JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - At first when speaking to reporters on Saturday morning, Georgia linebacker Ramik Wilson said he didn't know yet whether he would be returning for his senior year. He was still talking it over with his family, and the decision was "coming real soon."
Real soon turned out to be later in the same conversation.
Wilson confirmed one minute later that he would be coming back and passing on the NFL draft.
“It was nice to think about," Wilson said. "I’m blessed to have the opportunity. I’m enjoying the moment, dreams coming true that I have a chance to be drafted. But I’ve been waiting for awhile and finally have an opportunity. But school is more important. I need to get my degree, at the end of the day.”
It was a bit of a longshot anyway for Wilson to go. He never saw significant action before this season, but finally given a starting job he flourished. Wilson led the SEC in tackles and was a consensus first-team all-SEC pick.
“Ramik had a tremendous year. He can get better," Richt said upon being told Wilson was officially returning. "It’s a good sign for Georgia.”
Wilson was the only draft-eligible underclassmen who appeared to be even somewhat considering it. Richt reiterated Saturday that he hasn't heard anything to believe that anybody is seriously looking at going early to the NFL.
“You always kind of talk to the guys and see what the word is on the street, so to speak, and hadn’t heard anything,” Richt said. “But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. It’s happened before, where you kind of get surprised by someone. If someone did go, I’d be surprised.”
Wilson said he didn't submit his name to the NFL draft advisory committee, instead relying on his position coach, Kirk Olivadotti, to gather feedback. Olivadotti spent more than a decade with the Washington Redskins before joining Georgia's staff in 2011.
Wilson also said his family was (or would be) fine with his decision.
“They understand what I really needed, and that’s to stay in school and get better on the field,” he said.
The way Wilson revealed his decision was rather surprising. He played coy at first, then either decided to end the suspense, or talked himself into making the decision on the spot.
“More than likely I’ll end up staying, because I need to get my degree," he said. "I’m leaning towards staying. I’ll probably end up staying. Pretty much I’ll say I’m coming back.”
Thanks for making it clear, Wilson was told.
“Yeah, I’m coming back,” he said.
Conley sprains ankle again
Junior receiver Chris Conley missed Saturday's practice after spraining his ankle on Friday. It was the same ankle Conley sprained, causing him to miss two games, but Richt indicated the sprain wasn't as serious this time. Richt termed Conley's status for Wednesday's Gator Bowl as "hopeful."
“Chris is very, very tough, and he’ll play through a little pain,” Richt said. “Even if he’s 80, 85 percent I think he’d play, and play very well.”
Conley is Georgia's leading receiver this season.
Swann on Dawson
There were only four cornerbacks working with secondary coach Scott Lakatos during a jamming drill in Saturday's practice. Sophomore Sheldon Dawson would have been among them, but is suspended for the game and did not make the trip. Dawson and safety Josh Harvey-Clemons are suspended for what the team has called a violation of "team regulations," and sources have said is academics.
Junior cornerback Damian Swann, who is close with Dawson, said his teammate is remorseful.
“It’s another one of those things you’ve gotta learn from," Swann said. "I think he’s a guy who’s going to be able to recover from it. I’m going to stay on him about it and we’re gonna move forward.”
Richt skeptical on Jenkins' claim
Last week, in describing his disappointing season, sophomore outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins blamed his offseason work habits. Jenkins said he didn't take enough advantage of voluntary workouts and thought he would be fine after a strong freshman season.
But Richt doesn't quite buy into that.
"I think Jordan's a real humble kid, and he's not going to beat his chest about how great he is," Richt said. "He's probably the kind of guy who says: 'I didn't work hard enough.' It's probably the same thing (Aaron) Murray would say, and he's the hardest worker we've got. So I don't think that was an issue."
Richt did think the overall lesson was useful.
"But I do think there are some younger, inexperienced guys who have never been through an offseason with us, or a summer with us," Richt said.