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Pollack to return for senior season


Atlanta Journal-Constitution Staff Writer

Athens -- David Pollack's announcement that he'll return for his senior season should bolster Georgia's hopes for playing in its third consecutive SEC championship game.

Pollack's return means the Bulldogs expect to have all but four starters and kicker Billy Bennett back next season. It also should improve the Bulldogs' preseason ranking, after they finished 11-3 and ranked No. 7 nationally this past season.

Pollack, a junior defensive end, said Monday that he had been told he would have been selected in the first round if he had made himself eligible for this year's NFL draft. He said he decided to stay in school because he had "unfinished business" at Georgia.

"This definitely starts things off on the right foot," said Bulldogs quarterback David Greene, Pollack's roommate. "Last year, it started off bad."

After winning the school's first SEC championship in 20 years in 2002, the Bulldogs lost three juniors to the NFL draft -- tailback Musa Smith, defensive tackle Johnathan Sullivan and linebacker Chris Clemons. Five other senior starters also were drafted, and the Bulldogs lost all five starting offensive linemen and two other linebackers to graduation.

This year, the Bulldogs expect to lose only one junior, All-SEC safety Sean Jones, to the pros. Greene, linebacker Odell Thurman, receiver Fred Gibson and safety Thomas Davis say they'll be back with the team next season.

Underclassmen have until midnight Thursday to declare their intentions of entering the NFL draft.

Even without Jones, the Bulldogs got a No. 4 ranking in ESPN.com's early preseason top 25, behind co-national champions Southern Cal and LSU and behind Oklahoma.

"We've got all the talent in the world coming back," Pollack said. "This team can be as good as it wants to be. If we work hard and dedicate ourselves in the offseason, we can be one of the best teams in Georgia history."

Pollack said he tried to persuade Jones to stay at Georgia. But Jones, from Westlake High School in Atlanta, could be the second safety drafted, behind Miami (Fla.) All-American Sean Taylor.

"I wanted him to stay to see if we could win it all next year," Pollack said. "I think we have a great shot at doing it."

Pollack, 6 feet 3 and 278 pounds, won the 2003 Ted Hendricks Defensive End of the Year award and was named All-America for the second time after recording 92 tackles, 7 1/2 sacks and 28 quarterback pressures.

Pollack, from Shiloh High School, will enter his senior season needing six sacks to break Richard Tardits' school record of 29. He'll play on a defensive line that returns starting defensive end Will Thompson, who missed all of the 2003 season with a broken ankle, and tackle Kedric Golston, who missed half the season with a broken shoulder blade.

"I think that we have a lot of special things going on at Georgia, and I don't want to miss out on any of it," Pollack said. "I might play 10 years in the NFL and wonder what my senior season would have been. You always think about getting hurt, but God has always led me in the right path. The money is there, the opportunity is there if I want to take it, but it is not my time to take it yet."

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It was obvious he wasn't going to be a 1st rd. pick. Although I love his motor and his uncanny ability to be around the ball, he probably needs another year at UGA to prove to the mediots that regardless of his measureables he's a talent at DE.

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