Ohio State, Georgia reloaded after losing stars to NFL draft

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ATLANTA – Only months after Georgia defensive linemen and Ohio State wide receivers combined to fill five first-round slots in the NFL draft, those positions again boast top talent for the teams preparing to meet in the College Football Playoff Peach Bowl semifinal.

Georgia had three defensive linemen, including No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker, selected in the first round of this year’s NFL draft. Ohio State had wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave chosen with the 10th and 11th picks, respectively.

Despite those important losses, Saturday night’s Peach Bowl will showcase evidence that No. 4 Ohio State and No. 1 Georgia reloaded with more star players.

Wide receiver again is a strength for the Buckeyes as two players, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, have more than 1,000 receiving yards. Quarterback C.J. Stroud said Harrison and Egbuka showed their talent even when they had to play behind Wilson and Olave.

“I’m not saying they’re better than Garrett and Chris, but they were playing really good football to be freshmen,” Stroud said. “And I think when you come in with that type of attitude, I am not just going to be here to learn. I am going to be here to dominate. That’s when you learn and that’s when you become a great football player. So it hasn’t been overnight.”

The ability to reload with two 1,000-yard receivers is especially impressive because Ohio State lost AP Preseason All-American Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who will miss the game as he recovers from a leg injury and prepares for the 2023 NFL draft. Smith-Njigba is projected as a possible first-round pick even though he was hurt in the Buckeyes’ opener against Notre Dame and played in just two other games.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Stroud is a key to Ohio State’s success at wide receiver.

“It is great quarterback, great system, great coaches, great receivers,” Smart said Thursday. “They’ve come up under … first-rounders. Those kids watched those guys before them play.”

Harrison Jr. was an AP first-team All-American. The sophomore leads the Buckeyes with 72 catches for 1,156 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“I think what makes Marvin special is his discipline and his skill,” said Ohio State coach Ryan Day. “He’s built a tremendous amount of discipline in his life, takes care of his body, prepares at a high level, just unbelievable amount of discipline, the way that he runs his routes. His work ethic is unbelievable.”

Meanwhile, Georgia reloaded after leaning on its defense to win the 2021 national championship. After having Walker and two defensive tackles, Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt, taken in the first round of this year’s draft, the Bulldogs’ 2022 defensive front is led by Jalen Carter, also projected as a high first-round pick.

Carter also was named to the AP All-America team.

“Very good player,” Day said when asked about Carter. “Disrupts the game, and their entire front is really good and so is their back end. They really don’t have any weaknesses on defense. They’re very, very good, and you can see why they’re ranked one of the best in the country. They do a good job, and he is very good as well.”

Carter helped Georgia rank second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 12.8 points per game. Ohio State ranks second in scoring with 44.5 points per game.

“I’m very confident in the talent we do have on offense, and I feel like when it comes to us playing any team in the nation, I feel confident with our guys and our ability to sling the rock,” Egbuka said.

Georgia had a record five defensive players selected in the first round and 15 players picked overall in the 2022 NFL draft. Linebacker Quay Walker, selected by Green Bay, and safety Lewis Cine, by Minnesota, were the Bulldogs’ other first-round picks.

Vick, Fitzgerald and Suggs among stars on College Football Hall of Fame ballot for 1st time

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Michael Vick, Larry Fitzgerald and Terrell Suggs are among the college football stars who will be considered for induction to the Hall of Fame for the first time this year.

The National Football Foundation released Monday a list of 78 players and nine coaches from major college football who are on the Hall of Fame ballot. There also are 101 players and 32 coaches from lower divisions of college football up for consideration.

Vick, who led Virginia Tech to the BCS championship game against Florida State as a redshirt freshman in 1999, is among the most notable players appearing on the ballot in his first year of eligibility.

Vick finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1999. He played one season of college football before being drafted No. 1 overall by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001. Vick’s professional career was interrupted when he served 21 months in prison for his involvement in dog fighting.

Fitzgerald was the Heisman runner-up in 2003 to Oklahoma quarterback Jason White. He scored 34 touchdowns in just two seasons at Pitt.

Suggs led the nation in sacks with 24 in 2002 for Arizona State.

The 2024 Hall of Fame class will be chosen by the National Football Foundation’s Honors Court and announced in January. Induction into the Atlanta-based hall is the following December.

Alabama freshman DB Mitchell says he wasn’t sure he’d get to play again after arrest

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Alabama defensive back Tony Mitchell said he feared his football career was over after his arrest on a drug charge.

The Crimson Tide freshman said in a video posted Sunday on social media that he knew “something much bigger could have happened.”

A judge in Holmes County, Florida, sentenced Mitchell to three years of probation with a fine and community service on May 24 after Mitchell pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of more than 20 grams of cannabis.

“I didn’t know if I’d be able to play football again, but I continued to work out and stay close with the Lord and those who love me unconditionally,” Mitchell said. “During those times, it helped me to keep my mind off it. But when I was by myself looking at social media, what everybody had to say about it, it just felt like it happened again.

“I didn’t sleep at night.”

He was suspended from the Alabama team following the arrest, but Mitchell’s father, Tony Sr., posted on Facebook last week that the defensive back had been reinstated. An Alabama spokesman declined to comment on Mitchell’s status.

Tony Mitchell Sr. shared his son’s video on Facebook, saying it was filmed during a talk to youth.

“I was doing things I knew I shouldn’t to try to fit in,” the younger Mitchell said, “but not everybody’s your friend.”

Mitchell, who is from Alabaster, Alabama, was a four-star prospect and the 15th-rated safety in the 247Composite rankings.

He had been charged in March with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell after a traffic stop when authorities said he drove over 141 mph (227 kph) while trying to evade deputies in the Florida Panhandle. A deputy had spotted Mitchell’s black Dodge Challenger traveling 78 mph (125 kph) in a 55 mph (88 kph) zone on a rural highway north of Bonifay.

He also received 100 hours of community service and paid a fine of $1,560.

Mitchell and a passenger were both charged with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell or deliver, according to a Holmes County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. The other man also was charged with carrying a concealed gun without a permit.