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Kirby Smart has tempered expectations around early enrollees.

What we’ve learned so far about Georgia’s 2021 early enrollees

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What we’ve learned about Georgia’s 2021 early enrollees to this point in spring practice

Kirby Smart was only speaking about quarterback Brock Vandagriff, but the Georgia head coach could’ve been talking about any of the 16 early enrollees Georgia added to the program this spring.

“Brock has the least amount of reps and, I guess, familiarity with the offense, so his learning curve is greater but he’s also picking it up quick, especially for a mid-year freshman,” Smart said.

Smart noted the early enrollees added nervous energy prior to Saturday’s scrimmage. It was their first big college scrimmage after all.

The head coach has also been consistent to temper expectations for the entire class. No one could reasonably expect the likes of Vandagriff, Nyland Green, Amarius Mims and others to be a starter by practice nine and Smart stressed that point following Saturday’s scrimmage.

“Are they improving? Yes,” Smart said. “Are they going to be good players? Yes. Are we there yet? No.”

Related: ESPN explains why Georgia should be ‘genuinely optimistic’ about the future at quarterback

Green and Mims entered spring practice with the greatest expectations as both occupy positions of need and came in with the physical gifts that all them to potentially contribute early.

“I think he’s long, fast and very athletic,” safety Lewis Cine said of Green. “As every younger guy, he’s still learning also. There’s a lot we can see from him going forward.”

With Mims, it’s much of the same. The physical gifts are there. He just has to learn how to train like a college football player and not a 5-star recruit.

“He’s one of those guys that’s got that god-given (talent),” Jamaree Salyer said of Mims. “He’s got to build on it and get in the weight room with coach (Scott) Sinclair and coach Luke.”

It hasn’t been all glass-half-empty though for the newcomers this spring, as a few Bulldogs have done positive things. Georgia moved Lovasea Carroll to cornerback to help with the depth at the position.

Smart did call the move experimental and doesn’t know if Carroll will stick there long-term. The head coach though has liked what he’s seen so from the 4-star running back.

“We think he’s really fast. He’s embraced the position. He’s made some good plays; he’s made some bad plays,” Smart said of Carroll. “He’s not played this position, so to put him out there and put him on some experienced wideouts and guys who have played a lot of football, it’s probably not fair to him.

“But that’s how you grow and that’s how you get better.”

Carroll entered a deep running back room, as the Bulldogs brought back all five running backs from the 2020 team. Even when Kenny McIntosh went down with an elbow injury, Georgia can still turn to Zamir White, Kendall Milton, James Cook and Daijun Edwards.

The Bulldogs have experimented with position switches in the past, with Walter Grant moving to tight end before moving back to outside linebacker in 2019. But Mark Weeb came to Georgia as a wide receiver before moving to defensive back and never left.

On the offensive side of the ball, two pass catchers have earned praise for have they’ve adjusted to Georgia. Interestingly enough, neither one of them played high school football this past fall.

Smart shared his thoughts on 4-star tight end Brock Bowers, who came to Georgia from Napa, Calif. Bowers’ senior football season was moved to the spring, but Bowers went ahead and made the decision to be an early enrollee.

“He’s a talented guy, he’s bright and learning quickly; he’s got some speed and burst, he has great hands,” Smart said. “He’s got toughness. He’s going to continue to work in the weight room and get stronger. But he can do things with the ball in his hands and he’s a good athlete.”

Bowers does have to become more physical and add strength, particularly when it comes to blocking in the run game. Georgia also has good depth at tight end with the Bulldogs bringing back Darnell Washington and John FitzPatrick. Bowers though brings a different skillset to the position and it seems he’s already put it to use.

Wide receiver Adonai Mitchell did not play high school football last season either after reclassifying and joining the 2021 recruiting class. The 6-foot-4 recruit flipped his commitment from Ole Miss to Georgia in June, before spending the fall working on his craft with a trainer.

While Smart hasn’t said anything publically about Mitchell to this point, former Georgia wide receiver Terrence Edwards created a buzz when he shared his thoughts on the 6-foot-4 wide receiver.

Related: Adonai Mitchell: Terrence Edwards compares the 2021 signee to a record-setting NFL rookie

Georgia’s 2020 early enrollees didn’t get a chance to go through spring practice last season because of the pandemic. Beyond that, only Jermaine Burton emerged as what Smart would likely define as a difference-maker.

Smart wants his team to grow this spring. That can be a painful process, especially for a group of athletes who could be seniors in high school.

That’s why Smart has been hesitant to dole out praise. He wants to temper the runaway expectations that tend to follow freshmen.

The early growing pains and extra spring practice for the 16 early enrollees could prove to be beneficial come the fall. While Georgia doesn’t have many holes, it does have a few that the likes of Green, Mims or Mitchell could possibly fill.

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