ATHENS – Georgia coach Mark Richt on Sunday awarded scholarships to seven walk-on players.
Two of them — tailback Brandon Harton and defensive back Blake Sailors — are former walk-ons who were placed on scholarship last year and were renewed for the coming year. The other five are all getting aid at UGA for the first time, including fullback Merritt Hall and safety Connor Norman, who figure to start or play significant roles early in the season. The other recipients are cornerback Luis Capella, receiver Rhett McGowan and linebacker Kosta Vavlas.
Georgia, of course, is infamously low on its scholarship numbers for the coming. It had 72 before Sunday’s actions by Richt. As it is, the Bulldogs remain six below the NCAA maximum allotment of 85.
Here’s a look at the seven recipients:
DB Luis Capella, junior, Augusta: Capella (5-10, 176) is third-string cornerback and special teams player. He graduated from Richmond Academy and has made the AD’s honor roll and the SEC academic honor the past two seasons.
FB Merritt Hall, redshirt freshman, Alpharetta: Hall (5-11, 238) earned the No. 1 spot on the depth chart during spring practice and was named “outstanding walk-on.” He remains Georgia’s starting fullback heading into the second week of preseason camp.
TB Brandon Harton, junior, Reidsville: Harton (5-6, 174) earned a scholarship last season and played in five games. He led the Bulldogs in rushing against Kentucky with 101 yards on 23 carries.
SE Rhett McGowan, junior, Calhoun: An all-state player and team captain at Calhoun High, McGowan (6-0, 190) has played in nine games the last two seasons. He finished with 7 catches for 84 yards last year and caught a touchdown pass against New Mexico State.
DB Connor Norman, redshirt sophomore, Duluth: Norman (5-10, 208), who attended Peachtree Ridge High, played in all 14 games for the Bulldogs last season, mainly on special teams, and recorded 13 tackles. He could start at free safety if Bacarri Rambo is sidelined as expected. Norman received a most improved award in 2011 and outstanding walk-on on defense this spring.
DB Blake Sailors, junior, Athens: Sailors (5-11, 186) is a cornerback and special teams stalwart who has played in every Georgia game the past two seasons. A 2009 graduate of Oconee High, this is the second year in a row Sailors earned a scholarship
LB Kosta Vavlas, redshirt sophomore, Tarpon Springs, Fla.: Vavlas (6-0, 219) is an inside linebacker who is currently listed as third-team “Mo” behind Alec Ogletree and Christian Robinson. He played in all 14 games last season, finished with 19 tackles and received a most valuable special teams award.