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’ season-opening 45-0 win over Austin Peay Saturday.
OFFENSE Sophomore tailback D’Andre Swift, who made his first start for the Bulldogs Saturday and rushed for 43 yards on eight carries including an 8-yard touchdown run and also led the Bulldogs’ receiving with four catches for 33 yards.
“D’Andre Swift , aka Philadelphia Freedom, confirmed he is ready to fill the shoes left empty by Chubb and Michel,” said Butler. “D’Andre’s effort in the scalding hot weather between the hedges on Saturday proved to me that he can bear the load. Whether on the ground or receiving the ball, D’Andre’s skills, speed and strength stand out as the go-to man for Georgia heading into a long season. Rushing for 43 yards and receiving for 33 yards produced the most all-purpose yards for the Georgia offense. I am expecting big things from D’Andre in 2018.”
DEFENSE Sophomore inside linebacker Monty Rice, who recorded four tackles and helped spark the Bulldogs defense’s shutout effort against the Governors.
“Georgia did not miss any player more than Roquan Smith Saturday,” said Butler. “But the emergence of Monty Rice might bring a little memory loss as the season continues. Monty could turn out to be Kirby’s best steal from Saban in his short career. The sophomore from Madison, Ala. showed his speed and tenacity, scraping from right to left to tackle running backs Saturday. Totaling four tackles with two individual tackles proved Monty is ready to become a leader both on the field and in the locker room for the young Georgia defense.”
SPECIAL TEAMS Junior place-kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, who tallied the Bulldogs’ first points of the new season on a 34-yard field goal, kicked off eight times into the end zone for touchbacks and converted all six of his extra point tries.
“Picking up where he left off in the national championship game, ‘Hot Rod’ nailed his only field goal attempt Saturday in the first quarter with a kick of 34 yards,” said Butler. “Rodrigo was 6-of-6 on extra points and, most importantly, continued his tremendous kickoffs with all exiting the end zone per the hot foot of Hot Rod. Rodrigo, a preseason All-American, will play an important role Saturday against the Gamecocks. The world looks bright looking through the specs of Hot Rod Blankenship.“
Unsung Contributors to the Game All the many folks involved with the West End Zone project like UGA’s Deputy Athletic Director for Operations Josh Brooks and Associate Director of Facilities Shaun Chapas.
“Completing the West End zone expansion on time provided a huge boost to the fans and players of the Dawg Nation,” said Butler. “The addition offers the finest locker room, recruiting center and stadium renovation in the SEC.”