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May 20, 2014

It's A Wonder...

There's a new deputy sheriff in town, and
he's all about embracing championships,
not personalities.
Although the likelihood Shaq Wiggins will be heading 500 miles North to join the two other prominent Bulldog departees is not surprising, it remains somewhat of a wonder to me exactly why the would-be sophomore cornerback decided to leave the program in the first place.  Whether Wiggins' departure primarily centers around a different defensive scheme, a change in general coaching philosophy, the idea that he was not going to play as much as when he was a freshman, and/or that his "free spirit" clashed with our new defensive coordinator, Wiggins becomes one of the top first-year Bulldog players ever, who unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) promptly left the program following his noteworthy freshman campaign.
More than four years ago, I ranked the Bulldogs' top five "One-Hit Wonders" of all time; I've done similar below but with a significant twist.  Excluding the number of Georgia freshman players who departed school to enter WWII, here's my ranking of the top UGA newcomers who willingly, or not so much, left the Bulldogs just prior to a second season in Athensmy top five Freshmen Wonders-turned-Wanderers:  
5) JOE DUPREE (1990)
Joe Dupree wasn't much of a drop-back
passer, but in his short time at UGA, he 
achieved a rushing feat equaled by just
one other Bulldog QB the last 37 seasons.
Considered the "top drop-back passer in the state" coming out of SW Macon High, Dupree stood on the sidelines for the majority of his true freshman season of 1990 as the Bulldogs struggled through arguably their worst campaign of the modern era.  Finally, in the seventh game of the year and after quarterbacks Greg Talley and Preston Jones had proved ineffective, Dupree came into relief against Vanderbilt, passing for a touchdown and rushing for another.  Four weeks later at Auburn, he rushed for 119 yards, which notably remains one of only two 100-yard rushing performances by a Georgia quarterback since 1976.  However, Dupree was 1-of-14 throwing the ball in the 33-10 loss to the Tigers, and a combined 4-of-29 since the Vanderbilt game.  Still, the "drop-back passer," who was evidently more like a run-no pass quarterback, was given the starting nod in the season finale against Georgia Tech.  Despite a loss to the Yellow Jackets, where Dupree was sacked six times before being injured and taken out in the third quarter, the freshman signal caller was No. 1 on the depth chart entering the spring of '91.  However, with the emergence of who had been the ensuing top drop-back passer in the state, true freshman Eric Zeier, and a brand new offense, Dupree had slipped to fourth string by the end of the summer and was asked to redshirt.  Instead of redshirting, just two days prior to the 1991 season opener, Dupree decided to transfer to Georgia Southern.       
4) SHAQ WIGGINS (2013)
After sub-par play from another true freshman, Brendan Langley, through the first four games of the 2013 season, Wiggins stepped in at a cornerback position, starting each of the eight games he would appear in for the rest of the year.  His eight starts were the most by a Bulldog freshman defensive back in more than 30 years (Tony Flack, 1982).  And, although Wiggins totaled just two interceptions, he toted one back 39 yards for a touchdown at Vanderbilt, and he actually led the Bulldogs in the categorythe first true freshman in Georgia's modern era to lead the team in annual interceptions.  Entering this past spring, Wiggins appeared to be maybe the only Bulldog in the secondary to have a starting position secured.
3) ARMIN LOVE (1995)
After redshirting in 1994, Love started all but two games for the Bulldogs at strong safety as a redshirt freshman.  In 1995, the prep All-American from the Houston, TX area tallied 61 tackles and was named to the SEC's All-Freshman team.  In addition, after recording no sacks during the regular season, Love had 1½ against Virginia in the Peach Bowl.  However, by the end of the season, he was beginning to demonstrate character issues both on and off the field which would eventually lead to his demise.  In the spring, Love landed in first-year head coach Jim Donnan's doghouse for a poor attitude and was demoted to fourth string; however, he was battling for his old starting safety spot by the end of summer camp.  Love, who by this time was recognized as having a  history of discipline problems, was practicing with the team through the first few games of 1996 but never played.  In mid-October, he was suspended indefinitely for violating unspecified team rules and was dismissed about a week later after being charged with battery for hitting a bouncer at the club Oxygen in Athens.  Love transferred to Stephen F. Austin, where he lettered in 1997 and 1998.
