Freshman report on UGA football: Alabama 35, Georgia 28

Georgia football-uga-dandre walker-jalen hurts
Jordan Davis had another big game for the Bulldogs on Saturday against Georgia Tech.

“Tell them we ain’t going nowhere, Adam.”

That was what at least one unidentified Georgia player said during Adam Anderson‘s open locker room interview on Saturday night. That moment arrived shortly after Alabama again pulled the football away from the Bulldogs in a 35-28 comeback victory.

It was what at least one Bulldog said behind a live microphone while the freshman OLB met the media for the first time in 2018. Anderson was one of the seven recruits to carry the 5-star rating when they signed with UGA in the class of 2018.

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

Freshmen aren’t allowed to meet the media per UGA rules, but the SEC’s open locker room policy allowed the chance to speak with an up-and-coming talent like Anderson for the first time.

As it turns out, that voice might find some supporting evidence in this week’s freshman report. The Bulldogs again went toe-to-toe with Alabama with a championship on the line yet. As it turns out, they were still step-for-step with the Tide.

Yet this time it came about leaning on a playing rotation which went heavy on freshmen and sophomores. Those two classes comprised 52 percent of the Bulldogs who saw the field in the SEC championship game.

There were two redshirt freshmen, 12 true freshmen, 11 true sophomores and three redshirt sophomores listed on the official participation report. That means the majority of the Bulldog team could see two more trips to the SEC championship game stage.

Let’s allow that freshmen component to sink in one more time. Those 2018 signees could very well face Alabama in the SEC championship game in 2018, 2019 and 2020. At least.

SEC championship game freshman focus

Georgia played 14 redshirt or true or freshmen against Alabama. That’s 14 out of the 54 total Bulldogs who saw the field against the vaunted Crimson Tide.

The big picture tallies up to 26 percent of all the Bulldogs who played on Saturday. That equates to:

  • 1 of 2 QBs
  • 1 of 5 RBs
  • 0 of 7 WRs
  • 3 of 7 OLs
  • 0 of 2 TEs
  • 1 of 8 DLs
  • 2 of 6 ILBs
  • 2 of 5 OLBs
  • 3 of 8 DBs
  • 1 of 3 specialists

To be very clear, some of those 14 names only played on the kick teams. Special teams are still a vital one-third of the game. Those Bulldogs earned those reps against Alabama. The opponent does not get any more elite than that.

It builds a strong case that the Bulldogs really aren’t going anywhere.

POTENTIAL = PRODUCTION

FRESHMEN STARTERS IN 2018

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 by what they have seen on the practice field.

Here is the weekly list of the true freshmen and redshirt freshmen that have started games in 2018.

How many freshmen played against Alabama (true or redshirt): 14

Who started (all freshmen): P Jake Camarda; DT Jordan Davis; OL Trey Hill; CB Eric Stokes; OT Isaiah Wilson

THE BIG PICTURE, PART I

It was a very young Georgia team that had Alabama and quarterback Jalen Hurts on the run in the SEC Championship Game. (Alyssa Pointer/AJC)

This blog “starts fast” with a hot take: Does elite recruiting matter? What about stars and rankings?

Let’s look at the Bulldogs which received the 15 highest ratings in the 2018 recruiting class. How much of a factor were they in the 2018 season?

  • 5-star Justin Fields: Played in 12 games.
  • 5-star Zamir White: Did not play. Had a season-ending ACL injury in fall camp.
  • 5-star Jamaree Salyer: Played in 12 games.
  • 5-star Tyson Campbell: Played in 13 games and started 10.
  • 5-star Adam Anderson: Played in 13 games.
  • 5-star Cade Mays: Played in 10 games and started in seven.
  • 5-star Brenton Cox: Played in 12 games.
  • 4-star Quay Walker: Played in 13 games.
  • 4-star James Cook: Played in 13 games.
  • 4-star Luke Ford: Played in nine games.
  • 4-star Trey Hill: Played in 13 games and started in three.
  • 4-star Otis Reese: Played in 10 games and started one game.
  • 4-star Channing Tindall: Played in 13 games.
  • 4-star Kearis Jackson: Played in four games and will likely use a redshirt.
  • 4-star Azeez Ojulari: Played in two games after a November ACL injury and will redshirt.

Notable playing time outside of that top 15

  • In this class, 3-star DT Jordan Davis had the third-lowest composite rating among the 24 signees who enrolled and yet he played in 11 games and started four. He was one of the best finds of the class.
  • 3-star P Jake Camarda was the lowest-rated 2018 signee who enrolled, but he won the starting punting job and played in every game. That wasn’t a rankings miss, though. It is very rare for a kicker or punter to receiver anything higher than a 3-star rating.
  • There were 19 Bulldogs in the 2018 class that were rated higher by the recruiting industry than Chris Smith, but he was able to play in five games his freshman year. He proved too good to redshirt in 2018.

GAME-BY-GAME FRESHMAN HEAT CHECK 

This thought comes through my mind just about every time I see Isaiah Wilson: He’s on the verge of outgrowing his equipment. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Let’s continue the blog with an assessment of the five most valuable freshmen and redshirt freshmen to the team for the 2018 season.

We kicked this feature off after the LSU game. It is a nod to the top freshmen (redshirt or true) who have impacted the overall balance of the season up to this point.

  • OT Isaiah Wilson (Redshirt freshman and a former 5-star recruit): Wilson is not starting to be seen as a guy who will be right to consider his NFL draft ratings after the 2019 season. That’s the best analysis we can provide there. Movement: Remains at No. 1.
  • CB Eric Stokes  (former 3-star recruit): The redshirt freshman was an asset in coverage against those highly-regarded Crimson Tide receivers. Deandre Baker will not be back next season. The ability that Stokes has flashed as a redshirt freshman will serve the team well in 2019. If he keeps improving, he can win the No. 1 cornerback job. If he does, he will be ready. Movement: First ranking.
  • DT Jordan Davis (former 3-star recruit): There was strong consideration given to moving Davis up to No. 2 on this list. That’s because he made the much of a difference once he started to get a full plate of reps after the LSU game. Movement: Up from No. 4.
  • OL Cade Mays (former 5-star recruit): Let’s be honest with ourselves here. If he was healthy, he would have helped against Alabama. He’s missed the past three games, but he was everything Georgia could have hoped he would be during his freshman year. We’re not forgetting those reps on this list. Movement: Down from No. 2.
  • CB Tyson Campbell (former 5-star recruit): Despite that lofty ranking, most folks do not know that he only started one season in high school at cornerback. He’s just going to keep getting better. Movement: Dips to No. 4.
  • C/OG Trey Hill (former 4-star recruit): The best defensive lineman in college football beat this true freshman for an early sack in the SEC championship game. Hill provided steady play in the game from that point on. It was his third straight start for Georgia. Movement: First ranking.

OTHERS WHO HAVE MADE THE HEAT CHECK THIS YEAR: Freshman OLB Adam Anderson, Freshman P Jake Camarda, Freshman OLB Brenton Cox, and freshman QB Justin Fields.

THE BIG PICTURE, PART II

How much does Adam Anderson look like a Bulldog in this picture? (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

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