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  • When the Georgia baseball team has a lead in the seventh inning of a tight game, sophomore closer Aaron Schunk meets with pitching coach Sean Kenny in the dugout. They go over a plan of attack for when Schunk will enter the game to pitch, and then he will head to the bullpen, where he needs only 10 to 15 warm-up pitches until his arm — and his mind — are ready to take the mound. Schunk’s routine doesn’t take much longer than Bulldogs fans singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch. He’s already pretty loose, given that he has been playing third base and hitting in the lineup all game. Getting the final three outs of the game is just part of what Schunk brings to the diamond for No. 13 Georgia (37-17, 18-12 SEC). He has started every game of the 2018 season at third base, and he bats in the middle of a potent Bulldogs lineup. Schunk’s versatility has become vital to Georgia’s resurgence this season. Georgia enters the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., this week as the third seed, hoping to secure a top-8 national seed in what would be the Bulldogs first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011. Schunk and the Bulldogs will begin double-elimination play at 10:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday against the winner of the Texas A&M and Vanderbilt game from Tuesday morning. After a freshman season during which Schunk only pitched once because his arm wasn’t physically ready, the sophomore from Atlanta has 8 saves, 26 strikeouts and a 2.13 ERA in 25⅓ innings as the Georgia closer, numbers that would qualify among the nation’s best if he pitched more, perhaps exclusively. But Georgia wouldn’t be maximizing Schunk’s — or its own — potential if all he did was pitch. His value is that pitching is one of the many things he does very well. “We envisioned this last year,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said. “I had a talk with him this fall and said, ‘We’re gonna need you to pitch for us to be as good as we can be.'” He was right. Even after a left thumb injury that cost him the final month of his freshman season and required surgery and summer rehab, and even with the added workload of pitching regularly, Schunk returned unfazed in 2018. He’s back playing steady and reliable defense at third base and brings a .315 batting average, 36 RBI, and 22-game hitting streak — the longest active streak in the SEC —  into the conference tournament. “Mentally I’ve grown up really fast,” Schunk said. “For me the biggest thing is being able to come through for my teammates in every aspect. I obviously didn’t expect to be doing so much, but I really appreciate the coaches and the guys having faith in me. And the biggest thing that I can do for them is give it my all and come through for them, and that’s what I look forward to every day.” Schunk’s development has been a team effort around Foley Field. He credits Kenny for turning him into a “thinking pitcher” who can “dissect” pitching instead of just throwing hard, and Stricklin credits Kenny and defensive coach Pete Hughes for working together to make sure Schunk does not overwork himself during infield practices in order to keep his arm fresh. They all know the unique weapon Schunk has become. “The guy that comes to mind to me is Mark Kotsay,” Stricklin said, comparing Schunk to the former Cal State Fullerton outfielder, closer, All American, Golden Spikes Award Winner and College World Series Champion and Most Outstanding Player. “It’s pretty rare to be a guy that’s a middle-of-the-order-type hitter, a plus defender and also one of the best closers in the country.” Among the numbers Schunk has produced so far in 2018, the most impressive stat has to be his strikeout-to-walk ratio as the closer. While averaging more than 1  strikeout per inning, Schunk has only walked 4 batters all season, which becomes more critical pitching in the pressure situations he enters late in games. “That’s why we like him so much in those situations because he throws strikes,” Stricklin said. “He just limits the free bases so much. He’s got quality stuff, but he throws so many strikes. … It’s comforting to know we have him back there.” For Schunk, his confidence in himself pushes him through those high-intensity moments. “When I’m on the mound, and honestly when I’m doing anything, I’m thinking that my best stuff is better than the other guy’s best stuff,” he said. “Whether that be a hitter or me going up against a pitcher, I think that I can do better than he can. And I’m not gonna let somebody get away free, and so throwing strikes is a big part of my mentality on the