Freshman report on UGA football: Georgia 45, Georgia Tech 21

Georgia football-Georgia Tech-rivalry
Jordan Davis had another big game for the Bulldogs on Saturday against Georgia Tech.

Georgia played 17 true freshmen against Georgia Tech on Saturday. That was yet again another impressive number against a supposed team rival. Especially competing against a foe who played just 47 total players in the game.

The last home game of the 2018 season was a day for the seniors. The Bulldogs recognized a host of them. But it was also another day where the future of the program points to still brighter times up ahead.

Those UGA seniors have now seen the program win 28 of their last 32 games. And yet it feels like that future still appears to be brighter than the football in the rearview mirror.

A lot it has to do with the names that appear in the DawgNation freshmen report each week.

POTENTIAL TURNS INTO PRODUCTION

Georgia coach Kirby Smart shared some very candid comments about three of his freshmen Bulldogs after the Georgia Tech game. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Kirby Smart shared some interesting comments about a few of his freshman Bulldogs in the wake of the 45-21 win against Georgia Tech.

They proved to be some of his most candid comments of the season regarding a few members of the 2018 signing class.

Maybe it was the finality of the last regular season game.

Maybe it was because he’s seen the growth and development of several future impact players for his program.

Let’s go through them one-by-one.

KIRBY SMART ON ADAM ANDERSON

“Adam is rolling. He’s getting better. He’s taking on a role in special teams, and he’s developing. He’s got a lot of speed, a lot of good instincts. He’s become a lot more serious about learning his assignments, which has given us an opportunity to place some responsibility on him, and he continues to get better at that.”

KIRBY SMART ON JORDAN DAVIS

“Oh, I love that kid. He’s such a bright kid, man. He’s got great instincts. He loves the game. He was so fired up about this game. He embraced the challenge (of taking on a cut blocking and triple-option team like Georgia Tech). Some people don’t embrace the challenge. I thought our guys really embraced the challenge and he particularly told the linebackers ‘I’m going to protect you’ and ‘I’m going to dominate the guy in front of me so that you can make plays.’ He’s just been a pleasure to work with and we push him really hard. He probably gets pushed harder than any player on the defensive line because he is so young. But he’s a great kid. Ya’ll [meaning the media] will look forward to visiting with him. He’s got a great personality.”

KIRBY SMART ON CADE MAYS

“Very dependable. He’s a kid that came in that’s played every position except for center. He’s played four positions on our offensive line. He’s been very intelligent. He’s been able to go in, plug and play. A guy gets hurt, he goes in, he pops in there. He takes three or four reps at each position during the week, and he’s able to go in and communicate and function, and that’s been big for us. He’s really physical, really tough guy. Those qualities are pretty important in offensive linemen.”

FRESHMEN STARTERS IN 2018

Here is the weekly list of the true freshmen and redshirt freshmen that have started games for the Bulldogs this year.

How many freshmen played against Georgia Tech (true or redshirt): 22

Who started (all freshmen): P Jake Camarda; OL Trey Hill; OT Isaiah Wilson

THE BIG PICTURE, PART I

It is this scribe’s opinion that Adam Anderson looks to have the potential to very very good at UGA. He has a very high prospect ceiling going forward. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

This blog “starts fast” with this hot take: The more I see of Adam Anderson, the more I think he might have as high of a ceiling as any of the 5-star freshmen the Bulldogs signed in the 2018 class. That guy is going to be a real big problem for people. And soon.

He has serious athleticism and length. The Rome High program definitely instilled a toughness about him as well as an ability to put in the work to get better. He’s shown that he’s been up to the challenge in the moments he’s seen so far.

THE WEEKLY FRESHMAN HEAT CHECK 

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

We kicked this feature off 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.

  • OT Isaiah Wilson (Redshirt freshman and a former 5-star recruit): Wilson has been the most consistent freshmen starter for the Bulldogs all season. The former 5-star redshirted in 2017 and appears to have benefitted greatly from that experience. Movement: Remains at No. 1.
  • OG/OT Cade Mays  (former 5-star recruit): Mays dressed out for the Tech game, but did not see action. He seems like the type of competitor that will find a way to get on the field against Alabama if he possibly can. Movement: Up from No. 3.
  • CB Tyson Campbell (former 5-star recruit): The speedy first-year player had two tackles, including a tackle for loss against the Yellow Jackets. That ties him with senior LB Juwan Taylor for the fifth-highest total on the team. Movement: Down from No. 2.
  • 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 had three tackles against the Jackets and also came away with his first solo college sack on a fourth down try. He had a half-sack in the last game against UMass before that. His 23 tackles for the season are the 13th-highest total on the team. Movement: Up from No. 5.
  • QB Justin Fields: Fields is a great talent. I wonder how many observers feel that Jake Fromm’s improvement has been forged by the competition to hold off Fields. I don’t think that gets brought up enough. That’s not controversial. It is just the Georgia way of doing things now at every position. Movement: Down from No. 4.

WHO IS KNOCKING ON THE DOOR HERE: Eric Stokes and Adam Anderson, to say the least.

THE BIG PICTURE, PART II

Jordan Davis notched his first solo college sack against Georgia Tech on this fourth down play. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Justin Fields stat line: Fields completed 2 of his 3 passes for minus-13 yards. How does that happen? Well, the freshman caught a deflected pass that he threw well behind the line of scrimmage. He had three carries for 10 yards and also caught that first pass as a Bulldog. That one went for a 10-yard loss.

Fields first entered the game when: He came into the game on the second drive of the second half. There was 1:08 left to play in the third quarter. He didn’t play at all against Florida and now the Georgia Tech and South Carolina games are the only instances where he did not get a rep during the first half.

