CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte has been very good for the football programs at Georgia and Louisville -- and not just because they’re playing each other in the Belk Bowl on Dec. 30 at Bank of America Stadium.
The Charlotte area historically has provided both teams with standout players. And while there aren’t a lot of local players on the teams’ rosters this season, the influence remains.
Tight end Jeb Blazevich, a freshman from Charlotte Christian, has started 10 games for 13th-ranked Georgia (9-3). His season highlight came in a 63-31 victory against Kentucky, when he caught two touchdown passes.
Nick Dawson-Brents, a sophomore from Berry, is a backup linebacker for the No. 20 Cardinals (9-3). Louisville has another Charlotte player, freshman linebacker Isaac Stewart of Butler, who hasn’t played this season and would appear to be a likely redshirt candidate.
Even before landing Blazevich (who has caught 16 passes for 256 yards and those two touchdowns), Georgia head coach Mark Richt has had success recruiting in Charlotte, especially at Independence. That’s where he found receivers Mohamed Massaquoi and Mario Raley and quarterback Joe Cox, all of whom went on to have strong careers at Georgia.
“Charlotte is not very far from us; it’s just a few hours so it’s not that tough to travel,” Richt said Wednesday at a Belk Bowl news conference at Bank of America Stadium. “If you get on a young man early enough and show him where he’ll fit in -- and you get one or two who have come in and have success -- then young men see that and are attracted to it.
“So we target them as fast as we can, show them how exciting things can be at Georgia and then see if they’re ready to come.”
Not every Charlotte player has worked out for Georgia. Two former Butler players -- quarterback Christian LeMay and younger brother Uriah, a receiver -- didn’t last long with the Bulldogs. Christian is now at Jacksonville State; Uriah is with the Charlotte 49ers.
Louisville head coach Bobby Petrino is in the first year of his second stint with the Cardinals, so he didn’t recruit Dawson-Brents and Stewart. But he did recruit speedy West Charlotte receiver Trent Guy, who played at Louisville from 2006-09.
“Trent helped us win a lot of big games,” Petrino said.
Petrino said Louisville, which is in its first season in the ACC, will continue to recruit the Charlotte area.
“Particularly with us in the ACC now, (players) can come home and play near where they live,” Petrino said.
The Belk Bowl is in its first year of having an SEC-ACC matchup. It’s the first time the bowl has had two top-20 teams and is also the first time Georgia and Louisville have played each other.
“It’s like I told our team, every team is good, and they all have good players and are well-coached,” Petrino said of being in the ACC. “It’s been exciting for our fans to go into new stadiums and new venues. I think we brought 15,000 fans to Notre Dame (an associate league member in football). It’s very competitive.”
Richt said he’s glad the SEC is now aligned with Charlotte’s bowl.
“We’re all going to be excited about a new venue, to have to opportunity to play in a different place,” he said. “There’s been some thinking behind these new alignments that you won’t have one school in the same bowl year after year, or playing the same team year after year. That’s good for all of us.”