Early enrollee report on Georgia football: Red 22, Black 17

Nakobe Dean-Jermaine Johnson-UGA football-Georgia football
Freshmen ILB Nakobe Dean talks up what the offense was doing after a series with talented junior college signee Jermaine Johnson for the Black team at G-Day on Saturday.

DawgNation offered up a “Freshman Report” after every game last season.

It made sense after seven recruits with a 5-star rating signed in 2018. It meant the Bulldogs snapped an Alabama-sized chokehold on the nation’s mythical recruiting championship per the 247Sports Team Composite ratings.

That’s why the DawgNation freshman report came about that season. To place a good zoom lens on the contributions of all those highly-touted prospects.

When the Crimson Tide then beat UGA by a touchdown in the 2018 SEC Championship game, a member of the Bulldogs walked by a live microphone. They added a statement to an Adam Anderson interview session with a couple of members of the press.

“Tell them we aren’t going anywhere, Adam,” that’s what the UGA team member said.

That is also likely why the DawgNation freshman report isn’t going anywhere this season. The Bulldogs signed the nation’s No. 2 recruiting class for 2019.

It will be another year for more of the same. Just with a slight tweak for G-Day. Let’s just call it the “Early Enrollee” report. That’s because the program will still welcome another 10 freshmen Bulldogs when the entire team comes together in late May and early June.

Jermaine Johnson-Georgia football-UGA football” width=”5017″ height=”3345″ /> That’s midyear junior college enrollee Jermaine Johnson (11) and freshman Nolan Smith (4) entering the game for Georgia. When that happens going forward, look for that “havoc” rate to head north. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)


G-Day early enrollee focus

Georgia played 11 of its 14 midyears at G-Day. The following freshmen signees are still recovering from injury: ILB Rian Davis, TE Ryland Goede and ILB Trezmen Marshall. Yet they all did dress out and go through some part of the pre-game warmup.

The 2019 Bulldogs will also have four junior college signees in this midyear pool as well. That’s the most of the Kirby Smart era by far.

It meant there were really only seven true freshmen on the field for G-Day. Those JUCO Bulldogs were: QB Stetson Bennett IV, CB D.J. Daniel, OLB Jermaine Johnson and DL Tramel Walthour.

So those new freshmen Bulldogs who saw G-Day action were:


What’s more important? Snaps or starts? Both are important, but there is a reason why certain players start the game and stay on the field for the biggest plays. That’s because the coaches trust them to play winning football based on what they have seen on the practice field.

Here are the midyears who started on G-Day:

  • QB Stetson Bennett IV (Black team and No. 2 offense)
  • Tyrique Stevenson (Red team and No. 2 defense)
  • Lewis Cine (Red team and No. 2 defense)


Tyrique Stevenson saw a lot of action at G-Day for the Bulldogs. He started for the Bulldogs on the No. 2 defense and came away with five total tackles. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

This blog “starts fast” with a quick IV of info: Does elite recruiting matter? What about stars and rankings? Let’s look at the midyear Bulldogs and the G-Day numbers they left on the stat sheet after their play on Saturday.

  • 5-star OLB Nolan Smith: Finished with two tackles. His head-to-head battles with Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson bode well for his future potential at Georgia.
  • 5-star ILB Nakobe Dean: Finished with five tackles for the black team. When taken into the context that he’s had just 14 practices at the college level, he already has an advanced understanding of the game.
  • 5-star OL Clay Webb: Saw action with the No. 2 offensive line at G-Day.
  • 4-star CB Tyrique Stevenson: He was rated as a 5-star by 247Sports and showed it on Saturday. The Miami native finished with five tackles and at least one pass breakup.
  • 4-star S Lewis Cine: Led all Bulldogs with his six solo tackles. Already appears to be one of the most fundamental tacklers on the UGA team.
  • 4-star QB: D’Wan Mathis: The freshman from Michigan didn’t look too far downfield, but finished with a 15-for-28 passing line for 113 yards. He did not throw a touchdown but did give an interception back to the red team.
  • 4-star CB DJ Daniel: He ended the game by breaking up a last-gasp throw by the black team to Matt Landers. The Griffin native came to UGA after two seasons at Georgia Military College. He did not record a tackle.
  • 4-star OLB Jermaine Johnson: Saw action mixed in with the No. 2 defense at G-Day. The talented junior college midyear enrollee did not record a tackle in the final stats.
  • 4-star OL Warren McClendon Jr.: Saw action with the No. 2 offense at OT.
  • 3-star QB Stetson Bennett IV: 12-of-23 for 210 passing yards and a touchdown. He was the only one of Georgia’s three scholarship quarterbacks who did not throw an interception.
  • 3-star DT Tramel Walthour: Saw action with the No. 2 defense on the black team. The junior college signee from Liberty County did not record a tackle.

