Wednesday Notebook: Perseverance pays off for Baker

Anthony Dasher, Editor
GA Varsity

Radi Nabulsi

Kendall Baker is a great example of what can happen when you don’t give up, even when your gut suggests it may be time to try something new.

You might just become the starting left guard on the Georgia football team.

Just ask Baker, who went from being an afterthought to playing an integral role on the Bulldogs’ offensive line.

“My situation, it just came down to work,” Baker said after practice Wednesday. “I told myself I wanted to be on that field.”

The former Marist standout admits he was starting to wonder.

After redshirting as a freshman in 2014, Baker only appeared in three games in 2015 and just two contest last fall before convincing position coach Sam Pittman he was man enough for the job.

Color tight end Jeb Blazevich impressed.

“The fortitude that it takes. … I feel that staying mentally engaged is difficult because it’s easy to quit,” Blazevich said. “The majority of people quit because it takes somebody with a lot of character and a lot of integrity to say, 'I’m here to work and I’m going to work.' That’s become the culture of this team.”

When he first arrived in Athens, Baker was envisioned by many as Georgia’s left tackle of the future. But after that didn’t work out, he bounced around with the second-, and sometimes third-team offensive line until Pittman gave him a shot at guard last fall.

“The most difficult thing, you have to think more, make more decisions, block a man this type of way, that type of way,” said Baker. “That thinking aspect is not so much of an aspect now.”

Considering defensive line was Baker’s primary position in high school, it's no wonder he felt that way.

Rivals ranked the Atlanta native as the country’s 10th-best at his position before Bulldog coaches decided that offensive line would be his home.

“I just wanted to be on the field,” Baker said. “I didn’t care if it was guard, tackle or center. I just wanted to get out there on the field.”

Dawgs not worried about Tennessee turf

One couldn’t blame the Bulldogs a bit about being gun shy about playing on the turf at Neyland Stadium.

The last two trips have seen Georgia leave Knoxville with a trio of serious knee injuries.

Everyone remembers the one suffered by Nick Chubb two years ago, but in 2013 both Keith Marshall and Justin Scott-Wesley left with a pair of torn ACLs.

So, are the Bulldogs worried about the trip this Saturday?

“Not really,” nose guard John Atkins said. “You’ve got to take the good with the bad. We’re not focused on the turf. It’s not going to be a factor.”

Fingers are crossed that will indeed be the case.

Tennessee did replace and re-sod the entire field prior to the 2016 season.

Smart still wants more defensive depth

Georgia’s defense ranks eighth nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 11.1 points per game.

During Wednesday’s SEC teleconference, head coach Kirby Smart was asked if he inherited talent that was well-suited to run his type of defensive schemes.

“Yes and no. In some places on the defense I thought we did, but in some places, we weren’t as deep or as big as we needed to be,” Smart said. “We’re going to have to continue going out and recruit guys to fit that mold of who we want to be, a team that can play big ball, and a team that can play against spread teams. To do that, you’ve got to be multiple and you’ve got to have depth.”

This and that

Blazevich was named a semifinalist for the 2017 William V. Campbell Trophy, an academic honor where the winner will have his postgraduate scholarship increased to $25,000. … The Bulldogs have outscored opponents in the third quarter 55-3.

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