Sheldon Dawson off Georgia team

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
9:34
PM ET

ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia safety Sheldon Dawson, who appeared in two games this season in a backup role, is no longer a member of the team.

Coach Mark Richt said Monday that Dawson "is not a member of the team anymore" but provided no further details.

Dawson, a junior, made one start in 2013. He had three tackles this season.

Richt also said freshman tailback Sony Michel probably won't need surgery for his shoulder injury but won't play this week for No. 13 Georgia against Vanderbilt.


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The top five SEC East teams so far picked by Matt Stinchcomb are Georgia, Missouri , South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.
ATHENS, Ga. -- Like many Georgia fans spoiled by the numbers and excitement former quarterback Aaron Murray generated during his illustrious Bulldogs career, quarterback Hutson Mason isn’t thrilled with the lack of a downfield passing presence within Georgia’s offense right now.

Four games into the 2014 season, Georgia’s passing game has been a shell of its former high-flying self, as Mason has yet to throw for 200 yards in a game and his longest pass has gone just 36 yards.

The good news is that the Bulldogs have just one loss and are a top-15 team, but Mason understands that this trend of a limited passing game can’t continue if the Dawgs want to make a run at the SEC title.

[+] EnlargeHutson Mason
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsShots downfield have been minimal this season for QB Hutson Mason and Georgia.
“We just gotta get better in the passing game all around,” Mason said. “From me to everybody else, we gotta get better.

“I’ll never apologize for winning a ball game. We did what we needed to do, but I will say we need to get better, I need to get better in the passing game.”

But when he was asked what it’s going to take for the passing game to improve, Mason admitted that’s the “million-dollar question.”

“Man, I don’t know what to tell you,” he said. “We’ll go back to work; I’ll go back to work. I’ll learn from my mistakes and all I can do is just keep trusting my protection.”

More importantly, Mason added, he needs to develop more chemistry and trust in his receivers. That right there is a major part of the passing game’s struggles. With Malcolm Mitchell nursing a knee injury and Justin Scott-Wesley dealing with an early-season suspension, Georgia’s receiving corps lost some valuable depth during the first month of the season.

Veterans Chris Conley and Michael Bennett, who have combined for 25 catches and 298 yards with two touchdowns, could be gassed from so many practice reps, and youngsters, like Isaiah McKenzie and Reggie Davis are still learning.

Now, freshman running back Sony Michel, who has been exceptional in the passing game thus far, is out for a while with a shoulder injury.

While defenses have taken away the deep ball at times this season, Mason said there have been plenty of miscues, especially in the Tennessee game, by the offense. The biggest has come in the form of miscommunication between Mason and his receivers, he said. There were a few times last Saturday where receivers ran the wrong routes or didn’t hit their marks on routes. Some guys didn’t even turn around at the right time for certain passes.

Because of that, there’s been some trust lost between Mason and his receivers, especially when it comes to deeper throws. And while Mason admitted he’s been off on a few passes this season, the playbook has been limited because timing with this group of receivers hasn’t been as crisp as it needs to be.

“The more confident we get in each other, the more confidence I get in my guys, the more confidence we give [offensive coordinator] Coach [Mike] Bobo to call plays down the field, the better we’ll get,” Mason said. “That’s where it starts is execution, and right now we’re not executing so it’s hard for everybody to have full confidence in each other when you’re not executing it.”

Head coach Mark Richt said last Saturday that he hopes Mitchell and Scott-Wesley will return to practice this week. He also hopes to get senior Jonathon Rumph (hamstring) back soon, too. So help is coming, which should help open things up and should get some rhythm back in this passing game.

However, with the health of Mitchell and Rumph not a guarantee going forward, Mason and his receivers have to jell better. Mason said the passing game starts with him, and he hasn’t shied away from some of his shortcomings this season, but he also understands that the guys who need to catch the ball have to help out more, too.

“When you’re in there, you gotta execute,” he said. “There’s really no excuse. It’s my job to trust it, and if I don’t trust it then it’s not gonna work. That trust starts with you gotta execute it and you gotta make the plays. The more plays you make, the more trust Coach Bobo will have in throwing the ball down the field … and the more I’ll have trust in my guys.”

