THE TEN AT 10
1. Months after the football season was completed, awards are still rolling in for Georgia’s Jarvis Jones. The latest honor for the Bulldogs’ star outside linebacker came Monday night during the Atlanta Sports Awards ceremony at the Fox Theatre as Jones was named Collegiate Athlete of the Year for the 2011 season. His was one of nine awards presented Monday night by the Atlanta Sports Council to athletes and sports personalities in Georgia.
In his first season with the Bulldogs, Jones led the SEC in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (19.5) and recording 70 tackles. The sophomore from Columbus also two forced fumbles, two pass breakups and 49 quarterback pressures. After the season, he was named first-team All-American and All-SEC and won the CFPA Elite Linebacker Trophy. He was also a Butkus Award finalist.
Jones is a big reason so many are predicting great success for Georgia’s defense in 2012. Despite getting some first-round grades, the decided to forgo the NFL draft and come back for his junior season. He’s one of 10 returning starters on a unit that finished in the top five nationally in total defense.
Georgia football coach Mark Richt was among the presenters. The other award winners were: Dominique Wilkins (Lifetime Achievement); Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks (Sports Person of the Year); Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves (Professional Athlete of Year); Grayson defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche (High School Athlete of Year), Grayson High football coach Mickey Conn (Coach of the Year); Atlanta Dream (Team of Year); and Jennifer Ann Shults of Roswell and Cyrus Wilson of the Lovett School (High School Scholar-Athletes).
2. I’m not sure what’s going on in college football but it’s not shaping up to be a very good year for off-field behavior, at least not in the South. Two more arrests of football players were reported on Monday: Kentucky linebacker Ridge Wilson was arrested in Louisville for allegedly selling prescription pills and South Carolina’s Angelo Watley — a freshman from Lawrenceville — was jailed in Columbia on burglary charges.
Last week, Florida State running back James Wilder (remember him, UGA recruitniks?) was booked on felony charges of battery and resisting arrest. Add those to a list that already includes Georgia cornerback Sanders Commings (simple battery/domestic violence) and Florida tight end A.C. Leonard (simple domestic battery).
In all the cases except for Commings’, the players were indefinitely suspended from their respective teams pending the outcome of their court cases. Commings, who still faces a March 22nd arraignment, has been suspended for the Bulldogs’ first two games next season. He was also placed on six months probation and ordered to undergo anger management and attend a drug and alcohol awareness class by UGA.
3. Coming off a stunning upset of No. 12 Florida this past Saturday, Mark Fox’s Georgia basketball team now has the monumental task of going on the road to face No. 1-ranked Kentucky at Rupp Arena. The Wildcats (27-1, 14-0 SEC) haven’t lost a home game since March 4, 2009. Coincidentally, that last defeat came at the hands of a 12-20 Georgia team that was under the direction of interim coach Pete Herrmann because head coach Dennis Felton had been fired a month earlier.
That Kentucky team went 8-8 in the conference and finished 22-12 that season. This one is considered one of the Wildcats’ all-time best. Georgia hung with them for a half before falling 57-44 in Athens back in January.
“They’re better in probably every way,” Fox said Kentucky now versus then. “Offensively they appear to be playing extremely well together. Defensively they were dynamite before. They’re a team that can beat you so many different ways. . . . You have a hard time finding any weakness. They have size, guard play, shooting, great defense, a high finish rate offensively, and obviously a terrific home-court advantage to go with all that.”
4. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs have not played well on the road this season. They’ve won just once away from Athens in conference play, a 70-68 upset of then-20th-ranked Mississippi State in overtime in Starkville on Feb. 11.
“Winning on the road in this league is tough,” Fox said. “We’ve had some games that maybe we didn’t feel like we played as well. I don’t think that has much to do with our approach as it does our inexperience. There’s really only been one time I didn’t feel like we showed up with the right mentality to play and, obviously when you play away from home, having the advantage of experience is a real plus. We do have two senior guards but not much experience after that.”
As I wrote yesterday, the Bulldogs enter the final week of the regular season battling to stay out of last place in the SEC. Depending on how they do in these final two games — and how Auburn and South Carolina do — they can finish anywhere from 10th to 12th.
