(Note: My game story can be found HERE.)
From the seniors, it meant they could leave on a high note. For the underclassmen, it was an opportunity to get a jumpstart on 2010 while sending their older teammates out with a bang.
But for Rennie Curran and Reshad Jones, two juniors mulling an early departure for the NFL, Monday’s 44-20 win over Texas A&M only meant more questions.
Both were asked about their future plans following the game, and neither offered much in the way of specifics.
“I’m not leaning one way or the other,” Curran said. “The closer I get to the time, the harder it gets. It’s something I wish I didn’t have to deal with.”
Curran is the SEC’s leading tackler this season and is considered one of the top junior linebackers in the country, but his stature – generously listed as 5-11 in Georgia’s media guide – could harm his draft stock.
Jones, on the other hand, has all the physical tools, but scouts remain mixed on his overall performance. He considered leaving a year ago but changed his mind at the last minute, and he said he still doesn’t have a final decision on the future.
“I still haven’t made that decision yet,” said Jones, whose interception at the end of the third quarter Monday led to a Georgia touchdown. “I’m going to go home and talk with my coaches and talk with my family and see how things go, make the best decision for me and my family.”
That decision will probably wait for both players until Georgia hires a new defensive coordinator – something that could happen at virtually any moment.
Jones said he expected to make a decision within the next week, but also said he would definitely wait until a coordinator was in place. Still, he said he had no knowledge of exactly when that might happen.
“I heard he had some strong candidates and stuff, so I’m going to sit down and meet with the new defensive coordinator,” Jones said.
Waiting on the hire is something defensive line coach Rodney Garner said he has strongly suggested in numerous conversations with Jones in the past few weeks.
“We’re asking him to take his time, go through the process, look and see who Coach Richt hires and have an opportunity to sit down and visit with that guy and get a feel for his system, his scheme,” Garner said. “And if there’s a guy coming in here who can feature you like Tennessee does with Eric Berry, I think it would be very beneficial for him to come back.”
Garner said he hasn’t had significant conversations with Curran, but has recommended a similar course of action.
Both players said they are still waiting on the official results of their NFL advisory board review, but neither will let that be the lone determining factor in their final decision.
“I’m waiting and just spending the next couple days with my family trying to come up with the best possible decision,” Curran said. “Nobody’s putting an pressure on me at all, except for the fans. I love them to death, and I want to be able to give them a concrete answer, but I just can’t right now.”
Classes at Georgia begin again on Jan. 7, which Curran said provides an artificial deadline for them to make a decision, but the official NFL deadline is Jan. 15.
Last year, Asher Allen, Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno all left school early and Stafford and Moreno both were taken in the first round of the NFL draft – Stafford as the No. 1 overall selection.
Neither Curran nor Jones figure to go quite that high, which makes their decisions all that much more arduous.
For Jones, however, he said Monday’s game provides a strong sense of closure should he decide it’s time to move on to the professional ranks.
“I had a pretty good game,” he said, “so leaving on a good note would be good.”
BOYKIN COMES UP BIG
Brandon Boykin ran his way into the record books with an 81-yard kick return for a touchdown in the second quarter against Texas A&M, helping Georgia to a 44-20 win over the Aggies.
Boykin’s return came after A&M took an early 7-0 lead. Boykin fielded the ensuing kickoff and ran virtually untouched up the middle of the field and into the end zone to tie the score.
“They kicked it short and the blockers did a great job of opening it up,” Boykin said. “It parted like the red sea. It was just a straight shot really, and I had two blockers in front of me. It was great, it was a momentum changer and I think we sparked off of that.”
Boykin already set the Georgia record for return yardage in a season earlier this year. Boykin fell just 12 yards shy of 1,000 return yards for the season.
The touchdown was the third of the season following a kickoff for Boykin, which moved him past Gene Washington for the school record for both a season and a career. It also tied Boykin with Tennessee’s Willie Gault for the SEC’s single-season record.
“That’s amazing to me,” Boykin said after he was informed of the record. “I wasn’t aware of that but it’s a great accomplishment and I can chalk that up to my blockers.”
MISSING IN ACTION
Linebacker Rennie Curran didn’t take the field until the first play of the second quarter as punishment by the coaching staff for a rules violation.
