February 4, 2008

Storyline No. 6

News in January that cornerback Paul Oliver intended to return to Georgia for his senior year was welcomed by all those involved with the Bulldog football program.

Unfortunately, there would soon be more to this story.

In May, Oliver learned that his Bulldog career was coming to a premature end after he was ruled academically ineligible, leaving him no choice but to apply for the NFL's supplemental draft.

"He could have made a decision to leave for the draft immediately after his junior season," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "He was aware there could be risks, but he decided to continue in school and get closer to his degree."

Instead, Oliver was eventually taken by the San Diego Chargers in the fourth round of the supplemental draft. But it left the Bulldogs and defensive coordinator Willie Martinez in somewhat of a quandary as to how to replace the 15-game starter, who one of only three returning starters on the Georgia defense, and considered a potential all-conference performer.

Fortunately, there were plenty of options.

Sophomore Asher Allen gained valuable experience playing as a true freshman while senior Thomas Flowers and Donovan Baldwin were also being looked on to help fill the void.

Another option coaches briefly considered was moving safety Reshad Jones to corner, leaving Allen at the nickel position, where he played his freshman year.

"We hate that he's gone, but there are some younger players that are going to have to step up and take the role that Paul had," Jones would tell UGASports.com. "I think we'll be all right."

It turns out Jones was right, as Allen was more than up to the challenge.

The Tucker sophomore started all 13 games for the Bulldogs last fall, easing the loss of Oliver, whose ability to lock down former Georgia Tech star Calvin Johnson made him a favorite of Georgia fans.

Oliver's status for the 2007 season remained shrouded in mystery for much of the spring as he missed much of spring camp while attempting to handle his academic problems. His ineligibility still came as a surprise to many coaches, players, scouts, and agents who all thought Oliver would make adequate enough grades to stay on the Georgia football team this season.

That didn't happen.

Oliver either failed to pass 18 credit hours in the academic year toward his degree (Housing) or did not pass six in the semester prior to the season of sports competition, which for football is the spring.

Fifth-year seniors also must complete 80 percent of their course study toward their degree prior to the start of the school year and meet the GPA required for graduation (a 2.0 at Georgia), but they would be able to use summer school to meet those requirements.

Prior to the announcement, many of Oliver's fellow teammates and coaches remained convinced that would get a positive report on his status for 2007.

Others, however, believed if Oliver was struggling so badly in class he would have joined Charles Johnson and left UGA early for the NFL draft in January.


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