Maestro, cue the music:
The Georgia Bulldogs are back on the practice field to start fall camp 2023. And while we’ll have plenty of practice notes over the coming weeks, this inaugural ‘Dawg Bites of the season is focused way more on game day logistics, off-field honors, and food. You know, the important stuff.
In the logistics department, the University is gently but firmly reminding you about some of the changes to game day coordination brought about by the off-season Sanford Stadium renovation.
Coming to a game at Sanford Stadium this season?— Georgia Bulldogs (@UGAAthletics) August 1, 2023
Please note the changes that have been made during its two-phase $68.5 million improvement.
Gates 1 and 9 have new locations and portions of The Gillis Bridge will now be inside the stadium and a ticketed area on game days.
The big headline is that Gillis Bridge will now be closing on Friday nights and not reopening to pedestrian or vehicle traffic until Sundays, as it will now be technically a ticketed area of the stadium. This is suboptimal for a variety of reasons and from a variety of directions, as it will make watching the Dawg Walk less convenient, getting to the bookstore less convenient, and will make the walk from Ag Hill a walk around Lumpkin. I’m sure many of you can think of other resulting annoyances based on your own normal game day routine.
But figuring out how to sandwich more people at higher prices into an on campus stadium that can’t really get appreciably bigger is the price of success. It’s one this program has been paying since the demise of Erk’s railroad people, and it’s one we should probably get used to. Personally I’m willing to sacrifice my traditional pregame pause on Gillis Bridge for two national titles.
Speaking of, as you would expect from a defending national championship squad that returns a lot of contributors the Bulldogs are all over the preseason award watch lists. Yesterday three Dawgs, Malaki Starks, Mykel Williams, and Jamon Dumas-Johnson were named to the watch list for the Nagurski Award, which goes to the country’s top defensive player. Three more, Sedrick Van Pran, Tate Ratledge, and Nazir Stackhouse, we’re nMed to the Outland Trophy watch list for the nation’s top lineman.
If anything the ‘Dawgs probably have some players (Smael Mondon and Javon Bullard leap instantly to mind) who should have also been on the list. But just as you cannot build the entire plane out of the black box, you also can’t build the whole watch list out of Bulldogs.
In NFL ‘Dawg news, George Pickens remains patently unfair and inhumane:
George Pickens doing more George Pickens stuff.— Matt DeBary (@MattDeBary) August 1, 2023
Dude is on a mission this year.
There’s absolutely no way to stop this, and it’s going to happen to a lot of defensive backs over the next couple of seasons as Pickens really comes into his own as a player. I’m glad he made it back for the title game and got a ring, but you’ll never convince me there isn’t an alternate universe where a healthy Pickens is in the 2021 Heisman conversation based solely on jaw-dropping catches in big games.
Of course college football success all starts on the recruiting trail, because you can’t make chicken a la king out of chicken droppings. Marc Weiszer notes that Georgia spent a ton of money on recruiting in the last cycle. How much? More than twice as much as almost all other Power 5 schools.
The catering expenses alone are eye-watering. Though to be fair, if I had a spare $188,000 to spend at Stripling’s General Store I absolutely would, and I would encourage you to do the same. I also wonder who gets the Chick-Fil-A rewards points on forty-six grand worth of food. That is a ton of buttered buns and about ten thousand of those two crucial pickles.
But Kirby Smart has the right attitude about the spending when he says in essence “you're darn right we spend a lot on recruiting, and we’re going to keep doing it.” It’s not only important to spend a lot on recruiting because recruits don’t want to eat lukewarm corn dogs when they visit.
It’s also critical because that budget sends a message. The message is that this program is first class. It doesn’t cheap out on food. Or academic support. Or medical care. Kirby Smart has cultivated a system that makes clear to parents, coaches, and players that Georgia’s athletes will have world-class support from the day they step on campus to the day they leave for the NFL. The results absolutely speak for themselves.
That oughta get your day started. Until later…