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Column: Kirby Smart has made Georgia football a hot topic year-round

These are the views of the author and not those of AllOnGeorgia.

Georgia football has always been a big deal.

But now, it’s even a bigger deal.

There is hardly a day that goes by without something being written about the Bulldogs in print media.

Here lately, those stories have about spring practice and the annual G-Day Game, UGA players going in the NFL draft, players leaving the program and players transferring in, Kirby Smart’s new contract and of course any and all recruiting news and perhaps getting Clemson on a future schedule.

Let me start today’s column related to Georgia athletics with the football recruiting news.

It came out this week that 5-star linebacker Owen Pappoe, a rising senior at Grayson, chose Auburn over Georgia as he committed to the Tigers.

Georgia seemed to lead the race for him, but he said the Tigers caught the Bulldogs near the end of his junior season and eventually passed them on his personal list.

A story was published this week that asked this question: Does Grayson steer players away from UGA?

The reason it was asked was that four Grayson players including Pappoe announced their commitments this week and not a one chose the Bulldogs. All of them apparently had offers from Georgia at one point, but if you read between the lines, it seems that in the end the Bulldogs really only wanted Pappoe.

But, I sent former Camden County and Grayson coach Jeff Herron a text that included that very same question above.

His response was simply that he didn’t do that in his one season with the Rams as Georgia signed defensive back Deangelo Gibbs under his watch.

Some have accused a guy named Kenyatta Walker Sr. of advising players to go somewhere other than Georgia with Pappoe the most recent case.

Walker is the so-called recruiting coordinator for the Grayson program, and he is really another story for another day. But he says Pappoe’s decision was all his and he in fact thinks the star linebacker will eventually sign with Georgia.

Pappoe did leave the door open, saying he was only committing to the Tigers not signing with them. I’m not sure what he wants or needs to hear to change his mind, but I’m certain that Kirby Smart will try his hardest to convince him that Georgia is where he needs to be.

My guess is that Pappoe will flip to the Bulldogs sometime between Grayson’s first game in August and the early signing period in December.

In other UGA football news, the Bulldogs are apparently interested in playing old rival Clemson once again in the not-so-distant future.

Just recently, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney suggested the schools ought to play each other every year. Likely, he knew the two sides have been in prelimary discussions about scheduling each other.

The Bulldogs and Tigers did used to play each other every year during the 1960s, 70s and most of the 80s. They last played a home-and-home series in 2013 and 2014 with both teams winning on their own fields. Prior to that, they hadn’t played since 2003.

I’m not going to campaign for an annual meeting once again. In my opinion, both teams already have tough enough schedules with their conference games and yearly meetings with in-state rivals Georgia Tech and South Carolina.

But, a home-and-home like they did recently, or an every other year deal, I would be for either of those.

I know Clemson isn’t afraid to play another Power 5 school out of conference. Last year, the Tigers played Auburn. This year, they play Texas A&M.

Georgia does appear interested in playing another Power 5 school also. Two years ago, it was North Carolina. Last year, it was Notre Dame. The Fighing Irish are on the schedule again in 2019. Georgia has future games already set with Virginia and UCLA.

I wish Georgia would play a home-and-home with Michigan, but that’s just a personal deal to be discussed another time as well.

But, yeah. Georgia and Clemson makes the mouth salivate. Make it happen, just not every fall.

Getting away from football, Georgia basketball has been in the spotlight in recent months also with the hiring of former Marquette and Indiana coach Tom Crean to replace Mark Fox who was dismissed after a disappointing 2017-18 season in which an underachieving Georgia team missed the NCAA tournament once again.

Crean has hired a few assistants and one coach – former Georgia player Jonas Hayes – left the program to take on a bigger role as an assistant at Xavier.

Other than that, it had been quiet on the Georgia basketball front until Crean landed his first recruit with the signing of guard Tye Fagan out of Upson-Lee, which he led to state titles as a junior and senior.

Fagan, who stands 6-foot-3, is a three-star prospect who averaged 25 points a game last year and scored over 30 in six different games.

Crean said he can impact a game on both ends of the floor, and it sounds like this first signee for the new coach is a pretty good start to getting more and more home-grown talent to come to Athens to play hoops.

The Bulldogs has already signed in-state players Amanze Ngumezi from Johnson-Savannah and JoJo Toppin from Norcross.

I’m wondering how big a push Crean will make for Brantley County senior-to-be Jailyn Williams? The 6-foot-8 power forward already had an offer from the Bulldogs, Georgia Tech, Memphis and Louisville among others.

Also worth noting is the season the Georgia baseball team is putting together under head coach Scott Stricklin after several disappointing seasons.

Georgia is currently ranked 20th in the country and owns a 31-14 overall record and a 13-9 mark in the rugged SEC.

It appears that Georgia will qualify for the SEC tournament for the first time since 2011 and has a chance to make the NCAA tournament as well.

It’s tough to win games in the SEC, it really is.

But there is no sense in Georgia not being one of the teams in the running for league championships, berths in the NCAA tournament and also trips to Omaho to play in the College World Series.

The Bulldogs have been there several times before. Look it up. It’s a fact.

And fact is, Georgia should consistently field a good baseball team, what with the talent this state puts out alone.

Kevin Price is a freelance writer for AllOnGeorgia with more than 20 years experience in journalism and communications.

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