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Post The million-dollar redshirt and other draft thoughts

Wednesday May 4, 2011

The NFL draft went about as expected for the Bulldogs. Houston might have slipped a bit, and Chapas snuck in there at the end, but the six players drafted shouldn’t surprise anyone.

With the relative predictability of the draft itself, I thought about the path each player took during his years in Athens. Of course Green was a superstar from the start, and few had any doubts about his future after that national debut in Tempe. Houston wasn’t as obvious of a prospect according to the recruiting services, but his breakout sophomore spring and season in 2009 set the stage for him to have one last year as a marquee SEC player and pro prospect. It’s tough to project a fullback’s pro potential, but Chapas was rated one of the nation’s top ten fullbacks coming out of the Bolles School.

Akeem Dent’s road to the NFL draft wasn’t as linear as Houston’s. It started with promise: Dent contributed right away as a redshirt freshman in 2007 and started in five games. That continued into his sophomore campaign where he earned ten starts. But a hamstring injury early in the 2009 season sidelined Dent and derailed his progress. He ended up starting only four of the eight games in which he played, and of course he posted the lowest number of tackles in his career. Dent found a home as an inside linebacker in the new 3-4 scheme for his senior season, and he really came on. The ILBs do a lot of cleanup in the 3-4, and that’s reflected in Dent’s 126 tackles in 2010, eclipsing the combined total of his first three seasons. He had at least ten tackles in seven games and saved the best for last: 16 tackles against Georgia Tech’s option.

If one of Georgia’s draftees had a quick and unexpected impact, it’s Boling. He had a solid prep resume and was a three-star prospect with appropriate honors, but linemen like that usually take a few years before they become solid contributors. He wasn’t even mentioned on the 2007 preseason depth chart of the patchwork offensive line. That changed quickly: as some of the other newcomers to the line faltered, Boling stepped up and ended up starting 11 games as a true freshman. His trademark versatility was on display even in that first season as he started at right guard and right tackle. As a junior, he’d start at three positions. Boling earned All-SEC mention as early as his sophomore season, and it wasn’t much longer until he started getting mentioned as a pro prospect.

That brings us to Durham. As a recruit, Durham was a respectable prospect. He was rated one of the top 50 receivers in the nation by Rivals.com, and his 6’5″ frame gave an idea of what kind of a target he could be. Observers raved about his hands from the outset, and an amazing catch in the bowl game against Virginia Tech as a freshman backed up the hype. Durham struggled to add bulk to that tall frame though, and his production through three seasons was limited. He established himself as a dependable possession receiver, but chances were hard to come by with targets like Massaquoi and Green available. Injuries don’t often have a happy ending, but shoulder surgery in 2009 gave Durham the opportunity to redshirt. He spent the year developing size and strength and returned a different player as a 5th-year senior. Durham caught a combined 32 passes over his first three seasons. He matched that with 32 catches as a senior. He likewise had more receiving yards and touchdowns in 2010 than he had from 2006-08.

Durham had to keep proving himself after his senior season. He wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine but impressed scouts with a standout performance at Georgia’s pro day. According to his agent, that led to visits with 14 different NFL teams and ultimately a 4th-round selection by Seattle. As Marc Weiszer notes, that’s earlier than Bulldog receiving greats Terrence Edwards, Fred Gibson, and Brice Hunter. Mid-career redshirts are much less frequent than first-year redshirts, and they usually occur because of injuries (Richard Samuel notwithstanding). Durham probably could have done without that torn shoulder, but it and the additional year of development that came with it might be a big reason why he’s looking at a pro contract now instead of looking for a teaching gig.

One Response to 'The million-dollar redshirt and other draft thoughts'

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  • Travis Fain

    May 7th, 2011
    6:56 pm


    Great point. Lots of good stuff the last week or so. I’m catching up …