Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 14 Days to Go

14: Fran Tarkenton, Quarterback #10 (1957 – 1960)

By the 1950’s, there had been a number of players who grew up in the Athens area that had found some success at The University of Georgia. But the expectations of those players was usually less because people did not think players from the Athens area got a fair chance from the Georgia coaches. Fran Tarkenton was born in the Washington area and moved to Athens when his father got a preaching job in Athens. He played for Weyman Sellers at Athens High School, leading them to a state championship over state-powerhouse Valdosta. When he began his career at Georgia, he set out to change the theory that Athens players couldn’t star at Georgia. A theory Tarketon wrote about in his autobiography saying, “It was the kind of theory that had something in common with many theories: it was really hard to prove, and it was probably filled with gas.”

After playing for the freshman team in 1957, Tarkenton sat third on the depth chart in his sophomore season behind Charlie Britt and Tommy Lewis. In the season opener against Texas, Georgia was trailing in the fourth quarter, failing to score all game. Tarkenton convinced Coach Butts to put him in and he promptly led Georgia on a 95 yards scoring drive that ended with a Tarkenton touchdown pass and 2 point conversion. Texas scored again to take the lead, but Butts sent Charlie Britt back out to quarterback the next series and Georgia lost. There was an uproar in Athens following the game, and Tarkenton took over as starter. But Butts substituted Britt early in the next game, and Georgia once again lost. But Tarketnon continued to play sparingly. He almost left Athens (for Florida State), but Quinton Lumpkin helped talk Fran into staying.

From then on, Fran Tarkenton played a lot of quarterback at Georgia. Charlie Britt was still at Georgia, but began to spend a larger portion of his time on the defensive side of the ball. In 1959, he completed 62 of 102 passing attempts for 736 yards and 6 touchdowns. None was more important than the touchdown pass he threw late in the fourth quarter against Auburn. The winner of the game would be the SEC Champion and head to the Orange Bowl and Georgia was trailing 13-7 with just 30 seconds to go. From the Auburn 13, Tarkenton found a wide open Bill Herron for the game winning touchdown.

Georgia would go on to be Missouri 14-0 in the Orange Bowl. He was the full time starter in 1960, throwing for 1,189 yards and seven touchdowns. He was the SEC leader in total offense with 1,274 yards and was named first team All-SEC and named an All-American by the Associated Press.

Fran Tarkenton was drafted in the third round of the 1961 NFL Draft by the Minnesota Vikings. He would become one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. He led the Minnesota Vikings to three Super Bowls and retired as the NFL’s all-time leading passer. He threw for 47,003 yards and 342 touchdowns (both records have since been broken by Dan Marino and Brett Favre). He was inducted into both the College and Pro Football Hall of Fame. Here’s a look at his NFL career:

Ivy League or Bust

Andrew Hatch, the one-time LSU QB, who competed on and off during the 2008 season with Jarrett Lee for the starting spot, is now in competition for the starting QB role with the Harvard Crimson.

Even though Hatch started his collegiate career at Harvard in 2005, went on his 2-year Mormon mission trip, transferred to LSU when offered a spot with the Tigers by the former BYU HC/LSU OC, and transferred back to Harvard after breaking his fibula in LSU's 2008 loss to UGA, he still is only an academic junior, due to Harvard not accepting any LSU transfer credits.

Apparently Hatch couldn't run fast enough.

And evidently he still has a lot to learn on the gridiron too, according to Harvard coach Tim Murphy:

Murphy said he could tell that playing for LSU, which is in college football’s elite division, made Hatch a better player, although he still had some soft spots in his game.

“He needs to work on taking care of the football better, and he’s got to do a better job in his decision making,” Murphy said. “Part of that is becoming more comfortable with our offense, which is a little more complex than the offense he ran at LSU.

Sort of makes you wonder what Les is up to down on the bayou...

Friday, August 20, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 15 Days to Go

15: Scott Woerner, Cornerback/ Kick Returner #19 (1977 – 1980)

In recent years, Georgia has seen a number of players who have excelled in both the defensive backfield and as a kick returner. Scott Woerner may be the best of that group. The Texas native made his first mark at Georgia during his freshman season in 1977. While playing sparingly on defense, Woerner became the starter at both kickoff and punt returner. He returned 22 kickoffs for 546 yards (24.8 average) and 12 punts for 112 yards. He set the Georgia single game record for kickoff returns yards with 190 against Kentucky.