mound.” In the SEC Tournament and then the NCAA Tournament, Georgia can expect plenty of close games. Many coaches in both college and professional baseball love to bring their closers in earlier in the postseason, effectively shortening the game. Two of Schunk’s saves this season have lasted more than the standard single inning, and he’s ready for Stricklin to use him in any situation to help the team, whether he has to get one or six outs to end the game. For Stricklin, that approach is one he will consider game by game but with caution. He noted that if he brings in a position player to pitch, he loses the designated hitter in his lineup. For Georgia, that’s Michael Curry, the Bulldogs’ RBI leader (47). So if Stricklin brought in Schunk too early, taking the bat out of Curry’s hands would be a negative consequence. “Anything’s on the table when you get in the postseason,” he said. It’ll be hard for the Bulldogs to go wrong relying on Schunk on the mound, in the field or at the plate. His confidence is high but not in a brash way. It’s an attitude reflecting his teammates’ and coaches’ trust in him and his belief in himself, so he’s going to come through for them, plain and simple. The 27th out is always the hardest one to record in a baseball game. So, two outs, runner at third, 1-run game — does Schunk prefer to be the closer or the man in the batter’s box, trying to secure or prevent that final out? “That’s a tough question,” he says with a big smile. “Obviously I’d want to shut it down on the mound, but if I got the opportunity to do it at the plate, that’s where I’d want to do it.” There’s a chance he could do both for Georgia in Hoover this week, as well as on the Bulldogs’ entire postseason road to Omaha. The post Sophomore Aaron Schunk does it all to help lead resurgent Georgia baseball team into SEC Tournament appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Georgia football is the No. 1 topic every day on DawgNation Daily — the daily podcast for Georgia Bulldogs fans. Catch up on everything happening with UGA athletics with host Brandon Adams and the cast of DawgNation experts as they break down the latest Georgia football recruiting news and discuss UGA coach Kirby Smart’s quest to keep the Bulldogs on top of the SEC. On episode No. 710 (May 22, 2018) of the podcast, Georgia fans can hear a discussion about a possible surprise All-American candidate for UGA. Georgia football podcast: National publication suggests UGA could have surprising All-American candidate Beginning of the show: Georgia safety JR Reed could be an All-American candidate according to Athlon Sports. I’ll talk more about that subject on today’s show and explain why Reed’s emergence is helpful considering the still uncertain status of his cousin, Deangelo Gibbs. 10-minute mark: I’ll share audio from UGA coach Kirby Smart on the possible transfer decision quarterback Stetson Bennett is weighing. 15-minute mark: DawgNation recruiting insider Jeff Sentell joins the show for the Marlow’s Tavern Tell-All. Some of the topics include: Is the Deangelo Gibbs situation bad news for Georgia? How big of a deal is 5-star cornerback Andrew Booth’s family being with him in Athens this past weekend? Is UGA prioritizing 4-star defensive tackle CJ Clark? Update on 4-star defensive tackle Jaelin Humphries? Could UGA take 2 running backs in the 2019 class? 35-minute mark: I take a look at some other SEC headlines, including: Las Vegas releasing point spreads on Week 1 games, Phil Fulmer and Jeremy Pruitt possible at odds over scheduling, and LSU quarterback Myles Brennan’s dad saying that Myles does not plan on transferring. Dawg Day Q&A: Who will be the breakout star from UGA’s defense in 2018? End of show: I update the Gator Hater Coundown. For the Monday (May 21) show, click here. For the video version of the Tuesday show, click here. For older episodes of DawgNation Daily, click  here. The post Georgia football podcast: National publication suggests UGA could have surprising All-American candidate appeared first on DawgNation.
