There is an odd symmetry to UGA football this week. Lose at LSU by a 36-16 and the sky fell.
It literally fell. Those clouds were not raining down any sugar cubes either.
Yet somehow an almost flipped 36-17 result on the scoreboard in Jacksonville tilts the radar for the fair weather evaluations. Everyone now hopes DawgNation will feast on more than the world-famous Skyline Chili in Lexington this week.
Winning does that. What role did the program’s true freshmen and redshirt freshmen Bulldogs have in the good-but-by-no-means perfect 19-point win on Saturday?
This regular Sunday feature comes on Monday this week. It allows DawgNation to place a few more of those Halloween glow sticks beside the path of the nation’s top-rated recruiting class from the last cycle to TIAA Bank Field on Saturday.
Potential + Preparation = Performance
I do believe we can now place Jordan Davis among the freshmen Bulldogs who are now making the biggest contributions to the team at this time. Did you see that first career start on Saturday? (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
FRESHMAN REPORT QUOTABLE
When Kirby Smart was asked about the number of young players on his team after the big win in Jacksonville, what he said pretty much sums up where the talented but inconsistent Bulldogs are at after eight games so far this season.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys on this team,” Smart said on Saturday right after the win. “I was sitting in a meeting last night and I’m sitting here going [defensive coordinator] Mel [Tucker] is going to call out on three guys to do what we call ‘signal callers’ which is [to] go over notes of the game. We make the players present to the team.”
“Jordan Davis stands up and goes over short yardage and goal line [situations]. Brenton Cox stands up and goes over the pass rush plan. Tyson Campbell stands up and goes over the trick and gimmicks.”
I’m about to have a heart attack back there. I’m going ‘These three guys? Are standing up?’ and you are used to your older guys being able to do those. Those three true freshmen played a lot of snaps. Youth is a good thing. Because they listen and they learn. But they also grow up and get better. It is frustrating because there are plays out there that we have made in the past that we didn’t make in this game.”
“Youth should never be an excuse.”
That’s pretty much the type of things we try to include in every freshman report to balance out the hype on all these great young players.
QUICK FRESHMAN HEAT CHECK
Let’s begin 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 for UGA up to this point.
- CB Tyson Campbell (former 5-star recruit): The speedy first-year player now has 31 tackles this season. That is now the fourth-highest total on the team.
- OG/OT Cade Mays (former 5-star recruit): He loves to hunt, but his value so far this year has been as both a road grader, an enforcer and a true Swiss Army knife filling in all over the OL.
- OT Isaiah Wilson (Redshirt freshman and a former 5-star recruit): Wilson hasn’t had the year that Ben Cleveland had as a redshirt freshman starter on the OL as a year ago, but his play has been solid. He’s definitely worthy of starting each week and he gets bonus points for the durability he has shown so far.
- DT Jordan Davis: The only 3-star prospect on this list started this week against Florida and is already 13th on the team in tackles despite only appearing in six games so far. He’ll be relied on heavily to help fix the leaky run defense up to this point.
- QB Justin Fields: He didn’t see action against Florida, but he has sparked the team with his legs at times this fall.
A little more on Cade Mays: Mays has now played every position on the OL this fall outside of the center spot. He has now started the last four games for the Bulldogs. The former 5-star OT is credited with five starts among his eight games of action this year.
True freshmen travel roster note for this week: The Bulldogs brought 17 members of their 24-man signing class to Jacksonville. Matthew Downing, a preferred walk-on QB, also dressed out.
The math here beyond that: That previous item means that a whopping 26 percent of the travel roster for the Florida game was made up by Bulldogs who were still playing high school football a year ago.
PICTURE THIS, PART I
How many freshmen played against Florida (true or redshirt): 14
Who started (all freshmen): P Jake Camarda; DT Jordan Davis; CB Tyson Campbell; OG/OT Cade Mays; OT Isaiah Wilson
The 12 true freshmen who played against Florida: Camarda + Campbell + Davis + Mays and :
Which redshirt freshmen Bulldogs played against Florida:
- CB Eric Stokes
- OT Isaiah Wilson (starter)
Position breakdown for the true freshmen who saw action against Florida (with the LSU number):
- DB: 1 (1)
- ILB: 2 (2)
- OLB: 2 (2)
- OL: 3 (3)
- DL: 1 (1)
- P: 1 (1)
- QB: 0 (1)
- RB: 1 (1)
- TE: 0 (0)
- WR: 0 (0)
PICTURE THIS, PART II
True freshman Owen Condon did not play all season long until the Vandy game. He then made the travel squad but did not play for the LSU and Florida games. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Keep an eye on: True freshman OT Owen Condon. He made his second straight travel squad against an elite conference foe. Does that say something about the progress made by the big Oklahoman? Or does it say something about the lack of depth for the Bulldogs at tackle? I’d say both elements would apply here.