During his sophomore season, Woerner would continue in his role as kick returner and cracked the starting lineup at corner. While Lindsay Scot took over as the team’s leading kickoff returner, Woerner still led the team in punt returns (23 for 277 yards and a touchdown). He added 66 tackles and 4 interceptions on defense. 1979 saw much of the same success he had during 1978, leading the Bulldogs in punt returns (22 for 200 yards) and interceptions (4). He returned in 1980 for what would be a magical senior season.

Scott Woerner played a pivot role in Georgia’s 1980 SEC and National Championships. In Georgia’s early season game against Clemson, Worner returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown:

His solid play at corner and returner continued throughout the 1980 season and he once again came up big in the Sugar Bowl against Notre Dame. He had two interceptions during the game, including one late in the 4th that sealed the contest for the Bulldogs:

Woerner was named first team All-SEC and a first team All-American. He regained his role as the leading kickoff returner (9 for 232 yards). Scott Woerner also led the NCAA in punt return yardage, 31 for 488 yards and a touchdown. It was also another great season on defense, as he totaled 47 tackles and a career high 5 interception.

Scott Woerner sits near the top of a number of categories in the Georgia record book. He is fourth all-time in interceptions with 13 (for 303 return yards, 2nd most all-time). He is fifth all-time in kickoff return yardage with 839 yards on 35 returns. He is the second leading punt returner in school history behind Damien Gary with a total 1077 yards on 88 carries (12.2 average) and 2 touchdowns. He was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons and played 1 season in the NFL before moving onto a career in the short-lived USFL.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 16 Days to Go

16: Kevin Butler, Kicker #5 (1981 – 1984)

Kevin Butler (with #99 Drew Butler) completes the only father-son pair in our countdown. Kevin Butler inherited the placekicking job from Rex Robinson following the National Championship Season in 1980. Butler’s career at Georgia got off to a great start that fall. Butler kicked 17 field goals in what would be the first of 4 All-SEC seasons in Athens. With Dawgs completing another undefeated regular season in 1982 (they would lose to Pittsburgh in the Sugar Bowl), Butler racked up 85 points on 17 field goals and 34 PATs. Butler would make 18 of 23 field goals in 1983, earning the first All-American honor of his career.

During his final season at Georgia in 1984, Butler would make a kick that cemented his legend in Bulldog history. The Dawgs were tied with rival Clemson at home late in the fourth quarter. Georgia drove the ball just inside Clemson territory and lined up for what would be a 60 yard attempt. Here is the call from Larry Munson:

Kevin Butler would go onto an All-Pro career in the NFL, playing on the Super Bowl winning Chicago Bears under Coach Mike Ditka. In years in Athens saw his make 77 of 98 field goal attempts, including kicks of 60, 59, 53, and 52. He was a four time All-SEC selection and two-time first team All-American. He is lone kicker to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and is arguably the greatest kicker in NCAA history.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 17 Days to Go

17) Hines Ward, All Everything, #19 (1994-1997)

Hines Ward, a Damn Good Dawg, came to the University of Georgia in 1994 a heavily recruited athlete and undersized quarterback. When he left in 1997, his name was all over the Bulldog record books and entrenched in the hearts of Dawg fans everywhere as one of the most versatile offensive threats in UGA's history.

A graduate of Forest Park High School south of Atlanta, Ward was a consensus prep All-American and two time Clayton County Offensive player of the year. He found a role as a reserve QB before splitting time and later starting games at Tailback. In the 1995 season, Mike Bobo became the starting QB while former CB Robert Edwards took over the RB position and Hines moved to Flanker. He couldn't get comfortable there as Bobo and back-up QB Brian Smith were soon lost to injury forcing Ward's move back to QB. While he struggled in early starts, his 413 yards passing against Virginia in the Peach Bowl kept UGA in the game before a Kickoff Return for a TD from the Cavilers doomed the Dawgs.

