Departing UGA Juniors Lead Draft

Departing UGA Juniors Lead Draft

Han Vance on Georgia football: The 2020 Georgia Bulldogs NFL draft is heavily populated with upperclassmen leaving school early, so Big Hairy Blawg is taking a peak at them. It’s draft time, Dawgs!

Wall of Georgia:

In what is being described by many as the best NFL offensive tackle class ever, a year early departing three-year starter Andrew Thomas is probably the best left tackle in the Bulldogs’ long and storied football history. The second-heralded o-line recruit out of Atlanta’s private Pace Academy, in Buckhead, as an incoming frosh, Thomas was immediately thrust into the starting lineup at right tackle opposite current New England Patriots first round draft pick Isaiah Wynn, who led the charge for the national runner-up SEC championship campaign. Wynn’s two-man delay run game with late-season workhorse Sony Michel – a professional teammate and fellow (former) world champion in New England – was surely a special thing of beauty. But, Thomas’s ability to hang in there and perform as a true freshman was a huge key. Once Wynn matriculated, Thomas shifted over to the hot edge, where he would nearly flawlessly protect QB Jake Fromm’s blindside, while leading the way in the running game for the vaunted Georgia runners.

Read my article on Andrew Thomas for UGA Wire, a Part of the USA TODAY Sports Network here:
Georgia football's Andrew Thomas a first round lock

Several offensive tackles could go before Thomas and he could still go top 10. First round is Thursday, April 23rd, from Las Vegas, the new home of the Raiders. Considering the Coronavirus pandemic and the quarantined shelter-at-home nature of much of the nation (and world) right now, this draft promises to be the most viewed in history.

The most heralded recruit out of high school that year was right up there for the highest-rated player in the whole country, a literal giant out of New York City. Hello, Brooklyn! Isaiah Wilson would have a tough adjustment to the relentless Deep South heat and humidity in the Empire State of the South. Once Thomas got locked in at the premium spot of left tackle the next year, the New Yorker blessed with the best and biggest football body was a straight lock for the Dawgs at right tackle.

Here I briefly mused on big Wilson for UGA Wire, Part of the USA TODAY Sports Network:
Isaiah Wilson of Georgia a mammoth NFL tackle

Then, that dude Solomon Kindley surprised many by bolting for the league. He shot up some relatively early mock drafts with his solid blend of size and skills on the interior, and his record of being coachable and well-coached by outgoing o-line guru Sam Pittman.

Pittman was the absolute architect of the Great Wall of Georgia, a master offensive line mind and known winning recruiter. Pittman returns to Arkansas, where he previously assisted, this time as head coach. He was there previously with former Georgia and current Tennessee offensive coordinator, Jim Chaney.

Never having been the offensive coordinator, while generally thriving under two of them at UGA in run first offenses – that still passed the ball some – burnished the already excellent opinion of Pittman throughout college coaching ranks. He was Kirby’s co-head coach.

RBU:

Herschel Walker and them. Georgia is Running Back U, and the outgoing junior from Philly was nothing if not a nice addition to the historic stable that includes: Chubb and Michel (his former teammates on the SEC champs and the top duo in NCAA history), and Gurley, the one-time Ram NFL MVP and current Atlanta Falcon, who he ultimately replaced in the triumvirate as he had the longest run in the SEC championship game win, as a true freshman. He and Holyfield cracked a thousand each his sophomore year, the first time ever any college had produced two back-to-back thousand yarders, let only it ever being accomplished by four unique players. Then, Swift’s junior year was one for the ages, before nagging injuries became too much for him to continue to get much real game action. Though technically he never missed a game, at the end of the long season he was a decoy in the biggest game of the year (the doomed SECCG), something similar in the sUGAr Bowl win over Baylor.

D’Andre Swift should be the first running back taken.

Here’s a little look back to when a young Swift (and Merv-Trav-Han) ran wild in Kentucky, the one year they were so good in football:

Our Kentucky Roam (by Han Vance)

School of Hall of Famers Trippi and Tarkenton and…:

Jake Fromm leaves Georgia as a junior. UGA’s all-time leader in completion percentage departs after starting all but one game of his career, a game he quickly entered and won. In fact, his teams won 13, 11, 12, and took three straight SEC East titles (and one SEC crown), at a time key divisional rival Florida resurged into consistently being in the Top 10. Regrettably, Fromm’s true freshman season was ultimately the most successful yet for the program under Kirby Smart (five years coaching at UGA, his alma mater). Kirby inherited a perennial 10-win team, and was 8-5 the year prior to Fromm starting, while Fromm dropped only seven games as a quarterback.

Jake’s numbers dipped a bit as a junior, with predictability of play calling by outgoing offensive coordinator James Coley and poor execution by the NFL- and discipline- depleted wide receiving core the, legitimate, main complaints of the fanbase and media. I publicly called for Coley to get removed from play calling duties midyear.

Fromm first fell down draft boards, as his athleticism and explosiveness were legitimately called into question. The genius of Fromm – a coach on the field – and his ultra-competitive and genuine nature have returned him to some prominence.

Maybe late 2nd, early 3rd. With the exception of hugest-ever stats beast Matthew Stafford, an NFL #1 overall pick and like the richest dude in the league right now, who was the last Georgia passer to go pro after a (similar) junior year, where high expectations were never realized for the football team, UGA’s modern era NFL QBs have struggled to even crack the field for playing time.

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