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February 24, 2014

5-Star Alternative

This TD reception in Knoxville last season by
Rantavious Wooten placed the wide receiver
into "5-Season" UGA football lore.  
Upon Josh Harvey-Clemons' dismissal last week, I started working on a post profiling Georgia's all-time 5-star recruits, discovering just six of those 14 blue chippers through 2013 would become starters for two or more seasons at UGA, while only two would earn first-team All-SEC recognition during their careers.  Seemingly, most of the 5-star recruits more so fizzled, including Harvey-Clemons, than flourished for the Bulldogs. 
I decided to post otherwise when I first ran across an article from the Times Free Press, beating me to the punch by profiling Georgia's 5-star players.  I then promptly received an email from a reader, who asked why my posts were "always so negative about the Dogs?"
Always negative?  I thought my posts regarding the program in its current state were only "negative" when warranted, like more often than not. 
Finally, after updating my geeky, but handy, UGA football database I'll utilize for a series of magazine articles I'm writing over the next couple of months, I was reminded of an extraordinary feat which resulted during the 2013 season, and thus I decided to take a different historical viewone that, although normally involving an injury, is certainly more of a "positive" post.
Four years ago, I posted my opinion of Georgia's one-season wonders; for what it's worth, here's a group contrary to them, and the 5-star falloutsthe program's most notable 5-season contributors:
In 2011, Wooten took a medical redshirt after suffering a concussion in the third game of the season, but not before catching two passes, including a touchdown against South Carolina.  Two years later, in the season opener at Clemson, he became just the third Bulldog in history to catch a pass in five different seasons, joining Reggie Brown (2000-2004) and Tavarres King (2008-2012).  With a touchdown reception at Tennessee four games later, Wooten accomplished the remarkable feat of becoming the first Bulldog ever to tally a touchdown, or even score a single point, in each of five seasons.
RONNIE STEWART (1977-1981)
While there has never been a Bulldog to attempt at least one pass in five seasons, there has been just a single player to run the ball at least once in five separate campaignsStewart.  Primarily known as one of Herschel Walker's chief blockers, fullback Stewart did score seven touchdowns while rushing for 843 yards during his career, including gaining a mere eight yards in 1979 when he was lost for the year to an injury in the second game at Clemson.

DAMIEN GARY (1999-2003)
Gary, who still ranks first all time at Georgia and fifth in SEC history with 1,253 career punt return yards, is the only Bulldog to ever return any kickpunt or kickoffin five different seasons.  As a true freshman in 1999, Gary played in two games until a thumb injury sidelined him with a medical redshirt.  However, he toted a punt return prior to the injury, returning it 20 yards against Utah State in the season opener.  But, and get this, the return actually does not count, at least according to UGA, who erroneously omits Gary's first of 115 career returns in its records.  Instead, Gary's official yardage total should be 1,273, although the disregard of 20 yards doesn't quite affect his placement in school and conference records, at least not yet.

JIMMY PAYNE (1978-1982)
I think the five-season contribution by Paynea first-team All-American defensive tackle in 1982is a close second to Wooten's touchdown feat.  For five consecutive seasons, Payne remarkably recorded at least 29 tackles.  Five-season tacklers would follow for Georgia: David Hargett (1987-1991), Derrick Byrd (1993-1997), Adrian Hollingshed (1997-2001), Gerald Anderson (2001-2005), Andrew Williams (2004-2008), and Jeff Owens (2005-2009).  However, none of the tackle totals in their redshirt seasons were near Payne's 29 in 1979not even close. 

After a standout true freshman campaign in 1978 as a defensive lineman, Payne was moved to linebacker in 1979, where he recorded 29 tackles in just over two contests before suffering a season-ending knee injury against South Carolina in the third game.  After receiving his hardship redshirt, Payne was wisely moved back to the line, where he excelled for his final three seasons.  In addition, having made at least one tackle for loss from 1978 through 1982, Payne is also currently the only Bulldog in history to record a defensive "deed" beyond tackles (i.e., a tackle for loss, sack, interception, forced fumble, etc.) in each of five seasons.  

Notably, although one might think Payne would have also attained as much, no Georgia player through last season had ever started at least one game in five different seasons, but that could change relatively soon.  Although a torn ACL celebrating a teammate's touchdown is probably small consolation, if Malcolm Mitchell stays to his senior season, the wide receiver would likely make 5-season history in 2015.

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