2) W.F. McCLELLAND (1910)
In 1910, UGA's incoming freshman class consisted of 145 students: 138 Georgians, four Floridians, one Californian, Hsung-ting Hwang from China, and W.F. McClelland from Freeville, New York.  The unique northerner went out for the school's football squad and starred on what I consider one of Georgia's greatest teams of all time.  As the Red and Black's starting fullback, freshman McClelland scored eight touchdowns in the team's first three games; only legendary Bob McWhorter scored more (13).  The quick and at times unstoppable back also had quite an arm, passing for a 30-yard touchdown against Mercer during the season's fifth game.  However, following the next contest and with three games still remaining on the schedule, McClelland was dismissed from the University "for conditions in his studies," thus becoming the first in a somewhat substantial line of standout Bulldogs whose poor grades abruptly halted an aspiring athletic career.      
Crowell, one of the most highly-touted recruits the Bulldogs have ever landed, began his Georgia career with a bang, rushing for more than 100 yards in three of his first five games.  However, after the freshman tailback scored two touchdowns at Tennessee, his disciplinary issues really began to surface.  Crowell was benched for the beginning of the Vanderbilt game and suspended altogether two games later for reportedly failing a drug test.  He reemerged to rush for 132 yards on 24 carries against Auburn, but totaled just 29 yards on 15 carries in the final four games of the 2011 season while hampered by a so-called ankle injury.  Two days after being booed by Georgia fans as he limped off the field during the SEC title game loss to LSU, Crowell was named the conference's freshman of the year.  Finally, the one-time 5-star recruit's problems as a Bulldog came to a head, and an end, that summer when he was arrested on weapon charges.  Crowell was promptly dismissed from the team and transferred to Alabama State within a week of his arrest.
A Few Others Worthy of Mention:
CLEVELAND GARY (1984): transferred to Miami (Fla) because of lack of playing time; All-American running back for the Hurricanes in 1988, a 1st round pick, and a 1,000-yard rusher for the LA Rams in 1992.
ANDRE WASHINGTON (1990): after playing extensively as a freshman and slated to start in 1991, left program reportedly to be closer to home in Florida; following time at Florida Community College, efforts to graduate in order to play for the University of Florida beginning in 1992 failed.
TYRONE ROBERTSON (1999): after 26 tackles, 5½ for loss, 1½ sacks, and 9 hurries as a backup, the highly-touted defensive lineman was dismissed for academic reasons; attended Hinds Community College and was drafted by the Buffalo Bills, where he played for one season. 
MONTEZ ROBINSON (2009): the Freshman All-SEC defensive lineman was dismissed in the spring 2010 after a few arrests; currently plays in the Indoor Football League.
The main point of this post isn't to simply recall the what-could've-been careers of the top one-and-done Bulldog freshmen.  Rather, I find it intriguing when comparing the most recent "Freshman Wonder-turned-Wanderer" when compared to the others.
Why would a standout player transfer from a major program after just a single season?  It's rather clear: disciplinary issues, flunking out, desiring more playing time, and maybe a case of homesickness here and there.  However, in the case of Shaq Wiggins, none of these is solely the case. 
It's truly a wonder Wiggins is leaving Georgia because his departure is the first of its kind in the program's history.  Whereas W.F. McClelland's circumstances of being a standout-turned-academic casualty more than a century ago was a first in UGA football history, Wiggins leaving Georgia for a team who'll "embrace [his] personality" is also a program first, resulting after the school has played football for more than 120 years. 

At least defensively, a change in discipline and direction is seemingly taking place.  And, it appears new DC Jeremy Pruitt is primarily responsible for the much-needed transformation.  To me, what's clear is the no-nonsense Pruitt has already started to make a tremendous impact on UGA football, not tolerating players who believe they're above the programnot conforming to any individual wanting his personality embraced. 


Anonymous said...

how could pulpwood not be on the list?--charlie

Patrick Garbin said...

Pulpwood actually played and lettered on Georgia's varsity for two seasons: his '84 coming-out campaign, in which you're likely thinking of, and as a freshman in 1983, when he appeared in just one game (vs. Kentucky).

Thanks for reading and commenting.--Patrick