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July 19, 2009

Dawg Night Notebook

As the sun rose Saturday, over 100 prospects ventured out onto campus to see just what the University of Georgia was all about.

This was a great opportunity for prospects to impress the Bulldog staff on their home turf, in hopes of earning that coveted offer.

It was also a chance for targets and commitments to prove that not only were they worth the offer, but that they could contribute to the program sooner, rather than later.

As the sun set, some of the nation's best talent took the field to learn from some of the best possible instructors.

Dawg Night was underway.

While more prominently ranked prospects took part, no player put on a show Saturday night like Manatee wide receiver Ace Sanders. The 5-foot-8, 166-pounder - whose father Tracy played cornerback opposite Deon Sanders at FSU - was a human joystick on offense, putting on moves on any cornerback unfortunate enough to defend him.

The Bradenton native was unstoppable all night, taking short passes for big gains, intermediate routes to the house, and even beating much taller cornerbacks for the jump ball deep downfield. Some may question his lack of height or speed, but Sanders let the world know he can make it at the SEC level.

Sanders already holds offers from West Virginia, USF, and a few others, but will Georgia come forth next? If it was based upon his play at Dawg Night, the answer would definitely be yes.

Five commitments take field

Five current Bulldog commitments took the field to showcase what they plan to bring to Athens this time next year.

Bolles offensive tackle Brent Benedict took on all on comers in one on one battles at the far side of the field, and on almost every occasion, he dominated the competition.

Not to be outdone, however, was future teammate and Buford offensive lineman Kolton Houston. Looking every bit of 6-foot-5, 270-pounds, the newly head shaven lineman showed offensive line coach Stacy Searels he will have a lot to work with in 2010.

Fields gets coached up

Dalton defensive end Jalen Fields took the field Saturday with intentions of being coached up, and defensive ends coach John Fabris did not disappoint.

At 6-foot-5, 250-pounds, Fields was worked harder than any player on the field, and he said afterward on his way home he wouldn't have it any other way.

"Coach Fabris was pushing me out there, and I feel like I am starting to pick up on the philosophy that he teaches," said the four star commitment Saturday night.

Baker, Owens have own styles

Demetre Baker and Derek Owens were on the field together most of the night, and the Florida natives both had their own unique style of play.

Baker, whose coach said measured in at 5-foot-11, 205-pounds, was all over the field, showcasing the kind of speed and explosiveness that few cornerbacks possess.

At cornerback, Owens was one of the most physical players, regardless of position. He made it a point to come up to the line of scrimmage every play, content to use his long arms to jam any receiver who tried to get downfield.

Sanders was one of the few receivers who could break his press, and Owens was quick to drop and do pushups when he did.

Ogletree, Hamilton take camp in

While they watched their fellow classmates impress on the field, four other commitments took the chance to soak in their future in Athens. Safeties Alec Ogletree and Jakar Hamilton stood side by side most of the day; their physical presence already has fans having flashbacks of the successful duo of Thomas Davis and Sean Jones.

Malcome hints at company

Running back Kendrun Malcome may not have had a fellow commitment in the backfield to hang out with at Dawg Night like Ogletree and Hamilton, but according to the Southwest Dekalb star, that will not be for long.

"I will not be the only back Georgia signs this year, that is for sure," said Malcome.

Bennett, Morant leave impressed

They were one of a couple of future teammates creating bonds between the hedges.

Alpharetta wide receiver Michael Bennett struck up conversation with 2009 signee Aaron Murray, no doubt getting a head start on lobbying for the ball to be thrown his way when Murray gets his turn at quarterback.

Meanwhile, Dexter Morant may have left early, but he let UGASports know the trip to Athens was more for his parents than himself.

"I have seen everything Athens and the staff at Georgia have to offer. That was for my parents to see why I chose Georgia, and they liked everything," Morant said.

Quarterbacks duel it out

Even though they had proven their worth enough to warrant a scholarship offer, four standout players still saw fit to get out there and compete, no doubt eager to see how they measured up against other Georgia had their eye on.

And in one of the more intriguing competitions at Dawg Night, a pair of quarterbacks dueled in front of offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, giving him an up close look at his options where he to bring in a signal caller in the 2010 class.

Devin Burns from Carver-Columbus and Brion Carnes from Manatee high school both are considered great athletes for the position. But this was their chance to prove they can play under center with the best of them.

Burns showed an accurate arm, and his arm strength was decent as well.

But in a tight race, Carnes looked to be the better of the two, having a slightly stronger arm with more zip on his throws. Carnes did look about two inches shorter than the 6-foot-2 Burns, but showed good vision and poise downfield when a simulated blitzer was in his face.

