Kevin Butler, former Georgia legendary kicker and a member of the Georgia radio broadcast team, will each week during the 2018 football season select his offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week for Bulldawg Illustrated. And this season Butler has added a new category to his superlative awards, the Bulldogs’ Unsung Contributor to the Game. Here are Butler’s selections and reasons why for the Bulldogs’ 49-7 win over Middle Tennessee State Saturday.
OFFENSE Junior tailback Elijah Holyfield, who ran for a career-high 100 yards on eight carries including a 66-yard run to set up the Bulldogs’ first score — all in the first half — to help spark a Georgia offense that clicked for nearly 500 yards against the Blue Raiders.
“The junior tailback showed his value to the team with a strong performance against MTSU,” said Butler. “As the Bulldogs continue to define who they are on offense, Elijah made a statement with his physical running between the tackles and big play ability. On only eight carries Holyfield capped the day with 100 yards and a very impressive 12.5 yards-per-carry for the Dawgs. On the year, Elijah has had 22 carries for 200 yards with his longest run of 66 yards coming Saturday. Like his father, Elijah can deliver a knockout punch as well.”
DEFENSE Senior cornerback Deandre Baker, just as he did in the win over South Carolina, had a pass interception early in the game, one he returned for 26 yards to set up the Bulldogs’ second touchdown drive. Baker also forced a Blue Raider fumble, which Richard LeCounte recovered, and had a big tackle-for-loss on MTSU quarterback Brent Stockstill.
“The senior DB from Miami is doing everything possible to make a difference for the Georgia Bulldog defense,” said Butler. “His play this year is at an All-American level. Saturday’s game proved his value as he had four tackles, an interception, caused a fumble and had a tackle-for-loss. He has accepted all challenges this year and is becoming the leader by example on the young Bulldog defense. With three interceptions, Deandre will be a force over the next few games, especially with the air attack coming in Missouri next Saturday.”
SPECIAL TEAMS – Junior wide receiver and kick returner Mecole Hardman, who finally broke the long punt return for a touchdown Georgia fans had been waiting on. In addition to his electrifying 70-yard return, Hardman also tallied the Bulldogs’ first touchdown on a 5-yard pass from Jake Fromm.
“Mecole is a special talent that everybody in the nation should be fully aware of by now,” said Butler. “He is a true triple threat. Mecole has scored on the ground, through the air and now as a returner. For two years I have seen him come close to returning a punt or kickoff for a TD and Saturday he finally did it with a dazzling punt return for 70 yards. His speed is deadly and when he catches the ball and gets upfield for 10 yards it’s up to him when he wants to stop running. If Desmond Howard can win the Heisman Trophy then Mecole should certainly be in the conversation. He is a threat but he is our threat.”
UNSUNG CONTRIBUTOR TO THE GAME
Former heavyweight boxing champion of the world Evander Holyfield, who cheered his son Elijah and the Bulldogs on from the Sanford Stadium stands Saturday, in the runaway victory over Middle Tennessee State.
“Anytime the home crowd contains a world champion boxer you know you have things going in the right direction,” said Butler. “Elijah Holyfield’s father, Evander, is always an intimidating sight but when he is cheering on the Bulldogs your team will be a little stronger. Whether he’s shadow boxing or cheering on his son, it is a great sight to see him become such a Bulldog. His son knows how to give a great knockout punch, too, so anytime the Bulldogs can get stronger in the stands it starts with the world champion.”