Freshman report on UGA football: Georgia 27, Auburn 10

georgia football-uga-dn90-ole miss-otis reese
True freshman DB Otis Reese earned his first career start against Auburn.

The name Otis Reese was added to a pretty impressive list on Saturday. The true freshman defender from Lee County in Leesburg started against Auburn.

He became the fifth true freshman prospect from the nation’s top-rated recruiting class in 2018 to start for UGA in 2018.  Reese, who elevated into spot held all year by 5-star sophomore Richard LeCounte III, finished the day with a single assisted tackle.

That’s a good lesson about UGA football these days. On a lot of levels. Reese earned the starting nod after a good week of practice. In doing so, he supplanted the team’s leading tackler through the first nine games of the year in LeCounte.

He got reps. But I’m sure he will also see this play right here in his mind this week. Not to mention the film.

THE BIG PICTURE, PART I

True freshman Otis Reese saw this Auburn defender slip past the Bulldog defense for a touchdown on Saturday. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

BIG PICTURE: FRESHMAN REPORT

Reese, a promising freshman prospect, is now pushing a talented sophomore who came into the game leading the team in tackles.

That situation would seem to adhere to the Georgia standard now in terms of competition at every position. Reese started, but LeCounte still finished with six tackles in his own right against Auburn.

Eric Stokes came off the bench at conerback against Auburn. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Reese’s day was worth noting, but he wasn’t the most interesting freshman Bulldog on Saturday for me.

That would be redshirt freshman Eric Stokes. Stokes took over for true freshman Tyson Campbell in the middle of the Auburn game.

Stokes, who did not play at all in the Kentucky game, took advantage of those reps.

He was at his best when his best was required. The redshirt from Eastside High in Rockdale County held up in coverage during a key goal-line stand that held the Tigers to a field goal.

FRESHMEN STARTERS IN 2018

It was mentioned earlier, but here’s the list of the true freshmen and redshirt freshmen who have started games for the Bulldogs this year.

In case you missed it: The Bulldogs started five true freshmen and one redshirt freshman against Auburn. That included three true freshmen starters on defense.

THE WEEKLY FRESHMAN HEAT CHECK 

Let’s continue the blog with a current assessment of the five most valuable freshmen and redshirt freshmen to the UGA football team at this time.

We kicked off this feature after the LSU game. It is a nod to the top 5 freshmen (redshirt or true) who have impacted the overall balance of the season up to this point.

  • CB Tyson Campbell (former 5-star recruit): The speedy first-year player has started every game. He now has 37 tackles this season, but he saw his reps decrease against Auburn and finished with just two tackles. That is now tied for the fifth-best total on the team.
  • OG/OT Cade Mays  (former 5-star recruit): Mays had what Smart called a “stinger” at Kentucky, but still started against the Tigers. He flashes a lot of value in his true freshman year and has now started seven of the last eight games this year. When I watch him play, I don’t really think of him as a true freshman anymore. He’s gotten that much playing time in a variety of roles across the line.
  • OT Isaiah Wilson (Redshirt freshman and a former 5-star recruit): Wilson is interesting to watch every week. He has started every game this year, but he somehow managed to stay out of the spotlight. That’s probably a good thing for an offensive tackle.
  • DT Jordan Davis: (former 3-star recruit:) Davis is the only Bulldog who wasn’t rated as a 5-star on this list. The North Carolina native still started his third straight game as a Bulldog and finished with one tackle.
  • QB Justin Fields: Fields received consistent and steady playing time against Auburn on Saturday. DawgNation’s Mike Griffith has a thorough breakdown of his game. It is worth noting that Fields completed both of his pass attempts against the Tigers.

WHO’S HEATING UP RIGHT NOW: Robert Beal Jr. is also coming on strong here. He forced an early fumble while covering a kickoff against the Tigers. I’d also consider Adam Anderson to be a very hard charger right now to crack this list. He continues to play early and all over the front for the Bulldogs.

THE BIG PICTURE, PART II

True freshman LB Adam Anderson continues to show great athleticism and effort all over the front each week. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Subtle freshman note of the week: Sophomore ILB Monty Rice led the Bulldogs in tackles for the third consecutive game. His work continues to offset the trend from earlier in the year where a defensive back (LeCounte, Campbell or J.R. Reed) led the Bulldogs in six of their seven games.

