the number one recruiting class, but anybody espousing Georgia to actually have more talent in 2018 than the excellent outgoing 2017 team that won the first school league title in a dozen years, and was totally upperclassmen-dominated in setting so many stat standards, is definitely drinking the Kool-Aid, and I feel, hitting it quite a bit too hard. Maybe even the sour mash whiskey.

Consistent false optimism and all joking aside, Georgia lost a whole lot of proven players. Y’all, I honestly can’t recall this much of a singular talent exodus in the 28 years I have followed Georgia football religiously. Will we be back? Sure. Maybe. I hope so. I see the 2019 team as another peak in roster experience, and these things usually have a little wave in them, even when it’s good.

A top draft year, too, longer trend-wise, was a negative correlating variable to the next season’s ultimate team successes, versus failures, when I look at the next teams up at Georgia. Speaking of next team up, in my my next BLAWG I am planning to look further at exactly how all UGA teams have fared, throughout school history, in the first year after they have had one of the biggest years.

Nice little bow on an epic stretch of UGA football lore, the top draft in school history culminates the recent past with the present and future in a glorious way.

 

 

 

Han Vance