football Edit

Wednesday News and Notes

All business, all the time.

That’s probably the best way to describe left tackle Andrew Thomas, who continues to show why he’s one of the best offensive linemen in the country.

Barring something that would qualify as one of the bigger sports shockers in Bulldog football history, Saturday will be the junior’s final appearance in the annual Georgia-Florida game as the All-SEC performer is projected by most experts to be a top 10 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

To stay would be passing on millions of dollars and risk injury that could curtail what would appear to be a long and prosperous pro career.

For his part, Thomas, at least publicly, isn’t even bothering to discuss what the future holds. Instead he is focusing all his energies on Florida and what lies ahead for the Bulldogs the rest of the year.

When asked Wednesday about the possibility of Saturday being his final game against the Gators, Thomas blocked the question much like he does an on-rushing defensive end.

“This game is very important. It’s a rivalry game; it means a lot to us,” said Thomas. “It would be great to go 3-0 against them.”

Head coach Kirby Smart obviously appreciates what he has on his hands.

“I'd say the number one thing is his intelligence. I mean, he's athletically as good as anybody you'll see. He's very sharp. He's very detailed. He has a plan. You don't find guys that are his size and speed and athleticism walking the streets, but you also don't find that combination of intelligence,” Smart said. “They know what's going to happen before it happens. I think he prepares well for games and he sees things a little bit before they happen because of his experience. He was well-coached in high school, and he's nothing but a stellar example of what a University of Georgia student-athlete should be.”

Andrew Thomas is looking to go 3-0 against Florida.
Andrew Thomas is looking to go 3-0 against Florida. (Radi Nabulsi)

Fromm on Cager

Count Jake Fromm on hoping that wide receiver Lawrence Cager (shoulder, ribs) will indeed be a go Saturday against the Gators.

On Tuesday, Smart confirmed that Cager has indeed been cleared and is practicing with the team, although he hedged on whether or not being cleared and ready to play actually mean the same thing.

“It would be huge for the offense,” Fromm said. “Lawrence is a big target to be there on the outside. He brings a lot of juice to the offense and makes big-time plays.”

The mere presence of Cager in the lineup has obviously meant a lot to Fromm and the offense.

Before Cager was forced to leave the game against South Carolina, Fromm had completed 11 of 16 passes. Since that time, he’s only completed 17 of 35.

Prior to his injuries, Cager was leading Georgia in receiving. Despite missing the past game and a half, he's still second on the team with 19 catches for 245 yards and three touchdowns.

“Me and Cager have put in a lot of work together,” Fromm said. “For him to be out there, it will be another guy who can make plays.”

Senior leaders speak up

While it may not have been on the level of the famous post-game speech by former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, Georgia’s senior leaders did have a lot to say following the Bulldogs’ loss to South Carolina.

On Wednesday, Thomas and Fromm revealed that the team held a closed-door meeting to discuss the rest of the year.

“There were some leadership guys behind closed doors who said some things,” Fromm said. ”There’s no reason to name any names or say what was said. That’s between us and this team. We kind of did. It was good for us, and I think guys responded. We’re where we’re at, and I think we’re excited where we’re at.”

Thomas confirmed that Fromm was one of a number of team leaders who spoke up.

“Before the team meeting, guys stood up, talking about what they don’t like, things that are important that we need to work on, things like that,” Thomas said.

Exactly what "that" was, however, nobody’s saying. “That’s between us,” Fromm said.

Earlier Wednesday, head coach Kirby Smart took part in the weekly SEC Teleconference.

The following are excerpts of his statements:

On freshman playing in the game for the first time:

“Those young kids—I look at them as veterans at this stage in the season. Everybody always asks how many starters you have back, but by this time, everybody who's started has already played in some big games. Certainly, theirs have and ours have. You look at the freshmen, big games are big games. The more you play in them, the more experience you have and the more confidence you gain. I don’t think these kids coming out of high school nowadays are intimidated by those kinds of environments.”

On freshman outside linebacker Nolan Smith:

“Nolan’s development has been great. He’s very intelligent; he’s a kid who comes in and meets extra—you can tell it matters. He wants to play well; he studies his opponent, he’s a very bright kid, and he has an extremely high motor. He continues to get better every game.”

Regarding his team’s identity this stage of the season:

“Resilient, tough, gritty. We’ve been in some really, really tough battles, especially some fourth-quarter battles. The Notre Dame, the South Carolina game, the Kentucky game, all those games went down to the wire, to the fourth quarter. We’ve shown some resiliency. We’ve shown no quit, and the physical toughness and aggressive play that you want to have—I think our guys have shown that.”

On the offensive line coming off the bye and the challenge of facing Florida’s front seven:

“No. 1, it seemed like the first time everyone was healthy at the same time. We were fortunate to have some good working during the bye week and have everybody available to us across the offensive line, with the exception of (Justin) Shaffer, who’s been injured. But everybody else was back, we were able to build a little more continuity and develop some of the younger kids and get them more reps during the week, so I was pleased with that.

“They’re excited for the opportunity to play against an elite front: quickness, speed, physicality, pass rush, high-motor guys, lot of twitch guys—they’re going to have to rise to the occasion, because they’ll be going against one of the most productive fronts in the country.”

This and that

Rodrigo Blankenship has been named one of the 12 recipients of the National Football Foundation (NFF) Scholar-Athlete Award for his combined academic success, football performance, and exemplary leadership, according to an announcement from the NFF and the College Hall of Fame on Wednesday. Each of the players honored win an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship and will be recognized at the 62nd NFF Annual Awards Dinner in New York City on Dec. 10.

…For the first time since Smart took over as head coach, the Bulldogs held closed practices for all three days that typically would have been open to the media viewing.