1996 Marked the start of the Jim Donnan era in Athens, and while team results were mixed, Wards was outstanding catching 52 passes for 900 yards for All SEC honors. He would help lead the 1997 squad to a 10-2 record and top 10 finish, including memorable wins over Florida, Georgia Tech and Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl.

For his career, he had 3,870 all purpose yards (rushing, receiving, and returning), good for second all time in the Georgia record books behind Herschel Walker. His NFL career has been well documented after being a 3rd round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers. His 895 receptions, 10,947 yards and 78 receiving TD's on Football's biggest stage are Fall of Fame worthy on their own, but when you add 2 Super Bowls, one Super Bowl MVP, endless highlights of helmet jarring blocks, and his philanthropic efforts, you get the idea of how special Hines Ward is and how his grit, determination, heart and hard play are what make him a legendary Georgia Bulldog and truly unique NFL player, both on and off the field.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Win an ACC Championship...sell less tickets???

That is apparently the case at Georgia Tech, where they have only managed to sell 24,500 season tickets this year. At the same time last year, they had sold over 25,000.

When Georgia finished #2 in the country in 2007, the score cutoff jumped from 2,200 to over 10,000. I know some will argue that the economy is a factor, but with no cutoff score required to purchase tickets, Tech should at least be able to sell as many tickets as they did last season.

After appearing on the front page of ESPN the magazine, Georgia State football will finally kickoff its program next month. I wonder how many years it will take the Panthers to overtake Tech in ticket sales (I am kidding...well maybe not if GSU is successful and moves to 1A).

Will Prince Miller follow in Dannell Ellerbe's footsteps?

In 2009, former Georgia linebacker Dannell Ellerbe signed as undrafted free agent with the Baltimore Ravens. After impressing coaches in training camp and on special teams, Ellerbe earned significant time on the Ravens defense totaling 41 tackles and an interception. This summer, he is in a battle with Jameel McClain for the starting inside linebacking position along side Ray Lewis.

This spring, another former Georgia player signed with Baltimore after going undrafted. That player was Prince Miller, who turned in a fantastic punt return in his first NFL preseason game:

I hope the Prince Miller story in Baltimore turns out as well as the Dannell Ellerbe story has.


The Countdown 2010: 18 Days to Go

18: John Rauch, Quarterback #18 (1945 - 1948)*

As a child, John “Johnny” Rauch’s doctor advised him to quit football due to a heart condition. He ignored these warnings and went on to become one of Georgia’s top quarterbacks. John came to Athens from the state of Pennsylvania; a state which produced five of the fourteen Georgia players named as All-Americans from 1941-1964. After originally committing to the University of Tennessee as a tailback, he reluctantly accepted an invitation to come to Athens under the promise of being the starting quarterback.

As a true freshman in 1945, he led the Dawgs to a record of 36-8-1 during his four year stint as quarterback. One of his most notable games was against LSU in 1947. After an eight-game losing streak, Rauch threw for three touchdowns and led the Dawgs to their first win over the Tigers since 1928. John Rauch often had a reputation for playing in pain, as evidenced by him wearing a mask made of steel of protect a cheekbone that was crushed in a 1946 game against Oklahoma A&M. It was during this 1946 season that Rauch led the Bulldogs to an undefeated season. Rauch was also the only quarterback to start in four consecutive bowl games. In addition to his career as quarterback, he also played defense. He totaled 13 interceptions, which is still tied for third a record in Georgia history.

John was named the first team All-American in 1948. One of Rauch’s most impressive accomplishments was setting the NCAA record with 4,044 passing yards, which was later broken in 1950. Rauch was inducted into the College football Hall of Fame in 2003.

*This article was contributed by Streit's wife, Melissa

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 19 Days to Go

Pat Dye, OG #60 (1957-1960)

Patrick Fain Dye is best known as Auburn's head coach from 1981 to 1992. A successful tenure that yielded 99 wins and four SEC championships ended in a dark cloud of pay-for-play allegations supported by the infamous Eric Ramsey tapes played nationally on 60 Minutes, and landing Auburn on probation in 1993 and 1994. Yet Pat Dye is still beloved on the Plains for what he accomplished in the 1980s. A program that hadn't won an SEC championship since 1957 played in the Sugar Bowl three times in its most successful decade.