SEC morning links

September, 29, 2014
Sep 29
8:00
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1. Fresh off its win over Memphis on Saturday, Ole Miss was already taking shots at Alabama. Safety Cody Prewitt said he doesn’t believe the Crimson Tide are as good as they have been in recent years. It might be a little early to say that; after all, just last year, Prewitt’s Rebels were shut out in Tuscaloosa, 25-0. A lot has changed since that game, though. The Ole Miss defense, which has allowed just two touchdowns through the first four games, is much improved, and quarterback Bo Wallace is a year older. At Alabama, the offense looks more balanced under new coordinator Lane Kiffin, and they’re even using their own version of the no-huddle offense. It’s one of many intriguing matchups in the SEC this weekend.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Harris
AP Photo/Gerald HerbertWill LSU turn to Brandon Harris in hostile territory at Auburn?
2. Speaking of intriguing matchups, how about LSU traveling to Auburn on Saturday? Les Miles' team has won six of the last seven against Auburn, but his Tigers opened up as 7.5-point underdogs on the road. A big reason for that is the uncertainty at quarterback. Miles has yet to name a starter, but after Saturday’s victory over New Mexico State, it was pretty clear who played better. The question will be whether Miles wants to give freshman Brandon Harris his first start on the road, in a hostile environment. The Auburn defense isn’t worried as much about the opposing quarterback; it’s worried about getting healthy after three starters were banged up in a 45-17 victory over Louisiana Tech on Saturday.

3. What happened to South Carolina on Saturday? It looked like the Gamecocks were well on their way to beating Missouri and grabbing hold of the SEC East. Then, all of a sudden, it all slipped away. A day later, Steve Spurrier saw his team’s streak of 69 consecutive weeks in the AP Top 25 come to an end. The good news is that despite the loss to Missouri and despite dropping out of the polls, South Carolina is still not out of the SEC race. The bad news is that they have to travel to Lexington this weekend to face much-improved Kentucky team, and the local beat writers are already saying that Spurrier’s team looks beatable again this week. We’ll know a lot more about both teams following Saturday’s game.

Around the SEC
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ESPN college football reporter Heather Dinich joins Antonietta Collins to break down significant movers in the ESPN power rankings.

SEC Power Rankings: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
2:00
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There's a new No. 1 this week following Texas A&M's struggles to get by a rapidly improving Arkansas team. But considering Auburn took down those same Razorbacks 45-21 earlier this season, the Aggies' overtime victory wasn't enough to keep them on top. Beyond that, South Carolina keeps sliding, while the conference gets ready for a trio of huge games Saturday in Ole Miss-Alabama, Mississippi State-Texas A&M and Auburn-LSU.

Edward Aschoff, Jeff Barlis, David Ching, Sam Khan Jr., Chris Low, Greg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough contributed to these rankings.

Best of the visits: SEC

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
12:32
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There were some great games around the SEC over the weekend. Several prospects attended games while others watched on television and used social media as a platform to share their experiences. Here's a look at some of the top social media posts from the weekend:

ESPN 300 tight end and Texas A&M commit Jordan Davis tweeted out a photo of himself with three other ESPN 300 Aggies commits: James Lockhart, Larry Pryor and Justin Dunning. The four players were in attendance for Texas A&M’s thrilling 35-28 overtime win against Arkansas Saturday afternoon.

 

Four-star athlete DeAndre McNeal looks as if he also enjoyed his time in Arlington, Texas, for the Aggies game. The talented prospect tweeted a photo of himself with former Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel's family members. McNeal is also scheduled to visit UCLA, Miami and Oklahoma State later this year.

 

Georgia picked up a huge commitment from ESPN Junior 300 defensive end Chauncey Manac Saturday. Manac also visited Georgia for its big win over Tennessee. He is the third 2016 commit for the Bulldogs, and all three are ranked in the ESPN Junior 300.

 

The seventh-ranked player in the ESPN Junior 300, Deontay Anderson, took an unofficial to Auburn Saturday for its 45-17 win over Louisiana Tech. This photo was captured on one of his social media accounts by ESPN national recruiting analyst Gerry Hamilton.

 

The No. 1-ranked running back in the country, Damien Harris, visited Kentucky this weekend for the Wildcats' 17-7 win over SEC East foe Vanderbilt. A fan captured this photo of Harris hanging out with Kentucky commit Eli Brown. Harris also tweeted about his experience in Lexington.

 

LSU 2017 commitment Dylan Moses posed for a photo at midfield at Tiger Stadium on Saturday while on an unofficial visit to watch LSU pound New Mexico State 63-7. Moses' father, Edward Moses, tweeted the photo.

