One of the greatest teams in Georgia football history will be honored Saturday night when the Bulldogs take on Middle Tennessee State between the hedges. Georgia’s Southeastern Conference champions of 1968 celebrate their 50th anniversary. It was a juggernaut of a squad, led by two of the greatest college football legends ever, the young chieftain head coach Vince Dooley and defensive coordinator Erk Russell. The roster was lined with some of the most talented players in Bulldog lore, beloved, colorful characters who would go on to incredible successes following their unforgettable days in Athens.
The core of this stellar squad was a senior class that was the heart of the revitalization of Georgia football under Dooley’s watch. Following his 7-3-1 initial campaign of 1964, he and a stellar coaching staff brought in a phenomenal class of recruits. Unfortunately in those days, freshmen were ineligible. The Bulldogs of 1965 secured memorable wins over Alabama and Michigan, but injuries derailed any SEC championship hopes. Dooley and Russell often said that if freshmen would have been eligible in those days, the Bulldogs would have had a great year. But the following year, a phenomenal Georgia squad delivered a 10-1 record, No. 4 national ranking and the SEC championship. Those sophomores were a big part of one of the best Bulldog teams ever.
“That class was the second best one that we ever had at Georgia, behind only the 1980 class that had Herschel Walker, Terry Hoage and so many other great players,” Dooley so fondly remembers. “They won two SEC championships and really elevated us.”
Georgia came up just short in 1967, a pair of one-point heartbreakers in back to back weeks keeping the Bulldogs just shy of another championship year.
But it all came together again in 1968.
Amongst the headliners were a pair of All-Americans, defensive tackle Bill Stanfill and safety/returner Jake Scott, who would both go on to iconic All-Pro careers in Miami.
Steve Greer would be named All-American in 1969, Russell calling him “the toughest player he ever coached”. Stanfill, Greer, Terry Osbolt and Lee Daniel formed the middle of the line in the old “Wide Tackle Six.” The ends were the best in the conference – David McKnight and, before rising to fame for the Atlanta Olympics and as Chairman of The Augusta National Golf Club, Billy Payne.
All-SEC linebacker and longtime team physician Happy Dicks had suffered an injury and looked doubtful for the Bulldogs thrilling 21-20 win at South Carolina, which led to the greatest headline in sports history from the superbly talented mind and pen of the inimitable Lewis Grizzard. “Dogs To Play Cocks With Dicks Out.”
“We had characters on that team with character,” says Bulldog great Mike Cavan, All-SEC sophomore quarterback in 1968. “Stanfill and Scott are two of the greatest defensive players in Georgia history. Billy Payne, Steve Greer, Happy Dicks – what a headline – it was a great defense.”
Cavan was the trigger man of one of the most balanced offenses the SEC had produced.
“We had tremendous success both running and throwing the football,” recalls Dooley. “We were right around 200 yards per game on the ground and through the air, and it made us very tough to defend.”
With any great offense, it starts up front.
From left to right, David Rholetter was All-SEC and anchored the line at left tackle. Bruce Yawn was the left guard, future All-American Tommy Lyons the center, and an athletic and tough right side of Pat Rodrigue and Wayne Bird came together to form the league’s best offensive line.
“We had a great line, we had the best blocking fullback ever in Brad Johnson, two great tight ends Dennis Hughes and Billy Brice,” said Cavan. “And the best hands in a receiver in Charlie Whittemore.”
It was a team full of weapons.
The Bulldogs boasted one of the fastest players in the country, Kent “The Jet” Lawrence,” All-SEC and an esteemed judge in Athens. Lawrence, who once beat O.J. Simpson in the 100-yard dash, was a stellar running back and receiver during his Georgia career.
Cavan, wingback Bruce Kemp, Lawrence (primarily a flanker in ’68) and Johnson, who won the Jacobs Blocking Award, an honor usually reserved for offensive linemen, formed a formidable backfield. Whittemore was Georgia’s all-time leading receiver until Lindsay Scott.
This was a great Dooley team, so Georgia was magnificent on special teams. Scott was a phenomenal returner, Jim McCullough and Peter Rajecki accomplished kickers. Spike Jones had a thunder leg. He and McCullough both made All-SEC. The Bulldogs also had a legendary deep snapper, the beloved and incomparable Bobby Poss.
Georgia had ten players make first or second-team All-SEC.
These Bulldogs of 1968 ascended into true Bulldog gridiron lore with what they did against the big three rivals.
Georgia blasted Florida 51-0, clinched the SEC at Auburn 17-3 and then annihilated Tech 47-8 between the hedges. Those were three of seven Georgia wins that came by at least 14 points. The Bulldogs were even named national champions by the Litkenhous Poll, which was based on a difference by score formula.
This was a rare breed of Bulldogs, one of Georgia’s best ever. Happy 50th anniversary to the SEC Champion Bulldogs of 1968.