That trend spiked in Game 7. That’s when the Bulldogs lost to LSU. True freshman Jordan Davis started in Jacksonville against Florida and then Rice led the team in tackles. Davis went on to start at Kentucky. Rice then led the team in tackles.

That sure reads like a trend for Rice. Sparked by the insertion of Davis into the lineup.

Davis is progressing. He’s able to soak up blocks. That allows Rice and the rest of the inside linebackers to play clean and flow to the football.

Seems like a redshirt freshman is developing: Latravious Brini, a 3-star cornerback prospect coming out of high school, is listed on the UGA roster at safety. The South Florida native played in the season opener against Austin Peay but then did not see time over the next seven games. Brini has since made his way onto the field in back-to-back weeks at Kentucky and again on Saturday against Auburn.

THE BIG PICTURE, PART III

Understatement time: Jordan Davis gets in the way of what offenses are trying to do. (Bob Andres/AJC)

How many freshmen played against Auburn (true or redshirt): 16

Who started (all freshmen): P Jake Camarda; CB Tyson Campbell; DT Jordan Davis; OL Cade Mays; DB Otis Reese and OT Isaiah Wilson

The 13 true freshmen who played against Auburn: Camarda + Campbell + Davis + Mays + Reese and:

Which redshirt freshmen Bulldogs played against Auburn:

  • OLB Robert Beal, Jr.
  • DB Latavious Brini
  • DB Eric Stokes
  • OT Isaiah Wilson (starter)

Couple of things to monitor: Freshman OLB Brenton Cox did not play against Auburn. Luke Ford did play against the Tigers after not getting any time last week against Kentucky.

Position breakdown for the true freshmen who saw action against Auburn (with the Kentucky number in parentheses):

  • DB: 2 (2)
  • ILB: 2 (1)
  • OLB: 1 (2)
  • OL: 3 (3)
  • DL: 1 (1)
  • P: 1 (1)
  • QB: 1 (1)
  • RB: 1 (1)
  • TE: 1 (0)
  • WR: 0 (0)

THE BIG PICTURE, PART IV

Otis Reese (17; far right) made the first start of his UGA career on Saturday against Auburn. He helps bring down Auburn’s JaTarvious Whitlow with the help of Eric Stokes (27) and Monty Rice (32) on this snap. (John Kelley/UGA)

What should the 2019 recruiting class address: These answers have been apparent for a few weeks, but these look like the priorities for the next class based on what we have seen on the field in 2018.

  • ILB: The Bulldogs desperately need stronger and more athletic play from this position.  (This class has a pair of impressive 4-star commits at this time.)
  • Defensive backs: Senior Deandre Baker is the team’s top player and he exhausts his eligibility this year. Campbell and Stokes played roles against Auburn early. The Bulldogs do have a solid pledge from the nation’s No. 3 safety prospect in Under Armour All-American Lewis Cine. The Bulldogs need more size and speed at the cornerback spot. Especially in nickel and dime packages. (Tyrique Stevenson, the nation’s No. 5 CB for this cycle, was an official visitor on Saturday for the game.)
  • Defensive tackle: Freshman DT Jordan Davis started his third straight game. (UGA has a 5-star and a pair of 3-stars committed at this time. Another DL will likely slide over to DT as he matures)
  • Offensive line: UGA currently has two 4-star commits at OT and an eye on a third for Sam Pittman’s room in the 2019 class. The Bulldogs are also in the race for 5-star center Clay Webb. Webb hopes to be a guard early on in college. (Webb was back in Athens on Saturday. Georgia also hosted official visitor Trevor Keegan on Saturday. The 6-foot-6, 315-pound senior rates as the nation’s No. 17 OT prospect for 2019 on the 247Sports Composite ratings.)
  • Quarterback: Justin Fields, a true freshman QB everyone knows about, received his most extended playing time against a top 25 opponent this week. The Bulldogs are razor-thin at this position with just two scholarship players. (Mississippi senior John Rhys Plumlee is committed in the 2019 class. He now rates as the nation’s No. 8 dual-threat QB prospect, but another recruit at this position makes a lot of sense for scholarship depth.)
  • OLB: D’Andre Walker is set to graduate. That’s the starter at the “Jack” position for the Bulldogs. Senior Keyon Richardson has also seen action in all 10 games after signing with UGA in 2014. He will also free up a scholarship slot. Walter Grant, who has started seven games this year, will be a junior in 2019. (Georgia has a commitment from 5-star OLB Nolan Smith and 4-star junior college OLB Jermaine Johnson. It is very hard to imagine any school anywhere having a more impressive pair of incoming prospects at this position.)