  • As the crowd roars with anticipation for the Georgia Bulldogs game to begin, you want to make sure that your tee makes your passion clear. This Banner State T-shirt from Fanatics Branded will do exactly that! The Georgia Bulldogs graphics showcase both your love for the team, as well as your patriotism everywhere you go. There are plenty of ways to express your intense loyalty, but this may be the best option on game day. Details Material: 100% Cotton Rib-knit collar Screen print graphics Crew neck Short sleeve Tagless Collar Officially licensed Imported Brand: Fanatics Branded $24.99 The post Georgia Bulldogs Fanatics Branded Banner State T-Shirt appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Welcome to  Good Day, UGA, your one-stop shop for Georgia football news and takes. Check us out every weekday morning for everything you need to know about Georgia football, recruiting, basketball and more. Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman most effective WRs in SEC Georgia offenses have long been driven by the running game, and that won’t change anytime soon if the arsenal of young, talented tailbacks Kirby Smart has stockpiled in Athens is anything to go on. But with that being said, the 2018 season figures to be the first under Smart where we see a greater emphasis put on the passing game. Quarterback Jake Fromm, the reigning SEC Freshman of the Year, should have his leash loosened with a full season under his belt — especially since he has a  capable group of experienced wide receivers to work with. Chief among that group are the Bulldogs’ leading returning receivers, senior Terry Godwin (639 yards, 6 touchdowns) and junior Mecole Hardman (418 yards, 4 touchdowns). And perhaps just as importantly for Georgia, Godwin and Hardman are two of the most effective and efficient targets all in the SEC. According to stats compiled by Pro Football Focus, Godwin (146.8) and Hardman (146.6) rank first and second, respectively, in the SEC for passer rating when targeted. Last season, Georgia’s passing game found success through efficiency, not pure yardage. And even with an increased focus on the passing game likely, efficiency will still be the name of the game for Georgia’s aerial attack. UGA will never be a truly pass-heavy team, so it needs efficient receivers to make the most of their opportunities when Smart and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney do decide to take in the air. Based on this stat, there are none better in the SEC at doing that than Godwin and Hardman. The top returning SEC WRs in terms of passer rating when targeted last season pic.twitter.com/5pDtr1yoZ4 — PFF College (@PFF_College) May 21, 2018 MORE: Want this roundup in your inbox every morning?  Sign up here! Deangelo Gibbs’ return not a done deal When reports that rising sophomore defensive back Deangelo Gibbs is enrolled for summer classes at Georgia after missing the spring surfaced earlier this month, most assumed it meant he is back with the team. But at a Bulldog Club meeting Monday in Columbus, Ga., Smart indicated that those reports are “premature.” “He’s working and doing the things we ask and he needs to continue to do that,” Smart said, according to Chip Towers of DawgNation. “We’ll make a decision when the time comes, but being enrolled in school doesn’t signify that he’s on our roster right now.” Check out Towers’ post for more on Gibbs, as well as Smart’s comments on incoming graduate transfer defensive tackle Jay Hayes and the prospects for punter Marshall Long following knee surgery. Kirby Smart gives update on Stetson Bennett Smart also took time to address the status of backup quarterback Stetson Bennett, who has reportedly considered transferring in recent weeks. Even though he isn’t expected to play this season, the loss of Bennett would be a major blow to a Georgia team that is extremely short-handed at the position. Smart even mentioned the possibility of putting Bennett on scholarship to keep him in Athens. “We’ve invested a lot into Stetson and we’re excited to see what he can do,” Smart said, according to Towers. “We’re encouraging him to stay so he can get that opportunity. We certainly respect what he’s done for the university so far and he’s a good student, too. So we’re selling him on a Georgia education.” Odds & Ends Smart, Tom Crean face fewer dogs, still bring out barks in Columbus Georgia baseball senior Keegan McGovern named SEC Scholar Athlete, leads four Bulldogs on All-SEC teams Gus Malzahn has idea UGA fans might actually like Nation’s No. 1 running back Trey Sanders still has lot to say about Georgia Dawgs on Twitter UGA football coach Kirby Smart urged about 300 fans in Columbus to attend basketball's open practice on Friday Oct. 5, day before Vanderbilt football game. 'We need to put fannies in the seat.' Said 'no reason why our basketball program can't be one of the best in the country.' — Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer) May 21, 2018 Mascia holds a 3.99 GPA in biomolecular engineering. McGovern holds a 3.48 GPA in biology. Nico Mascia and @keeganmcgovern are the #SECBSB Co-Scholar Athletes of the Year! pic.twitter.com/8ow7dNXw2T — Southeastern Conference (@SEC) May 21, 2018 Good dog This is Fred. He lives in an English castle with his nine fluffy children. Says being a single father is sometimes challenging, but always worth it. 13/10 for all pic.twitter.com/5yGoqQgPnU — WeRateDogs™ (@dog_rates) May 21, 2018 Miss a previous edition of Good Day, UGA? Get caught up  here . The post Georgia boasts pair of SEC’s most efficient returning WRs appeared first on DawgNation.
