From Chip Towers, this is a pretty good summary of how COVID has affected the Georgia program. The starting point is the number of kids expected to opt-out of the postseason.
All five players who opted out Friday have accepted invitations to the Senior Bowl, which is a showcase game for seniors who are expected to be drafted. Rice is a finalist for the 2020 Butkus Award, which goes to the nation’s top linebacker. Cleveland and LeCounte are All-SEC players. McKitty is a graduate transfer from FSU who started five games this season. Daniel is a part-time starter who battled injuries this season.
It’s hard to blame some of Georgia’s veterans for wanting to move on. Dating to this summer, four times they saw their game schedule changed, including once the day before they were supposed to play Vanderbilt the first time Dec 5. In the meantime, they have been subjected to nasal-swab COVID-19 tests three times a week for 13 consecutive weeks now. That’s not including the personal sacrifices each players was asked to make.
We tend not to think about those personal sacrifices, but they were significant.
Georgia is one of only four SEC teams that did not encounter significant personnel losses because of COVID-19 in its football program (Alabama, Kentucky and South Carolina were the others). The Bulldogs were able to do that because of strict adherence to institutionally installed health-and-safety protocols an almost militant social-distancing. Position groups that had too many players to sit six feet apart in UGA’s designated meeting rooms would instead meet in the Payne Indoor Center or spread out in the weight room, outside or other expansive areas around the football complex. The Bulldogs were encouraged to remain in campus quarters as much as possible. All team-personnel movements were traced via Kinnexon technology and cleaning crews were also close behind with a rigorous disinfectant regimen.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s internal player leadership group – which included many of these same seniors and underclassmen — reportedly was fierce about enforcing safe behaviors outside of team activities. Hanging out at parties and in bars was strictly forbidden.
To say it fell short of a typical college experience would be a gross understatement.
A lot was asked of these seniors and in the end they didn’t even get the modest recognition a senior day would have provided. If some of them decide they’d like the holidays for themselves, I can’t fault them for that. They’ve already given plenty at the office.