Born and raised in Blythe, Georgia, outside of Augusta, Dye's mother was a school teacher and a graduate of the University of Georgia. His father was a farmer. As a senior at Richmond Academy, Dye was the captain of the 1956 3A state championship team and named the Atlanta Journal's 3A Lineman of the Year.

Playing for Wally Butts' final teams at UGA, he was named first team All-SEC in 1958 and an All-American in 1959 and 1960. The Atlanta Touchdown Club also named him the SEC's Most Valuable Lineman in 1960. He also secured a fumble in 1959 versus Auburn to help win 14-13 and seal an SEC championship for the Dawgs.

After three seasons in the CFL playing for the Edmonton Eskimos, Dye served two years in the U.S. Army fulfilling an ROTC obligation. He then became an assistant coach to Bear Bryant at Alabama, serving from 1965 to 1973.

Hired as East Carolina's head coach in 1974, Dye compiled a 48-18-1 record in six seasons. He then coached at Wyoming for one season (1980) before being named Auburn's head coach.

Vince Dooley's signature on an AU helmet; and Pat Dye's signature on a UGA helmet

As Auburn was busy courting Vince Dooley before Georgia's 1981 Sugar Bowl matchup with Notre Dame, Dye became greatly interested in the head position at his alma mater. However, Dooley finally turned down the Auburn job and Dye shifted his attention. In fact, he resigned his position at Wyoming before Auburn ever offered him the job. But his gamble paid off on January 2, 1981 when the Tigers announced him as head coach.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Countdown 2010: 20 Days to Go

20: Terrence Edwards, Wide Receiver #8 (1999 – 2002)

The name “Terrence Edwards” may be one of the most polarizing phrases a Georgia fan can offer up. While Edwards clearly has a place among the best receivers in Georgia, and SEC for that matter, history, more people like to remember the plays he didn’t make. In particular, the dropped pass against Florida in 2002 that ended Georgia’s perfect season. And while that play may be what most remember, Edwards was an amazingly talented player who sits near the top of every major receiving category in Sec history.

Edwards came the Athens from Tenille, Georgia, the younger brother of Georgia great Robert Edwards. He played quarterback in high school, but switched to receiver prior to his first game against Utah State in 1999. His career got off to a fast start, as he caught 10 passes for 196 yards and 2 touchdowns. He would become the first freshman since Lindsay Scott to lead the team in receiving, as he hauled in 53 catches for 772 yards and 9 touchdowns. His sophomore season was another successfully campaign, as he once again led the team in receiving with 53 catches for 704 yards and four touchdowns. In Georgia’s bowl game against Virginia, Edwards even got to dust off his quarterback skills. He rushed the ball 5 times for 97 yards, including a 40 yard touchdown run as Georgia defeated Virginia, 37-14.

During Mark Richt’s first season, Edwards struggled with dropped passes and was eventually benched by Coach Richt. He recovered to once again lead the team in receiving with 39 catches for 613 yards and 6 touchdowns. 2002 got off to a solid start, with Edwards and Fred Gibson providing David Greene a dynamic duo of receivers to throw to. Here is one of the best executed play action fakes I have ever seen:

Then the Florida game happened. He recovered to have a solid game the following week against Ole Miss (5 catches for 90 yards and a touchdown) and was injured for the Auburn game, allowing for Michael Johnson to have a big game. He returned to action in the blowout victory over Tech and caught 7 passes for 92 yards in the SEC Championship victory over Arkansas. For the season, he led the Dawgs in receiving for the fourth consecutive season with 59 catches for 1004 yards and a school record 11 touchdowns. He was named to the All-SEC first team following the season.

Edwards’ statistics during his four career in Athens are quite impressive. He totaled 204 catches for 3,093 yards and 30 touchdowns, all first all-time at the University of Georgia. He third all-time in SEC history in receptions, first all-time in the SEC in receiving yards, and second all-time in the SEC in touchdown receptions. He played in the NFL with the Atlanta Falcons during the 2003 season and is now one of the top receivers in the Canadian Football League.