Subtle freshman note of the week: Freshman cornerback Chris Smith II played in his fifth game for the Bulldogs this season. The talented and hard-working product out of Hapeville Charter has not burnt his redshirt status for this season.

THE BIG PICTURE, PART III

Freshman OL Trey Hill earned his second career start against Georgia Tech on Saturday. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The 17 true freshmen who played against Georgia Tech: Camarda + Hill and:

  • OLB Adam Anderson
  • CB Tyson Campbell
  • RB James Cook
  • OL Owen Condon
  • OLB Brenton Cox
  • DT Jordan Davis
  • OL Warren Ericson
  • QB Justin Fields
  • TE Luke Ford
  • OLB Azeez Ojulari
  • DB Otis Reese
  • OG Jamaree Salyer
  • DB Chris Smith
  • ILB Channing Tindall
  • ILB Quay Walker

Which redshirt freshmen Bulldogs played against Georgia Tech:

  • OLB Robert Beal, Jr.
  • DB Latavious Brini
  • OL/DL Netori Johnson
  • DB Eric Stokes
  • OT Isaiah Wilson (starter)

Position breakdown for the true freshmen who saw action against Georgia Tech (with the UMass number in parentheses):

  • DB: 3 (3)
  • ILB: 2 (2)
  • OLB: 3 (2)
  • OL: 4 (4)
  • DL: 1 (1)
  • P: 1 (1)
  • QB: 1 (2)
  • RB: 1 (1)
  • TE: 1 (1)
  • WR: 0 (1)

Something you might learn by reading the DawgNation “freshmen report” each week: James Cook has picked up the nickname “The Mongoose” around the team. That’s the word that Jake Fromm used to describe him on Saturday. “Just slippery when he goes into the game,” Fromm said on Saturday.

THE BIG PICTURE, PART IV

Kirby Smart had a lot of positive things to say about big Jordan Davis after the Georgia Tech win on Saturday. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

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

  • ILB: The Bulldogs still need stronger and more athletic play from this position. Monty Rice’s ankle injury shows just how thin this position will be next year in terms of veteran depth for a big game. (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 key roles against Tech, but this wasn’t the game to deploy an elite pass coverage unit against a team that only threw it 14 times. Chris Smith also saw time against the Yellow Jackets. (The Bulldogs do have a solid pledge from the nation’s No. 3 safety in Under Armour All-American Lewis Cine. They also flipped 4-star junior college CB D.J. Daniel from South Carolina earlier this season. The Bulldogs need more size and speed at the cornerback spot. Especially in nickel and dime packages.)
  • Defensive tackle: Freshman DT Jordan Davis was the only freshman defensive lineman to see time against the Jackets. Devonte Wyatt was the only sophomore DT to get reps. Malik Herring slid inside and got his first start at DT. (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: The Bulldogs were beset by injuries across the line but still found a way to put four true freshmen OLs to the field. Trey Hill started his second straight game. (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 very much in the race for 5-star center Clay Webb. Webb hopes to be a guard early on in college.)
  • Quarterback: Justin Fields, a true freshman QB everyone knows about, wasn’t able to add as many highlights to the reel as he did last week against UMass. 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 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. Look for the Bulldogs to try to add a second scholarship QB to this class.)
  • 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 12 games after signing with UGA in 2014. He will also free up a scholarship slot. Walter Grant, who has started eight 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.)

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.
  • UMass: The third UGA series during the first quarter of the game.
  • Georgia Tech: The eighth UGA series during the third quarter of the game.

Interesting fodder for stat guys: Georgia Tech only played 47 players in the game. The Bulldogs countered with a playing corps of 50 reserves that supported their 22 starters. It meant a 72-47 edge in participation for the game, too.

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 (11 starts; he didn’t punt on Saturday but he did hold for Rodrigo Blankenship)
  • CB Tyson Campbell (10 starts)
  • RB James Cook
  • OL Trey Hill (2 starts)
  • ILB Channing Tindall
  • ILB Quay Walker

True freshmen players who did not play this week: WR Tommy Bush; TE John FitzPatrick; WR Kearis Jackson; OL Cade Mays; 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: 12 games
  • WR Tommy Bush: 2 games
  • P Jake Camarda: 12 games
  • CB Tyson Campbell: 12 games
  • OT Owen Condon: 3 games
  • RB James Cook: 12 games
  • OLB Brenton Cox: 11 games
  • DT Jordan Davis: 10 games
  • OL Warren Ericson: 3 games
  • QB Justin Fields: 11 games
  • TE John FitzPatrick: 2 games
  • TE Luke Ford: 10 games
  • OL Trey Hill: 12 games
  • WR Kearis Jackson: 4 games
  • OL Cade Mays: 10 games
  • OLB Azeez Ojulari: 2 games
  • DB Otis Reese: 9 games
  • OL Jamaree Salyer: 11 games
  • DB Chris Smith: 5 games
  • ILB Channing Tindall: 12 games
  • ILB Quay Walker: 11 games
  • RB Zamir White: 0 games (Redshirt-Summer ACL injury)
  • DB Divaad Wilson: 0 games (Spring ACL injury)

Redshirt status watch: OT Owen Condon (3 games); OL Warren Ericson (3 games); WR Kearis Jackson (4 games); DB Chris Smith II (5 games and can no longer redshirt)

2017 signees who did not show on the game participation report: R-Fr. DB Tray Bishop; DB Deangelo Gibbs; ILB Jaden Hunter; WR Matt Landers; ILB Monty Rice (injury); CB Ameer Speed.

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