What should the 2019 recruiting class address based on what we see each week: The answers have been apparent for a few weeks now, but these are the high priorities for the next class based on what we have seen on the field each week.
- ILB: The Bulldogs desperately need stronger and more athletic play from this position. (A pair of impressive 4-star commits at this time)
- Cornerbacks: The Bulldogs brought two young freshmen DBs to Jacksonville beyond Campbell, but neither Otis Reese or Chris Smith saw action. Senior Deandre Baker is the team’s top player and he exhausts his eligibility this year. (No current commits. The Bulldogs need more size and speed at the cornerback spot. Especially in nickel and dime packages.)
- Defensive tackle: (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 tackle: Senior Kendall Baker was a key injury insert in this game. It was his most extended playing time of the season after starting 14 games in 2017. (UGA currently has two 4-star commits at this spot and an eye on a third)
- Quarterback (A 4-star prospect is committed, but another one makes a lot of sense for scholarship depth.)
The Tyson Campbell stat line from Saturday: Campbell had five tackles against Florida and held up much better than he did in his previous game at LSU.
The Justin Fields stat line: He did not see action on Saturday for the first time all season.
Best game as a Bulldog: Give that nod to Jake Camarda. He has been battling to save his first-team spot and he delivered there amid that pressure and the swirling winds he faced on Saturday. He got his big foot into several kicks. It can be argued that the boot Mecole Hardman downed at the 1 was his most important kick of the year. He had to pin the Gators deep after the staff elected not to try a field goal from the 37.
PICTURE THIS, PART III
Justin Fields did not see action in a game for the first time all season against Florida. That probably has been noted in other places prior to this space. That said, he did appear to be in good spirits after the game as he sought out Georgia native Emory Jones among the Florida team after the game. He was one of several UGA players who took the time to speak to Jones. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
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 (8 starts)
- CB Tyson Campbell (8 starts)
- RB James Cook
- OLB Brenton Cox
- OL Trey Hill
- OL Cade Mays (5 starts)
- ILB Channing Tindall
- ILB Quay Walker
True freshmen players who did not play: WR Tommy Bush; OT Owen Condon; OL Warren Ericson; QB Justin Fields; TE John FitzPatrick; WR Kearis Jackson; OLB Azeez Ojulari; DB Otis Reese; DB Chris Smith; RB Zamir White (out for the season); DB Divaad Wilson (likely out for at least 3-4 more weeks.)
Look out for: I would not be surprised to see true freshman DB Divaad Wilson make an impact over the final few games of the regular season. Maybe not this week with Kentucky. He is progressing well from his spring ACL injury.
Participation for the 2018 freshmen signees
This will be worth watching in terms of the new redshirt rules.
- OLB Adam Anderson: 8 games
- WR Tommy Bush: 1 game
- P Jake Camarda: 8 games
- CB Tyson Campbell: 8 games
- OT Owen Condon: 1 game
- RB James Cook: 8 games
- OLB Brenton Cox: 8 games
- OL Warren Ericson: 1 game
- QB Justin Fields: 7 games
- TE John FitzPatrick: 2 games
- TE Luke Ford: 7 games
- OL Trey Hill: 8 games
- WR Kearis Jackson: 4 games
- OL Cade Mays: 8 games
- OLB Azeez Ojulari: 1 game
- DB Otis Reese: 5 games
- OL Jamaree Salyer: 7 games
- DB Chris Smith: 3 games
- ILB Channing Tindall: 8 games
- ILB Quay Walker: 8 games
- RB Zamir White: 0 games (Redshirt-Summer ACL injury)
- DB Divaad Wilson: 0 games (Spring ACL injury
2017 signees who did not show on the game participation report: R-Fr. DB Tray Bishop; R-Fr.DB Latavious Brini; Sophomore DB Deangelo Gibbs; Redshirt junior OT D’Marcus Hayes; ILB Jaden Hunter; OL Netori Johnson; WR Matt Landers; Sophomore CB Ameer Speed.
PICTURE THIS, PART IV
Here’s a fair measure of perspective to go along with all the freshmen ups-and-downs so far this year. Jeremiah Holloman did not travel for the Florida game a year ago as a true freshman. He delivered two big touchdown catches on Saturday. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
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