  • Want to attack every day with the latest Georgia football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. The play sheet today calls for a good conversation with 4-star running back  Noah Cain of IMG Academy in Florida.  BRADENTON, Fla. — Georgia signed the nation’s No. 1 and No. 3 overall running prospects for 2018. Can the Bulldogs top that haul in 2019? The odds, and basically all recruiting logic, says no. With a capital “N.” That said, the only plausible way to do that would be to sign the nation’s top 2 backs in 2019. Noah Cain ranks as the nation’s No. 2 running back for 2019. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation) Both of those gentlemen carry the ball for IMG Academy in Florida. It is also a pretty ironic situation that their position coach is Carnell “Cadillac” Williams. The former Auburn great knows all about splitting carries with an elite back. He did that on the SEC stage. Williams shares that with Noah Cain and Trey Sanders. Cain ranks as the nation’s No. 2 running back and the No. 53 overall prospect on the 247Sports composite for this cycle. RELATED: Trey Sanders weighs in on his current vibe with UGA “Everything he says to us is basically words of wisdom,” Cain said. “I was taught as a young kid growing up that when an older person speaks to you, you listen. Especially a coach. Especially a guy that has been on the road in front of me like Cadillac has. I listen hard to everything that comes out of his mouth. He tells us to have a sense of urgency in practice and always go hard. I listen to all of it. Noah Cain clearly considers IMG Academy running backs coach Carnell “Cadillac” Williams a mentor. The former Auburn great is in his second season with the Ascenders as the running backs coach. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation) “Why? Because he’s been a top-5 pick. He’s been the guy. He’s made millions of dollars in the league. It can only help me go farther and farther when I listen to him.” Williams — now in his second year at IMG — is shrewd to share how he shared a big stage with the great Ronnie Brown. That duo led Auburn to an undefeated season in 2004. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel resembled a 2017 remake of that double-barreled SEC championship backfield. “He has brought that comparison to us,” Cain said. “We both compete against each other really hard and we feed off each other. Trey and I are really good friends and compete against us each other day. Coach ‘Lac always brings us really great knowledge about playing running back.” How Noah Cain views the depth at UGA Cain is not expected to choose UGA. Texas and Ohio State are the leaders among the reporter predictions on the 247Sports Crystal Ball. The Bulldogs are also chasing after 4-star back John Emery Jr. to go along with Sanders — the No. 1 running back and No. 7 overall prospect in the Class of 2019. Of the three, I’d say the chances for the program appear to be the longest with Cain. But the conversation is noteworthy because Cain even considering Georgia shows the appeal of the UGA brand. He’s thinking of granting the Bulldogs an official visit after having already been to Athens earlier this year. Huh? How? Why? The thinking there might begin with the notion that juniors Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield would be seniors on the 2019 team. D’Andre Swift would be a junior next season. James Cook and Zamir White, the two heralded signees in 2018, would be sophomores. Trey Sanders (left) and Noah Cain (right) are both at IMG Academy. That’s the nation’s Nos. 1 and 2 running backs for 2019. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation) Can UGA sign another elite running back from a lot that includes Cain, Emery and Sanders? Maybe. Especially when one considers by the time 2020 rolls around the Bulldogs will likely have just Cook and White left off the 2018 depth chart. A big 2018 could even lead to an NFL jump for Herrien or Holyfield, too. The flip side of that level of production might also lead to a transfer. Georgia running backs coach Dell McGee has told Cain and Sanders he could still take two backs in 2019. Especially the right two. Truth be told, the Bulldogs probably need six scholarship backs on their roster. That way no more depth chart challenges a la Chubb’s freshman and sophomore seasons (2014 and ’15) could rise up again. Look no further than this spring. Injuries to Swift and White meant UGA had just two scholarship backs available for G-Day. “Georgia with all their guys is still a realistic spot,” Cain said. “I know Georgia had some injuries in spring practice and signed some great backs in the last class, too. But I’m not shying away from competition. I’ve been at IMG [with Sanders] the last two years. Competition does not worry me. I just want to find my best fit. “I want to find that fit that makes the most sense.” What does UGA tell Noah Cain about the RB depth?  