“People say this might be the worst senior class for Coach (Mark) Richt,” Milner said.
Milner is one of 16 scholarship seniors for the Bulldogs (6-3, 3-3 SEC); most are significant contributors, and every one of them is staring the worst season of their collegiate career right in the face.
If Georgia loses again this year, it will mark the first four-loss season by the Bulldogs since these seniors were in high school. It already is the worst regular season in Athens since 2001.
“It’s kind of hard because you really don’t envision your senior season being like this when you’re used to winning, but we have to take it in stride,” safety Tra Battle said. “Hopefully, we can turn this thing around, but the best thing we can do is just continue to lead, and, hopefully, the leadership will carry over to next season.”
Richt isn’t among his seniors’ detractors. In fact, the group has been “pretty good, actually,” he said.
“You can’t always measure leadership on wins and losses,” he said, “but you can measure how they handle what’s put before them. Part of the reason our team has not fallen apart is the leadership of that group. If your seniors fell apart and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to bag it, it’s not worth it anymore,’ your team will follow.”
Richt pointed out that seniors like defensive end Quentin Moses (nine tackles for loss), linebacker Tony Taylor (team-leading 63 tackles) and center Nick Jones are playing some of the best football of their careers.
Others, though, have not played well. Quarterback Joe Tereshinski, linebacker Danny Verdun Wheeler, defensive lineman Ray Gant and Milner all have been replaced in the starting lineup at some point in the season.
Georgia, which plays Kentucky on Saturday at 1 p.m., will be the underdog in two of its remaining three regular season games, but regardless of how this season ends, the seniors will leave college with two SEC Championship rings. The sixteen senior classes who cycled out of Athens before this group’s arrival didn’t even have one.
Georgia won’t add a third ring this year, though. Saturday’s loss to Florida eliminated the Bulldogs from the SEC race.
“We were a part of great teams, but those weren’t our teams,” offensive lineman Michael Turner said. “The SEC Championships, those show what the seniors of those classes did, so we’re going to feel disappointed that we didn’t get another one.”
Still, Jones takes offense when all the blame for the Bulldogs’ struggles this year is laid at the feet of his class.
“Think about it, man, the players who are seniors now were on those teams, how can you say they are bad?” he said. “How can you judge a group of guys on their last year? How can you judge them as a bad group or bad leaders?”
None of Georgia’s seniors is willing to sum up their swan song, yet. There still is a chance to turn things around, they all say. Three straight wins to end the season and a bowl victory would make for a fifth straight season with at least 10 wins. And, if not?
“Sure, it’s going to leave a bad taste in your mouth, but you just have to look at it in the best way possible,” Battle said. “Not in any way do we feel like we’re just going to lay down. We’re going to continue to fight and play hard. Right now, that’s really all we can do.”
S Tra Battle
DT Dale Dixson
DT Marquis Elmore
P Gordon Ely-Kelso
DT Ray Gant
OL Daniel Inman
LB Jarvis Jackson
C Nick Jones
TE Martrez Milner
DE Quentin Moses
WR Mario Raley
OL Ken Shackleford
LB Tony Taylor
QB Joe Tereshinski
OL Michael Turner
LB Danny Verdun Wheeler