 

SEC helmet stickers: Week 5

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
9:00
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It was a very fun day in the SEC, and here are the stars of the weekend:

Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia: It was a record-setting day for the nation's best running back. Gurley rushed for a career-high 208 yards on 28 carries in the Bulldogs' 35-32 win over Tennessee. He also had two touchdowns, 30 receiving yards and 47 kickoff return yards. Gurley, who averaged 7.4 yards per carry, now has 16 100-yard rushing games with the Bulldogs. How impressive was Gurley? Tennessee decided to onside kick it with 2:14 left and three timeouts in the fourth quarter because it didn't think it could stop him. The Volunteers didn't, as Gurley rushed for 26 yards on the ensuing drive to ice it for the Dawgs.

Kenny Hill, QB, Texas A&M: In a wild one inside Jerry World, but Kenny Trill showed out in his first pressure situation of his career. He had touchdown passes of 86 and 59 yards in the fourth quarter, helping the Aggies to a 35-28 overtime win over Arkansas. Hill made some incredibly clutch passes in the second half, but his biggest throw of the day came on the first play of overtime, when he hit Malcome Kennedy for a 25-yard touchdown that was the eventual game-winner for the Aggies. He threw for 386 yards, four touchdowns and just one interception.

Quan Bray, WR, Auburn: He caught just three passes but totaled 91 yards and had two touchdowns of 37 and 44 yards in the Tigers' 45-17 win over Louisiana Tech. He also returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown and finished the game with 189 all-purpose yards.

Edward Pope, WR, Texas A&M: He was Hill's partner in crime Saturday. Pope caught four passes for 151 yards and two touchdowns. One of those touchdowns went for 86 yards. That score brought the Aggies back within a score of an Arkansas team that took a 28-14 lead late in the third quarter.

Russell Hansbrough/Marcus Murphy, RBs, Missouri: What a finish for the Tigers. The offense went from doing absolutely nothing to scoring 14 straight in the fourth quarter of Mizzou's 21-20 win at South Carolina. Hansbrough and Murphy were a major part of that comeback. The finished the night with 141 rushing yards and Hansbrough scored all three touchdowns for Mizzou, including that tough game-winner from 1 yard out with 1:38 left. Murphy's 22-yard punt return to Mizzou's 49-yard line set up the Tigers' final scoring drive.
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What we learned in the SEC: Week 5

September, 27, 2014
Sep 27
11:32
PM ET
With Saturday’s action complete, we’re more than one-quarter of the way through the regular season.

Can you believe that?

Let’s take a look at what we learned from the latest batch of games.

1. Texas two step: Tip your cap to Arkansas. If anything, the Hogs showed they’re worthy of being ranked in the Top 25. But if you’re Texas A&M, what are you thinking? You just got roughed up by a team that hasn’t won a conference game since October 2012. An undeniably one-dimensional offense racked up four touchdowns and 485 yards against you, 286 of which came on the ground. It wasn’t a secret what they were doing, and still, you couldn’t stop it. Your defense, the one you said again and again was better than the past year, showed it still has a long ways to go in the 35-28 overtime win. There were more missed tackles than an early-morning Pee Wee football game. Texas A&M’s offense is still plenty potent with Kenny Hill under center and a better-than-advertised running game, but without a defense to match, we very well could be looking at a team that’s less steak than sizzle.

[+] EnlargeHutson Mason
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesHutson Mason might need to be more aggressive to help take the strain off star RB Todd Gurley.
2. Need more from Mason: Georgia's Todd Gurley is a beast worthy of every bit of the Heisman Trophy hype he receives. But he can’t do it alone -- not for an entire season, at least. No matter how strong he might be, nobody can withstand that type of punishment on a consistent basis. At some point, Hutson Mason must step up and provide his star running back some help. Sure, Malcolm Mitchell, Justin Scott-Wesley and Jonathon Rumph have all missed time with injuries, but Chris Conley, Michael Bennett and Jay Rome are a pretty good group of targets. Still, against Tennessee, Mason barely fit the role of game manager. Georgia won 35-32, but he completed just 16 of 25 passes for 147 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. For Georgia to make a playoff push, Mason needs to take greater control of the offense and push the ball downfield. Playing as passive as he has just won’t cut it.