A big difference for Bennett compared to 2018 

It looked like Stetson Bennett finally got to show the Sanford Stadium crowd what he could do at G-Day this time. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Did you see the reps that Stetson Bennett IV took for both teams? It was quite the contrast to what showed last spring at G-Day. Or maybe allowed to show is a better way to put that.

Bennett looked like he wasn’t going to get a chance to compete for the job in 2018. He threw only nine passes, completed five and tallied up 73 passing yards. In comparison, Justin Fields had 33 attempts last spring.

“It feels a lot better,” Bennett said. “I’m not going to transfer this summer. So. … Not going to show up in the portal. So that’s different. It was better. Got more reps this spring. Played better. My team won because I flip-flopped to both and was there at the very end.”

This year Bennett showed a live arm and strong accuracy on a lot of his throws. He was able to climb up in the pocket to find one of those “Mailman” delivery windows for a long explosive play downfield to Matt Landers.

“Throwing good balls,” he said. “Just trying to put the balls in the playmaker’s hands. That’s really my only job. Not to do too much. I just try to get it in our fast guy’s hands and let them score for us.”


Nolan Smith was working against one of the best offensive tackles in the nation in junior Andrew Thomas at his first G-Day. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Let’s continue the blog with an assessment of the most valuable freshmen and redshirt freshmen to the team for the 2019 season. That’s what we did with a weekly “heat check” to see which ones of the youngest members of the team are playing well.

These are the guys where the new redshirt rules will not apply. Especially given their ability to already help out on special teams.

To be fair, we won’t lump in any of the May or June enrollees into the equation. If so, then the names of Dominick Blaylock, George Pickens and Travon Walker might also make this chart.

  • No. 1: OLB Nolan Smith (former 5-star recruit): The more we see, the more it is clear that Smith can already help Georgia in 2019. Especially by bringing pressure off the edge on third downs.
  • No. 2: ILB  Nakobe Dean (former 5-star recruit): A lot of the same applies here to Dean. The Bulldogs do have good depth at both ILB and OLB, but it might not be enough to keep Dean from getting some first-string reps early this fall.
  • No. 3: S Lewis Cine (former 4-star recruit): Cine showed good range, fundamental tackling ability and size and length all throughout spring. He led the Bulldogs in solo tackles and tied for the team-lead with his eight total tackles at G-Day.
  • No. 4: CB Tyrique Stevenson (former 5-star recruit): Stevenson had a few good battles with junior WR Trey Blount at G-Day. He has a very bright future given his size and skill set and overall ball skills and tenacity.


D’Wan Mathis had the type of G-Day we all would expect out of a talented first-year QB in the SEC. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

The big takeaway on D’Wan Mathis: As expected, it was a go play, go learn, makes mistakes and get better kind of day for Mathis. He provided the biggest highlight of the game with his 39-yard catch off a double reverse pass. Yet he also showed he was still learning by taking five sacks. To his credit, he is a fast young man. He was able to offset those negative plays by taking off with his legs for 29 yards.

Mathis first entered the game when: He saw his first action with 6:26 left in the second quarter. That was the second drive of the game for the Black team.

