ATHENS – For decades, coaches have enjoyed awarding what they call the “battlefield scholarship.” It’s that special moment enjoyed at least once a year when they get to call up a walkon before the team and deliver some good news.
“Son, you’ve really showed us something the last few weeks and we want to show our appreciation by putting you on scholarship,” or so it goes.
Thanks to some drastic attrition since last season, Georgia coach Mark Richt got to do that eight times on Thursday. During a team meeting at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall late in the evening, Richt awarded one-year renewable scholarships to eight different players: junior guard John Bodin of Covington; junior wide receiver Taylor Bradberry of Winder; senior outside linebacker Matthew DeGenova of Kenner, La.; senior cornerback Eric Elliot of Kennesaw; sophomore tailback Brandon Harton of Reidsville; sophomore cornerback Blake Sailors of Athens; junior tailback Wes Van Dyk of Highland Park, Texas; and senior linebacker Jason Veal of Lilburn.
It’s not known if that’s some kind of record but it has to be for Georgia, at least in the modern era.
The Bulldogs were able to award eight grants because, with classes set to start Monday, it was down to 77 players on scholarship. The NCAA-allotted maximum has been 85 since the late 1980s. Eight below is a rarely-heard number for a team that is not under some type of NCAA restriction, and Georgia is not.
Awarding eight also means the door is effectively closed on linebacker Kent Turene of Lauderdale Lakes, Fla. Turene, whose high school transcript has been tied up at the NCAA Eligibility Center all summer, told the AJC he intends to attend Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia if he can’t get his freshman eligibility resolved but, as of Friday morning, he hadn’t given up on being able to attend UGA this fall.
“I haven’t made a decision yet but that’s what I’m thinking right now,” Turene said Friday morning. “[Georgia] just told me I needed to make a decision, but that’s what I’ll probably do.”
Fork Union is a prep school. Turene said he should be able to go there, take over the classes currently in question by the NCAA and enroll in Georgia in January.
“That’s the plan,” he said.
Of course, the Bulldogs had so many opportunities available only because so many players had squandered theirs in the last nine months or so. For one reason or another, Georgia has lost 14 players who would have otherwise been eligible to play this season.
Some of those players are not around for good reasons, such as NFL lottery pick A.J. Green and fellow early-entry draftee Justin Houston. Others just couldn’t hack it one way or another, such as Caleb King, who lost his academic eligibility, and Washaun Ealey, who never bought into Richt’s team concept of “the Georgia Way.
In any case, the news of the eight awards was distributed via a brief news release from UGA late Thursdsay night. So Richt was not immediately available. Hopefully we’ll be able to hear from him about it later this morning after the Bulldogs wrap up their 10th practice of the preseason. I’ll let you know what Richt says if and when he does comment.
You’ll note that five of the eight scholarship recipients are underclassmen. That means Georgia will have to make a decision after the season who to keep on aid or who to not. As UGA spokesman Claude Felton pointed out Thursday, “even Isaiah Crowell’s scholarship is a one-year renewable” (though there is a national movement to make them multiyear deals). So these new Dogs won’t be renewed at the expense of a prospect with an offer come February.
In the meantime, here’s a rundown of the players who otherwise could have been a part of Georgia’s 2011 team: