ATHENS – Isaiah Wilson was pegged as a major addition to the 2017 Georgia football team. An impact player at a need position who would help turn things around. It didn’t quite go that way.
The Bulldogs did win the SEC championship. Wilson didn’t play a down. Still, amid the celebration last Saturday night, the freshman offensive tackle felt like a part of the process.
“It’s tough at first, but once you adjust to it and understand why it’s happening, you’re OK. Especially when you know you’re winning, and you’re helping the team win,” Wilson said in the locker room at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. He may be redshirting this year, but he was on the sideline for Georgia’s 28-7 win over Auburn.
“Most people see a redshirt as I’m just on a sideline not doing anything. But I mean, I think I’ve personally embraced it,” Wilson said. “Scout team, I give the [first team] the best look I can. On the sidelines you guys have probably seen that I’m trying to keep the crowd energized, keep the sideline into the game. Once you embrace it it’s very easy.”
When Wilson, the product of Brooklyn, N.Y., committed to Georgia, it was considered the coup de grace of a great recruiting class for Kirby Smart: Wilson chose UGA over Alabama and Michigan during a ceremony at his high school that was streamed online by so many people, including current Bulldogs, that the feed crashed several times.
Wilson’s commitment came a day after Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy all announced they were returning for their senior seasons. It was thought Wilson would make just as much of an impact, considering his 5-star status and his being a position of such need. It didn’t hurt that at 6-foot-7 and 350 pounds, he already had SEC size.
But while one freshman did win a starting spot, it was Andrew Thomas, the Pace Academy (Atlanta) product who arrived more polished and ready to play. Veteran Kendall Baker came out of the pack to win the job at left guard. And by early in the season, if not earlier, it was clear Wilson was headed for a redshirt.
Did the heat in the deep South have an effect on the kid from New York? Oh yes, Wilson acknowledged with a smile.
“Let’s just say I was wearing shorts and no shirt and I was still gasping for air at times,” Wilson said. “But now I’m starting to get more used to it. I’ve adjusted to it well.”
Smart, speaking in early August, also said that Wilson “wilted a little bit” during a particularly hot practice. Smart also said Wilson wasn’t the only one to do so that day.
In any case, Wilson said he had no regrets about coming to Georgia, and that redshirting this year was the best thing that could have happened to him.
How did he improve? His answer was quick.
“Patience. I have a lot of patience now. Patience in my set,” Wilson said, adding: “My hands are better. My weight’s better. I’m stronger, I’m faster. I improved in every facet of my game.”
Next year, Georgia figures to only lose one starter, but it’s at Wilson’s position. Isaiah Wynn has been the starting left tackle, and while he could be replaced by shifting Thomas over, that would open up right tackle for Wilson. There will be other candidates, however, so Wilson will have to continue to compete.
That all can wait. In the meantime, the New York kid is ready to go to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., and keep doing his part to achieve something he claims he saw coming.
“In high school when I made the decision to come here I knew the coaching staff, I knew the talent we had,” Wilson said. “In my head I told my family we’re going to be real special. We have all the talent in the world.”