Subtle Mathis stat of the game: He only averaged 4.07 yards per pass attempt. The top performers for that category from the SEC recorded a mean average of at least 8.00 yards per attempt in 2018.

Did you notice this: Mathis brings a speed element to his game. That is clear. When he wasn’t playing, he kept warm by working on an exercise bike and sprinting up and back behind the benches on the Black team sideline. It was uncommon to see that from a backup quarterback in a game setting.


Junior cornerback DJ Daniel made a big play to end the game that made sure the guys in Red ate steak and lobster after G-Day. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
  • DB: 3 
  • OLB: 2
  • OL: 2
  • QB: 2
  • DL: 1
  • ILB: 1
  • DB: 2
  • OLB: 1
  • OL: 2
  • QB: 1
  • ILB: 1


5-star DT Travon Walker had his game face on Saturday for G-Day. He was clearly watching and taking notes on everything he saw. This is a very invested future Bulldog. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

To this point, we’ve covered who was in action at G-Day on Saturday, but what roster help is still on the way for the 2019 season.

The remainder on the 2019 class was also at G-Day. Those future Bulldogs were even recognized at halftime of G-Day, including the preferred walk-ons. There were quite a few of those guys.

Here are the top three areas where those guys can not only provide depth but play right away.

  • Defensive line: 4 incoming freshmen signees
  • Wide receiver: 1 incoming grad transfer, 3 incoming signees
  • Tight end: 1 incoming grad transfer, 1 incoming freshman signee

Those future Bulldogs on the way are:

  • 4-star WR Dominick Blaylock
  • Miami graduate transfer WR Lawrence Cager
  • 4-star DL Zion Logue
  • 4-star RB Kenny McIntosh
  • 4-star DT Tymon Mitchell
  • 4-star DL Bill Norton
  • 5-star WR George Pickens
  • 3-star TE Brett Seither
  • 4-star WR Makiya Tongue
  • 4-star OT Xavier Truss
  • 5-star DL Travon Walker
  • Tennessee graduate transfer TE Eli Wolf


5-star OL Clay Webb has a bright future at both offensive guard and center in Athens. He actually has the feet to replicate some of Isaiah Wynn’s game at tackle. That was actually his second-best position coming out of Oxford High School in Alabama. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Ben Cleveland on Clay Webb so far: “I think Clay Webb [can help] Georgia. He’s like, what, some kind of 4-time state champion wrestler or something like that? I think he’s going to be able to help us out on the O-line. He knows all about leverage and angles and stuff.” (Editor’s note: Webb was a part of three state championships in high school. He won two team titles and one individual title in the 285-pound weight class.)

“I thought once he gets his big knowledge of the game down, he’s going to be a big asset for us.”

Does Webb remind Cleveland of anyone?: “When I see Clay walking around, I see myself as a freshman walking around on campus. You know, but it all comes with age.”

Ben Cleveland on Nolan Smith so far: “I think Nolan Smith. He’s really good. He’s shown me a lot so far and I think he can help us. … He cares about the game. I feel like he cares about the team. He gives us what he has got every day. Looks to me like a great football player and a great kid.” 

Richard LeCounte III on Nolan Smith so far: “I’ve also seen Nolan Smith play some ball [this spring] I always knew he could do it. I grew up watching him like my little brother. Now, when he came out here all he did was put that athleticism and size out onto the field.”

Richard LeCounte III on Nakobe Dean and Nolan Smith: “Nakobe Dean is also a guy that always has been working hard and stuff like that. I see those guys bring enthusiasm every day. That’s something we count on here. Smart. Can pick up the playbook fast. Much faster than I did when I first got here. So I’m really proud of those guys. … They understand that we need them and they take their jobs very seriously. I really appreciate it and respect that.”

Matt Landers on Lewis Cine: “He’s good at attacking the ball. He’s not scared of contact. He is smart and so he learns things fast.”

Lewis Cine led all Bulldogs in solo tackles at G-day with his six stops. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)


NextWATCH: G-Day, spring ball show Ben Cleveland is back to full strength …
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