Georgia football: Which 2018 signees will fans need to be patient with?
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Patience makes perfect
With the best recruiting class in program history wrapped up, there has been a lot of speculation about which of Georgia football’s newest players will contribute as freshmen. Considering this class, the second best of all time, is filled with seven 5-star prospects, 12 top-150 players and more 4-star standouts than you can shake a stick at, there are plenty of candidates to earn immediate playing time.
But with a class this stellar, it is easy to forget about the other end of the spectrum: the players who will take some time to develop. As good as this class is, all 26 of these guys won’t contribute right away. A few guys will make early impacts and become starters, and a majority will have a chance to earn minutes in some capacity. But some guys will take a little before they’re ready to chip in.
Those are the players we’re focusing on here. Some are lower-rated guys who will need time to develop, while others are 4- or 5-star recruits who will require patience because of their personal circumstances or circumstances at their position.
Tramel Walthour, defensive lineman — Fans don’t expect Walthour, the second-lowest-rated signee in Georgia’s class, to do much this year or even during his Georgia career. But Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who understands more than most the value of a great defensive line, wouldn’t have signed the Liberty County star if he didn’t think Walthour could help the team. Of the DLs signed in this class — Walthour, 3-star Jordan Davis and 4-star Devonte Wyatt — Walthour has the most developing to do. At roughly 275 pounds, he is undersized for a DT. But he is athletic and quick. If he can add 20 pounds and keep that quickness, he could be a dangerous defensive lineman. We are still a year or two or more away from that possibility becoming reality.
Owen Condon, tackle — UGA coach Sam Pittman brought in a ridiculous amount of talent along the offensive line as part of this class, including a 5-star guard and a 5-star tackle. He did the same thing last season, with former 4-star Andrew Thomas earning a starting spot and a few more former 4- and 5-star prospects eyeing others heading into 2018. All told, Condon is the lowest-rated offensive line prospect signed by the program during the last two years. At 6-foot-7, Condon has all the size to be successful at this level, but he still has a long way to go. He was injured his senior season and didn’t play against great competition in high school, so there is plenty of work to do. He may be a redshirt sophomore or junior before we see him on the field frequently.
Luke Ford, tight end — One thing we have learned about offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is that he doesn’t target tight ends often. That fact has not prevented Smart from landing some of the best tight ends in America. Two 4-star tight ends, Ford and John FitzPatrick, signed on this year. Ford is the higher rated of the two and more likely to earn minutes, but don’t expect much from him this season or even the season after. He is behind Isaac Nauta, Charlie Woerner and Jackson Harris on the depth chart. With Jeb Blazevich out of the program, Ford could step in and pick up some of those snaps, but don’t expect him to catch many passes, at least not yet.
Zamir White, running back — This probably will be my most controversial selection because White is just so damn talented. He might be the most physically gifted tailback on the team, and when all is said and done, I think he could emerge as the best player in this signing class. The problem now is that he still is recovering from an ACL tear in his right knee suffered during his senior season. Unlike some dudes on this list, I don’t think it will take years for White to make his mark in Athens. Dawgs fans will clamor for him to run the ball early next season, even though he might not be ready. When he is ready, Georgia will have another Todd Gurley-Nick Chubb-Sony Michel-caliber player on its hands.
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It never rains in Georgia
File this under “things that make you go ‘hmmm.'” From a special report on the finances of UGA athletics by Seth Emerson of DawgNation:
Last year, in defending the reserve fund, [UGA athletic director Greg] McGarity said it was a “rainy day fund.” He listed a number of possibilities to plan for, just in case. But when presented with increased costs in coaching salaries this year, Georgia athletic leadership did not dip into the reserve fund. They chose to raise ticket prices, much to the consternation of fans such as Rebecca Phillips, whose research criticized UGA for not looking at donations required for the right to buy season tickets.
It’s almost as if the ticket price hike was actually about leveraging the football team’s success to make some money and not coaching salaries. Who’da thunk it?
I’m not in the mood to go on a rant about why McGarity can’t just say what he means. (I have news, Greg. If the Dawgs are good, those tickets will get sold regardless of how much more you charge or the reason you give for it.) So I’ll just send you to Senator Blutarsky and “Get The Picture,” where you’ll find all the righteous indignation you need.
Pile of narratives
Over at SB Nation, Jason Kirk looked at which programs recruited best during the Rivals era of recruiting rankings (2002-2018). It may surprise some to find out Georgia ranks second in college football during that stretch, with an average ranking of 6.8. Southern California (4.8), Florida State (7.1), Florida (7.7) and LSU (7.8) fill out the top 5. There are a lot of narratives to unpack in that one ranking. Thankfully, Kirk went ahead and unpacked it for us.
- Mark Richt wasted all that Peach State talent. Did he? His Dawgs very nearly played in three BCS title games and would have made the playoff a few times, if it had existed. Change a handful of plays and UGA might have had a minor dynasty.
- But that didn’t happen. Waste. OK.
- Richt let all that Peach State talent leave the state. Basically never ranking outside the top 10 in recruiting suggests otherwise. It’s easy to remember Cam Newton and Deshaun Watson leaving, but Richt’s Dawgs held up their borders comparably to other major powers, at one point ranking among the top-5 teams in top-25 locals signed.
- Kirby Smart has taken Richt’s program to a whole new level. That one is hard to argue against, after UGA nearly finished No. 1 on the field and then did so in recruiting, taking full advantage of the No. 1 dual-threat QB living in Metro Atlanta.
- Seeing all those national titles won by the top-8 teams on this list, while seeing Georgia with zero in this span, is really awkward. Really awkward.
UGA hoops nabs historic win over Florida
Georgia basketball’s performance in the SEC this season has been nothing short of disastrous, but that didn’t stop Mark Fox and his Dawgs from defeating Florida twice. The Bulldogs secured a much-needed victory, their first since defeating Florida two weeks ago, 72-69 in overtime on Wednesday night in Gainesville. It is Georgia’s first win in Gainesville since 2002 and the first time since 1996-97 it has swept Florida in a season.
Georgia is now 14-11, 5-8 in the SEC. The Dawgs will be back in action Saturday at 2 p.m. ET against No. 18 Tennessee at Stegeman Coliseum. The game will be broadcast on SEC Network.
Dawgs on Twitter
— Coach Kirby Smart (@KirbySmartUGA) February 14, 2018
Reminder to wear pink to @UGA_WBB's game tomorrow at 7 pm.
— Georgia Bulldogs (@UGAAthletics) February 14, 2018
We can’t wait to see you at Jack Turner Stadium for the 11th Annual Red & Black Showcase! The Dawgs are in action 5️⃣ times for the home opening weekend! #ItTakesWhatItTakes | #GoDawgs 🐶 pic.twitter.com/HgAHHduGTD
— Georgia Softball (@UGASoftball) February 14, 2018
Dad of the Year.
me as a dog parent pic.twitter.com/hz0Q1yzInx
— Kermit (@ltsKermit) February 15, 2018
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