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Georgia Returns Some Dudes, but the Gators Remain a Problem

Chris Fernsler

Sports Editor

For the Georgia Bulldogs, their football motivation began with losing the SEC East to the hated Florida Gators last fall.

On top of that, the Hairy Dogs were taken behind the woodshed in Jacksonville last November. Florida beat Georgia in a 44-28 bashing.

It was not a fluke. It was a good ol’ country beatdown at TIAA Bank Field. Georgia and head ball coach Kirby Smart want to make sure that does not happen again anytime soon.

The Dogs want to make amends, and they want some payback this year. But the boys from Athens are going to have to do their homework and lift their weights.

Georgia plans to do that after finishing last season with four wins in a row. The Dogs had a final national ranking of seventh after nailing down a record of 8-2.

Georgia is still top-heavy with football talent. The Hairy Dogs have their share of returning playmakers with redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Daniels, and a bevy of fleet-footed wide receivers like junior George Pickens, Kearis Jackson, redshirt senior Demetris Robertson, sophomore Jermaine Burton and redshirt junior Jaylen Johnson.

Jackson and Burton collected 36 and 31 catches, respectfully, last season for the Dogs. Pickens also compiled 36 catches for 513 catches and six touchdowns last year.

Robertson was on the receiving end of 12 more catches for the University of Georgia. As for Daniels, the ex-Southern Cal signal caller, he passed for 1,231 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first season at Georgia last fall.

And that came in just a handful of starts for Daniels. Georgia’s arch-rival, Florida, had a season of note as well in 2020. The Gators went the 8-4 route, including the win over Georgia in Jacksonville.

Florida also lost its last three games, but the reptiles did garner a final national ranking of 12th. Coach Dan Mullen and the Gators hope to take it a step further this year.

And the Gators do expect to beat Georgia again and win the Eastern Division championship in the Southeastern Conference. Florida returns some experience and some underrated skill.

Headlining the list of Gator returnees is redshirt junior quarterback Emory Jones, the LaGrange native. In a backup role last season, Jones rushed for 220 yards and passed for two touchdowns.

He is a former Ohio State verbal commit with coach Urban Meyer. Jones, the ultimate dual threat quarterback, averaged six yards per carry last season for Florida.

Jones is also a silky smooth passer. He is going to have a lot of downfield options with the Gators this year. The Gators have some difference makers at tight end with senior Kenmore Gable and junior Keon Zipperer. They are tall, rangy and fast.

Florida has some more scoring threats with redshirt junior wide receivers Jacob Copeland and Just Shorter, and sophomore pass catchers Xzavier Henderson and Trent Whittemore.

The Gators are also returning two senior running backs with Dameon Pierce and Malik Davis. Pierce, who rushed for 511 yards and four touchdowns last year, is a Georgia boy from Bainbridge.

Pierce has also been a Gator for the last four years. He is a power runner with finishing speed.

Redshirt sophomore tailback Nay’Quan Wright is also back for the University of Florida. Wright churned for 226 yards and four touchdowns on 54 carries last season for the Gators.

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