Senior Day at Georgia is a time to honor all those who have survived the full dosage of offseason mat drills, study halls, temptations to do the kind of stupid things that necessitate a transfer to Auburn and, in some cases, the gravitational pull of a NFL payday.
This particular Senior Day – Saturday afternoon, 3:30, the final home game of 2017, against Kentucky – is also a poignant reminder that the Bulldogs really, really need to wring the absolute most out of this next month-and-a-half.
This is the kind of mix that may not come along again in a generation. And the kind that has the bone fides of experience and talent upon which championships may be built.
*The strong group on offense and defense made up of those who chose to return for a senior season rather than throw themselves to the fates of the NFL draft – running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel; Wolfpack linebackers Lorezoo Carter and Davin Bellamy.
*Grown men in important places playing against relative babes – John Atkins, who will be 25 before this year is done, in the middle of the defensive line and Aaron Davis, 23, on the back end of the D.
*Good, true hands in leading receiver Javon Wims and Jeb Blazevich (even if the tight end seems somewhat endangered in the current scheme).
*And, if you want to include the talented junior who just may move on after this season – leading tackler, by several miles, Roquan Smith – then the urgency of a coming SEC Championship game only deepens.
Taken together, “It’s a special group. It’s a special group because they have really good leadership,” coach Kirby Smart said.
“These guys have meant a lot to this program. Meant a lot to me personally. Meant a lot to the staff. Meant a lot to this university,” the coach said.
It is a uniquely seasoned collection that is largely responsible for positioning Georgia in the playoff mix, one whose football worldliness comes in very handy when a program is trying to make the leap from winning eight games one season to vying for titles the next.
Sure, Smart is a tireless, accomplished recruiter. He can be counted upon to remake the Bulldogs in the Alabama image, importing a heightened heft and physicality. As Brad Nessler, CBS’ voice of SEC football, said the other day, “At Alabama, even the little guys are big. Georgia’s getting that way now.”
But do not assume that Georgia is fully in reload-and-replace mode. When you look at the current roster and all that will go away at season’s end, there is the potential of a slight step backward, a momentary break in momentum. Taking anything else for granted would be just unearned hubris.
Yes, Senior Day is a celebration.
This one also is a clarion warning: This honestly is a special group. Better get all you can, fellas, while the gang’s all here.