THE BIG PICTURE, PART V

Justin Fields played during the first quarter against Auburn. That was the first time he entered the game during the first quarter in 2018. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Justin Fields stat line: Fields completed 2-of-2 passes for 20 yards. He was also sacked twice. The freshman also totaled up eight yards on five carries with his legs.

Fields first entered the game when: He came into the game on the first drive against Auburn. The red zone situation saw him jog onto the field with the Bulldogs facing a 2nd-and-goal from the 4. It was the first time that Fields saw action during the first quarter in 2018. He also came in on the next series during the second UGA drive in the first quarter against the Tigers.

Here’s a look at the times when Fields has entered games this year:

  • Austin Peay: The fourth UGA series during the second quarter of the game.
  • South Carolina: The 10th UGA series during the fourth quarter of the game.
  • Middle Tennessee: The fourth UGA series during the second quarter of the game.
  • Missouri: The fourth UGA series during the second quarter of the game.
  • Tennessee: The third UGA series during the second quarter of the game.
  • Vanderbilt: The fourth UGA series during the second quarter of the game.
  • LSU: The fifth UGA series during the second quarter of the game.
  • Florida: Did not play.
  • Kentucky: The fourth UGA series during the second quarter of the game.
  • Auburn: The first UGA series during the first quarter of the game.

True freshmen to play in every game

Simply put, they have seen time in every game. There are a few of these guys who largely get those snaps on special teams.

  • OLB Adam Anderson
  • P Jake Camarda (10 starts)
  • CB Tyson Campbell (10 starts)
  • RB James Cook
  • OL Trey Hill
  • OL Cade Mays (7 starts)
  • ILB Channing Tindall
  • ILB Quay Walker

True freshmen players who did not play this week: WR Tommy Bush; OT Owen Condon; OLB Brenton Cox; OL Warren Ericson; TE John FitzPatrick; WR Kearis Jackson; OLB Azeez Ojulari; DB Chris Smith; RB Zamir White (out for the season); DB Divaad Wilson (Spring ACL injury but has now been cleared to play.)

Participation for 2018 freshmen signees 

This is worth watching in terms of the new redshirt rules.

  • OLB Adam Anderson: 10 games
  • WR Tommy Bush: 1 game
  • P Jake Camarda: 10 games
  • CB Tyson Campbell: 10 games
  • OT Owen Condon: 1 game
  • RB James Cook: 10 games
  • OLB Brenton Cox: 9 games
  • DT Jordan Davis: 8 games
  • OL Warren Ericson: 1 game
  • QB Justin Fields: 9 games
  • TE John FitzPatrick: 2 games
  • TE Luke Ford: 8 games
  • OL Trey Hill: 10 games
  • WR Kearis Jackson: 4 games
  • OL Cade Mays: 10 games
  • OLB Azeez Ojulari: 1 game
  • DB Otis Reese: 7 games
  • OL Jamaree Salyer: 9 games
  • DB Chris Smith: 3 games
  • ILB Channing Tindall: 10 games
  • ILB Quay Walker: 9 games
  • RB Zamir White: 0 games (Redshirt-Summer ACL injury)
  • DB Divaad Wilson: 0 games (Spring ACL injury)

Redshirt status watch: TE John FitzPatrick (2 games); WR Kearis Jackson (4 games); CB Chris Smith (3 games)

2017 signees who did not show on the game participation report: R-Fr. DB Tray Bishop; Sophomore DB Deangelo Gibbs; Redshirt junior OT D’Marcus Hayes; ILB Jaden Hunter; OL Netori Johnson; WR Matt Landers; Sophomore CB Ameer Speed.

THE BIG PICTURE, PART VI

It was a great sign for big games that lie ahead to see Zamir White go through his first “DawgWalk” of the 2018 season. The nation’s No. 1 RB for the 2018 cycle is out this year after a preseason knee injury. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

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