3. Missouri isn’t dead: It was a fashionable move, writing off Missouri after the past week’s embarrassing loss to Indiana at home. But by going into Columbia, South Carolina, and beating the Gamecocks 21-20 in a hotly contested game, the Tigers proved they’re nothing if not alive and well in the race to win the SEC East. The loss to Indiana means nothing when it comes to that. The fact that Missouri has an offense that can score in a hurry (see its final two drives) and a defense that absolutely harasses the quarterback (see Shane Ray’s two sacks), means there’s nothing to say the Tigers can’t be the class of the division. That secondary is going to get better, and quarterback Maty Mauk should find his stride eventually. If those two things improve, Missouri will be as tough an out as anyone in the conference.

4. No standouts in the East: Five teams in the West are undefeated with hopes of competing for a spot in the inaugural College Football Playoff: Alabama, Ole Miss, Auburn, Mississippi State and Texas A&M. The East, well, the East has a bunch of guys with obvious Achilles heels: Georgia has a great running back and little else, Missouri has an inconsistent passing game and a secondary that gives out yards like candy on Halloween, South Carolina can’t decide from week to week if it wants to nap or play football, and Florida must be kicking itself for letting quarterback Jacoby Brissett go to NC State. There’s no separation in the East because there are no great teams in the division.

5. But there’s real parity overall: Take Vanderbilt out of the equation. The Commodores couldn’t navigate the Big Ten with that offense. But if you put Derek Mason’s rebuild aside, you’re looking at an SEC with no gimmes. No one wants to play Tennessee after the hurting the Vols put on Georgia, and not with Justin Worley and that group of skill players on offense. No one wants to play Kentucky, either, not with A.J. Stamps, Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith flying around on defense. And then there’s Arkansas. Who wants to see those big uglies coming at you? Armed with an enormous offensive line, a pair of bruising fullbacks and three workhorse running backs, the Razorbacks can wear down even the best defenses.

Video: Georgia coach Mark Richt

September, 27, 2014
Sep 27
4:24
PM ET
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Georgia coach Mark Richt praised his team for its effort as the No. 12 Bulldogs held off Tennessee, 38-35, on Saturday.
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Georgia overcame turnovers to beat Tennessee and stay near the top in the SEC East race.
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ATHENS, Ga., -- With No. 12 Georgia (3-1, 1-1 SEC) defeating Tennessee (2-2, 0-1) 35-32 inside Sanford Stadium on Saturday, the Bulldogs matched their longest winning streak in the series (1909-1924).

How the game was won: This one was back-and-forth from the start, but it cooled a little as both defenses perked in the third quarter. Tennessee stayed in this one with some big throws from quarterback Justin Worley and some key takeaways, but Georgia running back Todd Gurley was too much for Tennessee. A late fumble recovery in the end zone by Josh Dawson proved to be the game winner for the Dawgs.

Game ball goes to: Gurley, who Georgia fans will tell you isn't getting the ball enough. And there were some questionable moments in Saturday's game when it didn't seem as though he was getting the ball enough. Still, he carried it 28 times for 208 yards and two touchdowns. All you need to know is that the Vols elected to onside kick it with two minutes left and three timeouts because they didn't think they could stop Gurley ... which they didn't.

What it means: This keeps the Bulldogs very much alive in the SEC Eastern Division race. Georgia is still behind South Carolina after losing to the Gamecocks a couple of weeks ago, but we all know no one is to be trusted in the East this season. ... Tennessee certainly isn't out of the East race, either, and is a much better team this season. Worley has really improved, and freshman running back Jalen Hurd could be a special player.

Playoff implication: Even though the Bulldogs are still behind South Carolina in the East, they are currently ahead of South Carolina in the polls. All they have to do is keep on winning, and they could find themselves in the final four. Having some teams in front of them lose, too, wouldn't be bad.

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Best play: With the game tight midway through the fourth quarter, Gurley did what he does best. He zipped through both lines and needed just one move to beat a lonely Tennessee defender before he was off to the end zone for a 51-yard touchdown.

What's next?: The Bulldogs host a struggling Vanderbilt team next week before saying goodbye to the state of Georgia for the following four games. It doesn't really matter what the Commodores look like right now, they beat Georgia last season, and you better believe the Dawgs will be looking to exact some revenge on the Dores. ... Tennessee heads home to play rival Florida, which is coming off of a blowout loss against Alabama and a bye week. The Gators have beaten Tennessee nine straight times.

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Stinchcomb picks Georgia atop the SEC east
The top five SEC East teams so far picked by Matt Stinchcomb are Georgia, Missouri , South Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky.
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