2016 RECORD: 7-5
As we continue our summer analysis of Georgia opponents for 2017, we forge ahead to the September 13 game against FCS Samford.
The Bulldogs from Birmingham aren't expected to put up much of a battle, but we thought the same last year when Nichols almost caught Georgia with its collective drawers down.
Below, we touched base with Samford play-by-play man Blake Gardner and ask if the other Bulldogs can shock the world.
UGASports: What’s your current overall outlook for Samford for this upcoming season, just based off of what you saw and heard this spring?”
Gardner: "If there’s one thing head coach Chris Hatcher has mentioned repeatedly, it’s that this Samford team is young. It looks like there could be plenty of underclassmen on the two-deep depth chart, or at the very least, many contributors that didn’t see a lot of snaps last season. That being said, this Bulldogs team does return 12 starters and has plenty of talent, especially when you look at both backfields. We’ll have a better sense of where things stand as the season approaches, but if healthy, this is certainly a team that could win anywhere from 7 to 9 ballgames and will be in the hunt for a second straight FCS playoff berth."
UGASports: How does Samford feel about its lineup heading into the season? On the flip side, what positions do you see as the team's biggest concerns?
Gardner: "Samford head coach Chris Hatcher’s got to feel good about what he has in the secondary right now. The loss of free safety Jamerson Blount (in camp with the Jaguars) stings, but cornerback Omari Williams returns and he was arguably the best cover man in the SoCon last year. Combine that with the return of CB Marquis McCullum, Hybrid SS/LB Carter McManes and safety Sam Pettway, and the Bulldogs secondary looks to be solid.
"On the other side, much like Georgia, Samford’s got some work to do across the offensive line. Just two starters return, in the form of Antwan Johnson and Nick Nixon. The good news is both of those guys are tackles, so hopefully they can provide some strength outside while interior linemen like center Nate Lee work their way up to speed."
UGASports: Which position battles were some of the ones to watch this spring?
Gardner: "Offensive line was a big position to watch, but we touched on them already, so I’ll say the wide receiving corps. The big question for that group is who’s going to replace the 111 catches and 1,389 yards put up by FCS All-American Karel Hamilton last fall? It will probably be a group effort needed to replicate that kind of production, and the Bulldogs have some intriguing targets out wide between Andrew Harris, T.D. Marshall, and Kelvin McKnight. But I think the coaching staff is really looking for McKnight to step up and be that number one receiver, and he’s coming off an excellent sophomore campaign that saw him total 70 catches and 9 TDs."
UGASports: With spring practices in the books, who do you see as Samford's top players on each side of the ball and why?
Gardner: "Offensively, RS Jr. QB Devlin Hodges was without question best quarterback in the SoCon last year and led one of the most prolific passing offenses in FCS last year. With Hamilton gone, he’s the clear-cut top offensive player on this roster, and if he can improve on the 4,000 yards and 36 TDs he threw for in 2016, than this group is very likely back in the FCS playoffs.
"On the other side of the ball, a case could be made for both linebackers Shaheed Salmon and Dion Pierre, or defensive end Ahmed Gooden, all of whom should be preseason All-SoCon, but I’ll go with cornerback Omari Williams. At 6’1”, he’s got enough size and length to cover taller wideouts while also staying with faster pass-catchers on the edge. Having a cover corner lock down one side of the field like that is certainly going to help this Samford defense in a variety of ways."
UGASports.com: Which players who may not be as well known really turned heads during practices and in the spring game?
Gardner: "A lot of freshmen played plenty this spring and warrant mention here, guys like WR Jai’rus Creamer, DL Armond Lloyd, and DB Koi Freeman, but I think everyone wanted to see how new Juco RB Treyvon Paulk looked in the backfield next to returning ball-carriers K’rondis Larry, Justin Curry, and Roland Adams, and early returns are promising. Samford hopes the addition of Paulk with bolster a rushing attack that finished at the bottom of the SoCon last season."
Samford 2017 Schedule
at Western Carolina