Georgia’s Mondon, Woodring receive SEC honors for Auburn performances

Georgia linebacker Smael Mondon Jr. (2) prepares for a defensive snap against Auburn quarterback Payton Thorne (1) during the second half at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Saturday, September 30, 2023, in Auburn, Al. Georgia won 27-20. (Jason Getz /


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Georgia linebacker Smael Mondon Jr. (2) prepares for a defensive snap against Auburn quarterback Payton Thorne (1) during the second half at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Saturday, September 30, 2023, in Auburn, Al. Georgia won 27-20. (Jason Getz /


ATHENS – Smael Mondon earned SEC defensive player of the week honors for his performance in Georgia’s 27-20 win over Auburn last Saturday. That might seem a tad ironic to some, considering the Tigers rolled up 219 yards rushing against the Bulldogs. It was the first time Georgia had allowed that much yardage on the ground since LSU ran for 275 yards 2018.

The truth is, Mondon did play well. He finished with 11 tackles, two tackles for a loss and a sack against the Tigers. None of his stops were more important than a third-and-one stuff of Jarquez Hunter for no gain at the Georgia 12. He and fellow linebacker Jamon Dumas-Johnson would combine for another stop of Hunter on fourth down to keep the Tigers from scoring again with 1:18 remaining in the first half.

Perhaps that’s why the even-keeled Mondon wasn’t exactly celebrating when informed of the SEC’s distinction on Monday.

“Still have a lot more room to grow,” said the 6-foot-3, 225-pound inside linebacker. “I feel like we could’ve played better. There was some stuff we were having problems with.”

Namely, stopping the running quarterback. Payton Thorne and Robby Ashford combined for 125 of the Tigers’ yards on the ground. As a team, Auburn averaged 5.1 yards per rush.

Enter Kentucky, which will arrive at Sanford Stadium on Saturday averaging 170.4 yards rushing as a team. That average was bolstered by a 329-yard effort in a 33-14 win over No. 22 Florida in Lexington this past Saturday. Running back Ray Davis accounted for 280 rushing yards and scored four touchdowns himself in that one.

“For sure, it’s going to be a good match,” Mondon said Monday. “Kentucky’s got a great running back and a good O-line. So, we’re going to have to practice hard and do what we have to do.”

Mondon’s SEC defensive player of the week honor was Georgia’s first since safety Chris Smith received the award after the Florida game last season.

Woodring honored

Georgia placekicker Peyton Woodring was also honored by the SEC office in Birmingham on Monday. A freshman from LaFayette, Louisiana, Woodring was named co-freshman of the week in the SEC. He split the week’s honor with Alabama’s Caleb Downs.

In the first road game of his collegiat career, Woodring was a perfect 2-for-2 on field goals and 3-for-3 on PATs at Auburn. He drilled a then-career-long 37-yard attempt in the second quarter to tie the game at 10. In the fourth quarter, Woodring came through on another career-long -- a 38-yarder that gave Georgia its first lead of the game, 20-17, with 10:57 to play.

Woodring was in danger of losing the kicking job earlier when he missed his second and third field goal attempts of the season in the South Carolina game. Coach Kirby Smart stuck with Woodring after a ramped-up, two-week competition with junior Jared Zirkel.

“Yeah, I have a lot of confidence in Peyton,” Smart said Monday. “I think he is wired the right way. … I proud of the way he handled it.”

Running back Branson Robinson and safety Malaki Starks each garnered freshman of the week honors for Georgia last season.



Injury updates

Georgia got an unbelievable performance from junior flanker Ladd McConkey last Saturday, especially considering he had almost no practice in more than a month due to a mysterious back ailment. All McConkey did was come out in his first game, on the road, and catch four passes for 38 yards. What’s more, three of the receptions resulted in third-down conversions.

Asked whether he’d definitely be back this week, Smart sighed. “No clue. We just don’t know. … He wants to be out there.”

Safety Javon Bullard’s availability also is in question. Bullard came back against Auburn after a two-game hiatus due to an ankle injury and logged 10 tackles and two pass break-ups. But he was limping badly when he left postgame interviews after the game.

Along with running back Kendall Milton (knee), all three will have to be re-evaluated in practice this week. Milton dressed out and got in for a couple of plays against Auburn but did not have a carry.

“It’s a matter of, can they get in shape without wearing down their legs?” Smart said Monday. “You don’t really get in shape in-season. You either get in shape or you’re not. Those guys haven’t had a chance to (gain) stamina in practice. We try to do it other ways, non-weight bearing, under-water running, you do all the things you can do. We’re trying to get them to them game healthy and get them some more snaps.”

Milton, a 6-1, 220-pound senior, was expected to be a major contributor in Georgia’s running game this season. Instead, due to a hamstring strain and a knee sprain, he has 96 yards on 23 carries in four games.

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