Greetings Bulldog fans … it’s so nice to reconnect with you because our Season Preview issue of Bulldawg Illustrated means that the only thing standing between the Bulldog Nation and toe meeting leather is the long, hot Georgia summer. Yes, I realize the wait for kickoff is brutal, but rest assure that everyone here at BI has produced one heckuva issue to tide you over.
When spring practice began back in March, head coach, Kirby Smart zeroed in on a few aspects that he deemed vital for his team’s success. First, Kirby spoke about the importance of sustained focus in everything his players do, from their workouts to the classroom to the field. He then stressed the importance of having a team built on toughness, discipline, and character. And finally, he let it be known that shoring up deficiencies in situational football, the red zone and special teams were a must.
Well, I’m happy to report that Kirby’s charges to his unit are being met with great vigor in Athens. Throughout this issue on our sports pages, you can read what our writers, led by the veteran, Murray Poole discovered during spring drills. Like me, I think you will be more than satisfied with the mood and sustained focus of our players.
One advantage that I have living in Athens is that sometimes I witness examples of dedication by our players beyond the normal allotted time given to media members during practice. And full disclosure, it’s somewhat easier when you have football players as your next-door neighbors like I do in Five Points.
Earlier this month, a week after UGA concluded spring semester, I noticed that senior, tight end (and my neighbor) Jeb Blazevich had been out of town. I figured he probably went home to North Carolina to spend some time with his family. Well, on a Friday night a little after 10 p.m. when I was letting Cheri’s and my new puppy out, I heard a scooter zipping down the next door driveway. Anyone familiar with Georgia football knows that a large amount of players use scooters when they are using the practice facilities at Butts-Mehre.
When the scooter exited the gravel driveway and hit the asphalt of our street, it was obvious that one of the wheels was completely flat. As I expected, the driver of scooter stopped and turned around retreating back in the driveway. I sort of laughed to myself, knowing it was most likely Jeb trying to get a workout in as he arrived back to Athens.
Now, I don’t know about you, but if my scooter failed me on a Friday night when I was going to workout at 10 p.m., I would call it divine intervention and turn on Netflix. But not Jeb Blazevich. He hopped in his truck on a mission to get to Butts-Mehre.
I think all of you would agree with me that this type of dedication is music to the ears. It’s a funny story, but it says a lot about the leadership of this 2017 Georgia football team. Of course, I confirmed everything with Jeb the following day. He was actually on a mission trip to Costa Rica, but was most definitely getting in a workout as soon as he returned to Athens.
Good stuff indeed and a great sign for 2017.
Sometimes in our Season Preview, I’ll make predictions for the upcoming season. This year, I’m going to pass. Does this team have an excellent chance to make it back to Atlanta for the SEC Championship? You bet they do. But this team will also be breaking in an offensive line without a lot of experience, which is extremely tough in the SEC. And while Jacob Eason (see related story page 22) has one year under his belt, he too is still learning how to navigate the best conference in college football.
So, I’m imploring everyone in the Bulldog Nation to be confident in our team this season, but also know some patience might still be necessary.
With that, I’ll say my goodbyes, but not without encouraging you soak up every one of these 64 pages. From position and game previews to delving into Eason’s second year, our sports folks have crushed it with this issue. And on the social front, our Proust interview and Georgia Girls features are of course back. Also, you will love our Bulldogs Born and Bred and travel guides for Georgia’s road games this season. Of course, there is a ton more and no issue of BI is complete without fan photos galore.
Also, kudos to the UGA Men’s Tennis team, who at press deadline, has made it to the Final Four in the NCAA Championships. Congrats also to the Lady Dawg netters on making it to the round of 16. The Georgia gymnastics team also made big news with the hiring of former Dawg, Courney Kupets Carter as head coach and the return of Suzanne Yoculan Leebern as her volunteer coach. Woof, Woof.
Enjoy our Season Preview and here’s wishing you a great summer. We’ll see you on Aug. 29 with our game faces on with the Appalachian State issue. Until then … Go Dawgs!!!
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