Crowell shines

When the drills began, the most impressive player may have been Burn's teammate and 2011 Georgia target Isaiah Crowell. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound junior had very impressive cuts and showed he had the agility to match his consistent sub 11 100-meter track speed. But Crowell really shined when it came time for 7on7 competition.

While most running backs are relegated to dump off passes out of the backfield in the passing format, Crowell made multiple spectacular catches downfield. There is a reason schools like Georgia, Florida, LSU, Southern Cal, and Texas are already after Crowell, and he showed it on Sunday.

Linebackers get a look

Linebackers coach John Jancek may already be done at his position for 2010 with Baker and Deon Rogers committed, but that did not keep the linebackers coach from being impressed with a couple of four-star targets in Stamford's Khairi Fortt and Lake Region's Marvin Robinson.

While Robinson, a Michigan commitment, still has that safety speed as he continues to grow into his frame, Fortt is just the complete package at linebacker.

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Connecticut native made the trip down to Georgia to not only check out one of his top schools, but also to show that he is one of the best strongside linebackers in the country.

The well-built prospect mirrored the backs well and covered ground surprisingly fast for a guy his size. Georgia would likely make room for Fortt if he were to choose them.

Some key targets for Georgia were missing from the field as the camp began, but there was no need to panic.

Stephenson defensive tackle Mike Thornton made a late decision to check out the campus Saturday morning, and was there from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. before leaving shortly before Dawg Night began.

The coveted lineman maintains he is still open to all schools, but this one could be shaping up to be an Auburn/Georgia battle heading into his visits.

Vaughters gets plenty of love.

Rising junior James Vaughters was nursing a injured wrist, but that did not keep the Bulldog coaches from showing him any love, even during the camp events.

The 6-foot-2, 223-pound Tucker standout was seen talking to multiple coaches, including defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, Jancek and Rodney Garner.

Vaughters is looking like an early Top 10 talent in what is shaping up to be one of the best classes for the state of Georgia next year.

Smith, Robey chill

Two players likely at the top of Georgia's list were nowhere to be seen on the field, but that was because they were busy bonding with some current Bulldogs. Douglass defensive tackle Garrison Smith let UGASports now he was relaxing in the dorms, while Nickell Robey spent some quality time catching up with cousin and former Frostproof teammated Carlton Thomas.

Standout campers

The majority of prospects at Dawg Night were players without offers, going all out for a chance to play football at one of the top institutions in the country.

While it remains to be seen whether or not Ace Sanders gets an offer, five players also stood out at one point or another on the field Saturday.

A rising junior at Tucker, Chris Sanders is ready to give Vaughters a run for his money as the best player on his team. Having offers from Southern Miss and UCF, Sanders also said Tennessee, Auburn, FSU, and North and South Carolina are all showing interest in the 5-foot-11, 175-pound athlete at either wide receiver or defensive back. Sanders showed great ball skills at receiver, but he admitted on the way home that he is more comfortable on defense at this point.

Habersham Central quarterback Austin Brown hooked up with current Bulldog receiver Tavarres King his freshman year, and the 6-foot-185-pound junior hopes to get one more chance to throw to Kings before all is said and done. Brown more than held his own when throwing with Carnes and Burns, and Brown could challenge Wilcox County's Nick Marshall and North Gwinnett's C.J. Uzomah as the top passer in Georgia in the 2011 class.

Out of Coolidge High School in Washington DC, Avery Williams made the trek down in search of that big time offer he has been hoping for. While the 5-foot-10, 170-pound prospect is listed as a running back, he put in time in the secondary on Dawg Night. Michigan State and West Virginia have already offered, and Georgia was no doubt impressed with the versatile skill set Williams showed on the field.

Killian high school brought over 20 players to Dawg Night, and the best one to participate could have been cornerback Richard Leonard.

Like Robey, Leonard is undersized 5-foot-8, 165-pounds, but he more than makes up for it in athleticism. Leonard was overall the most impressive cornerback, as the underrated Miami native locked down a number of talented receivers and made some great breaks on the ball as well.

After breaking up four passes in a row, Leonard got some praise and extra coaching from Coach Martinez on the sideline.

Speaking of undersized standouts, Greenbriar junior D.J. Tyson was darting in and out of traffic all day. The 5-foot-7, 160-pound scatback froze a number of would be tacklers Saturday, and Tyson is one of those players who just makes plays with the ball in his hands. Look for him to start getting offers soon as well.

Madison County star has opportunity

While no word of any new scholarships going out at Dawg Night, UGASports got word that Madison County high school's Conner Boyett, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound defensive end has been offered a spot as a preferred walk-on at Georgia.

Look for more camp updates from UGASports.com, including photo galleries, prospect and coach interviews, breaking stories, video and more.



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