Cain brought up what he’s heard from McGee. “I talk to Coach McGee and Coach [Kirby] Smart and those dudes at Georgia every week,” Cain said. “They tell me they are taking two backs in this class. They are always talking about me and Trey. There is nothing wishy-washy there. They always tell us the same thing coming in. Come in. Play early. We’ve got injuries at running back right now. There’s a possibility of making an impact if you earn a spot early. “They really sell us on that. I’ve known Coach McGee since my freshman year. I’ve known Coach Smart a long time, too. That’s real talk for me there with Georgia. There is a real chance there for me.” Noah Cain continues to make clear that he will make his college decision in December. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation) Hold up a second. Will Georgia really take two backs in the 2019 class? “Yes, sir,” Cain said. “I think things will work themselves out by December. Coach McGee is just being upfront and honest with me. He’s not sugarcoating anything or trying to backdoor anything. Just honest. I love that O-line Georgia is building, too. There are a lot of great things that Georgia has to offer that would make it make sense for me to go there. “I still have a little more time before I come out with a top 5.” Do the Bulldogs have a chance to make that top 5? “Yes sir,” Cain said. “I would say they really do. My parents love Georgia. My mom finally went up there over spring break and she had a great time. She has really enjoyed herself up there at Georgia.” He’s not sure when his next trip to Athens will happen. But he says it will take place. “I do plan on working out with Coach McGee up there this summer and getting back over there for sure,” he said. “I hope I can be lucky enough to get some work in with him. But I’m not just sure about the dates.” What are the odds of landing Cain and Sanders in 2019? Or Cain and Emery? Or Emery and Sanders? “There are a lot of good backs out there,” Cain said. “You really can’t get mad at a coach for going after the best guys in this class. You can’t get mad at a coach if you don’t commit to a school before the others do. We all understand that. Whoever commits there is going to go to a good spot. I’m going to make my decision in December and Coach McGee understands that. Noah Cain named three schools that could somehow sign both he and Trey Sanders from IMG Academy in the Class of 2019. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation) “He’s told me the dudes he is going after. He told me about Trey and Emery. I know the other dudes he is going after besides me. He just keeps it all real.” How does UGA use all that talent? “Man, the SEC is brutal,” Cain said. “You have to have two workhorse backs and then a third back to keep everyone fresh and ready to go in that Georgia offense.” While logic stands to reason that it would be another neat trick for UGA to land another top-5 back, Cain thinks the staff would like to add another elite duo in this class. “Coach McGee has an eye for talent and he knows what he wants,” Cain said. “He’s been honest with me and told me if he doesn’t get what he wants in 2019, he will just go on to that 2020 cycle. That’s just my opinion on how he would handle that situation.” If it happens, Cain felt Georgia, Miami and Texas offered the best chance to sign both of IMG’s prized backs this year. Check out the latest edition of Before the Hedges Monday night meant another edition of Before the Hedges on DawgNation’s Facebook page. We had the chance to recap UGA’s recent scavenger hunt weekend and what that meant for running back and defensive line recruiting. Have you checked it out yet? There was, as always, a few minutes to take questions from our show audience, too. The show also found the time for a foll0w-up on last week’s Prom Dawgs segment with the 2018 signees. Miss any Intel? The DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to speed just as fast as former Georgia All-American LB Roquan Smith found the ball after the snap. The post Why nation’s No. 2 RB Noah Cain still sees a possible future at UGA appeared first on DawgNation.