Kevin Butler, former University of Georgia legendary kicker and a member of the Georgia radio broadcast team, will each week during the 2017 football season select his offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week for Bulldawg Illustrated. Here are Butler’s selections and reasons why for the Bulldogs’31-3 romp over Mississippi State.
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Freshman right tackle Andrew Thomas, whose blocking helped the Bulldog offense to rush for 203 yards and pass for 201 more … truly the balanced attack Georgia needed to dominate the Mississippi State defense.
“The freshman starting right tackle is going to be great for the Bulldogs for the next three years,” said Butler. “The Pace Academy Army All American earned the right to be player of the game against Miss. State. You don’t see too many freshman offensive linemen make an impact on a team like Andrew is doing for the Dogs. His strength, size, and speed are the new expectation for all UGA linemen. Andrew Thomas not only gets physical at the line of attack but his ability to get downfield and make a second and third block is the key to a successful running game. The challenges are going to get tougher with each game and Andrew will be a ‘young’ leader heading into the meat of the schedule.”
Junior cornerback Deandre Baker, who had the Bulldog secondary’s first interception of the year in the third quarter off MSU quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, which he returned for 22 yards to set up a Georgia score. Baker was also third on the team in tackles Saturday night with seven stops.
“Smart points out how thin we are in the defensive backfield but play from Deandre may help ease the pain,” said Butler. “His physical play has created a new awareness of UGA’s DB’s. Covering is the main job but being able to provide run support puts Georgia in a great position heading into the SEC road tour. His interception was a key to putting the Little Dogs out of their misery between the hedges.”
The entire Georgia punt coverage team, which has complemented Cameron Nizialek’s high and long punts by allowing opponents very minimal return yardage.
“The punt team gets the nod this week,” said Butler. “This is truly a team award because to have the 4th- ranked net punting team in the NCAA, you need to have everyone doing their job and they are! With a net of 44.57 yards, the Bulldogs have consistently flipped the field and the defense has responded with aggressive play. Sony Michel is nothing less than spectacular on this unit. We have starters on the special teams for a reason and that reason is wanting to play for a championship. We must win special teams each week in order to fulfill the dream.”
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