Two Bulldogs snubbed for national awards, two not

Georgia players Rodrigo Blankenship and J.R. Reed became finalists for national awards this week. That D’Andre Swift and Andrew Thomas did not is disappointing, but not unexpected.

Reed, a senior safety from Frisco, Texas, was a bit surprising a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. That trophy goes each year to the player deemed the nation’s best defensive back. Reed hasn’t produced the kind of numbers generally associated with the Thorpe. He is fourth on the team in tackles with 46 and has only one interception. But he is unquestionably the captain and quarterback of Georgia’s nationally-renown defense, which is top five in the nation in yards, points and rushing allowed.

“I was actually walking out to practice so I really didn't get to take it all in,” Reed said of learning he was a finalist. “When I got to my phone I had a lot of messages about it.”

Joining Reed as a Thorpe finalist are LSU safety Grant Delpit and Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah.

As expected, Blankenship became one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award for the nation’s best kicker. The senior from Marietta became Georgia’s all-time leading scorer with 418 points after making four field goals and an extra point in the Bulldogs’ 19-13 win over Texas A&M this past Saturday. Blankenship was a semifinalist last year. Iowa’s Keith Duncan (27-32 FGs) and Washington State’s Blake Mazza (18-19) are the other finalists.

Swift, a junior, has been terrific for the Bulldogs. He’s third in the SEC in rushing with 1,130 yards (a 102.7-yard average), and also has 198 yards receiving and eight touchdowns scored. But those numbers pale in comparison to the three finalists for the Doak Walker, which is reserved for the nation's best back: Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard (1,832 yards, 20 TDs), Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (1,695-18) and Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins (1,446-15).

“I don’t think the guy gets enough credit,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said after Swift’s 103-yard performance against Texas A&M this past Saturday. “It baffles me. I guess people have the expectation of he’s going to get 250 and 300. But … what back out there is putting out 100-yard games against defenses of this caliber?”

The Outland Trophy, designated for the nation’s best lineman, is the most subjective of the awards. Thomas has had a remarkable season for the Bulldogs, both in pass protection and run blocking. The 6-foot-5, 300-pound junior has allowed only one quarterback sack all season and has led a Georgia line that has allowed only eight sacks all season and averaged 413.4 yards. But Thomas was edged out as a finalist by Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown, Wisconsin center Tyler Biadasz and Oregon tackle Penei Sewell.

“Yeah, I was upset about it,” Thomas said after Georgia's practice on Tuesday. “But it's just motivation to keep working. I've still got things to improve on and that's what I'm going to do.”