5. Speaking of Herrmann, the former UGA assistant and longtime Division I coach just completed a storybook year in his second season as head coach at Young Harris College in North Georgia. With an 88-80 win over North Greenville this past week, the Mountain Lions ended their season at 22-4. That represented a 17-game improvement over the previous season.
Young Harris decided to resurrect its basketball program under Herrmann, 62, after a decades-long absence. It played what’s called a “candidacy season” this year before formally joining Division II’s Peach Belt Conference next season.
“This has been a remarkable season,” Hermann said on the school’s website. “This team has set the bar for the future with the number of wins and losses. . . . I’m really looking forward to keep developing as we go to new challenges. We will have a chance to compete for a conference regular-season championship next season.”
6. Accolades have continued to pour in for UGA swimming coach Jack Bauerle as well. Fresh off the Lady Bulldogs claiming their third consecutive SEC swimming and diving championship, Bauerle was inducted into the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in Macon this past weekend.
Bauerle began his career at Georgia as a record-setting swimmer from 1971 to 1974. After serving as an assistant coach, he took over as the head coach for the women’s program in 1979, then added the title of men’s coach in 1983. Nearly 20 years later, Bauerle is now the winningest women’s head coach in NCAA history, the winningest head coach for both women and men in SEC history and the fourth-winningest head coach for both women and men in NCAA history. He has guided the Lady Bulldogs to four national championships and six runner-up finishes as well as eight Southeastern Conference titles. Bauerle has been chosen as the NCAA Coach of the Year five times and as the SEC Coach of the Year 15 times. He has produced 77 individual national champions, including five last season.
Bauerle was one of three Bulldogs to be enshrined this year. Also going in were UGA football leterrman Cliff Kimsey (1939-41) and basketball referee Sally Smalley Bell.
Other members of the 2012 Hall of Fame class were Braves pitcher John Smoltz, Georgia Southern/CFL quarterback Tracy Ham and NFL referee Bob Boylston.
7. Georgia’s Diamond Dogs (7-0) moved up to No. 8 in the national rankings as their 12-game homestand resumes Tuesday night with a game against Savannah State (3-4). Georgia also faces Western Carolina (4-3) on Wednesday and plays host to Western Illinois (3-4) for a three-game set beginning Friday.
Coach David Perno’s team moved up one spot to No. 8 in the Baseball America poll. The Bulldogs are No. 9, according to Collegiate Baseball, and No. 10, per the ESPN/USA Today coaches poll. They’re off to their best start since 2009 when they won 14 straight to open the season.
8. It was a very good week for coach Andy Landers’ women’s basketball team this past week. The Lady Dogs (22-7, 11-5) capped the regular season on Sunday by clinching a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament with a dominating 62-46 win over a 20-win LSU team. On Monday, senior guard Meredith Mitchell was named the SEC Player of the week after averaging 15.0 points, 5.0 assists and 4.0 steals in her final two games at Stegeman Coliseum. She came into the season averaging 8.9 points, 2.4 assists and 1.8 steals.
“I’m very happy for and proud of Meredith,” Landers said. “She’s had a very solid season and I would guess any senior playing their final home games would dream about performing the way Meredith played.”
9. Most notably, the Lady Dogs’ last home game was played with a temporary assistant coach. PGA golfer and former Georgia Bulldog Bubba Watson served as a guest coach and sat on Georgia’s bench during the game. Watson, who is married to the former Lady Dog Angie Ball (1996-2000), was the result of Landers making good on a bet that Watson could not hit a golf ball out of Sanford Stadium last September. Watson did and here’s VIDEO EVIDENCE.
10. It looks like softball coach Lu Harris Champer is reloading her team with fresh talent. Paige Wilson, a first-year shortstop from Chicago, was named SEC Freshman of the Week after helping the 13th-ranked Bulldogs record wins over ranked opponents in No. 6 Oklahoma, No. 7/5 UCLA and No. 15/16 Arizona last week in the Cathedral City Classic in California. Wilson had 7 RBI, 7 hits, 3 home runs and 3 runs scored as she hit .438 during the tournament. Through 14 games, she has a .351 batting average with 14 RBI and 22 total bases.