Curran missed a morning running session last week in Athens due to a dentist appointment and head coach Mark Richt said that comes with an automatic suspension for the first quarter of play in the next game.
“It was not a huge deal other than he had an early morning run and our policy is that he will not get to play the first quarter of the game,” Richt said. “It was nothing big at all in any way, shape or form, but he did sleep in on a morning he was supposed to run.”
Curran had started every game this season and entered play as the SEC’s leading tackler. The junior is considering leaving school early to enter the NFL draft.
Despite missing the first 15 minutes, Curran still finished with eight tackles in the game, second among the Bulldogs defenders.
“I should have been at practice and Coach Richt didn’t think I communicated with him well,” Curran said.
Boykin wasn’t the only Georgia player to come up big on special teams in the first half – two others got in on the fun with crucial blocks.
Geno Atkins blocked a 50-yard field goal attempt by the Aggies early in the second quarter to keep the game tied at zero.
After Boykin’s big return tied the game at 7 late in the second, sophomore Bacarri Rambo got in on the act with a blocked punt deep in Aggies territory. The ball bounced on the turf and Vance Cuff recovered at the 2-yard line. Tailback Caleb King cashed in on the next play to give the Bulldogs the halftime lead.
DAMAGED WITHOUT DAVIS
Georgia right tackle Josh Davis didn’t play against Texas A&M after suffering an ankle injury in practice earlier in the month. He was replaced by Vince Vance to start the game.
Davis had started six straight games for the Bulldogs at right tackle, which so happened to coincide with Georgia’s revived running game. His absence was felt immediately as the Bulldogs mustered just 27 yards on the ground in the first half against the Aggies.
The tide turned in the second half, however, and Georgia’s running attack found its footing, rushing for 181 yards in the final two quarters.
“What we were doing in practice, they were changing up a lot, giving us a lot of different looks,” left tackle Clint Boling said. “It was kind of hard to pick up at the beginning of the game, but the coaches went in at halftime and really came up with a great plan and we stuck with it through the end of the game.”
A.J. Green started at wide receiver, his first appearance since injuring his shoulder against Auburn on Nov. 13. He made six catches in the game for 57 yards to lead the Bulldogs’ receivers, but it was a couple of plays he didn’t make – two screen passes that he nearly broke for big gains if not for shoestring tackles – that haunted him.
“I thought if I would have played one more game coming into this one, I’d have been alright,” Green said. “I dropped two deep balls I knew I could catch, too. But that comes with not playing in six weeks.”
BOLING THEM OVER
Texas A&M defensive end Von Miller came into Monday’s game as the nation’s leader in sacks with 17, but he was no match for Boling.
Georgia’s left tackle stoned Miller throughout the game, holding the Aggies’ pass rusher to just four tackles and no sacks.
“Leading the nation in sacks is a big accomplishment, and if that’s the guy I’m going to be going against, I don’t want to let him get another one on me,” Boling said. “I took that as a challenge, and I’m just glad I could step up to it.”
WAITING ON RECRUITS
Recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner isn’t sure what he’ll have to work with on defense next year – both in terms of his coordinator and the players. With Rennie Curran and Reshad Jones considering leaving for the NFL draft, a few more scholarships could open up for the Bulldogs, but Garner said he doesn’t see more than 25 or 26 commitments at the most for next year’s signing class.
“Obviously we have a lot of guys committed, but we have to do a good job of holding on to those guys that are committed,” Garner said. “In the next month, it’s going to be a critical month for us in the process. We need to hold on to the guys we’ve got committed and there a couple more guys out there we’re still targeting. We need to be able to close on those guys.”
Georgia was held without a point in the first quarter for the fifth time this season. In the Bulldogs’ last eight games against FBS opponents, they’ve scored a total of just 17 points in the first quarter… Texas A&M quarterback Jerrod Johnson became the fourth quarterback to throw for 300 yards against Georgia, but the first since Jonathan Crompton in Week 7… Georgia’s 44 points set a new bowl record for the team, eclipsing the old mark of 41 set two years ago against Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl…
Monday, December 28, 2009
(Note: My game story can be found HERE.)