DawgNation will offer this report after every game which focuses on the freshmen who played, what they did and which ones might lose one of those newly-reshaped (four games or less) redshirts. Check out this Georgia football edition after that hard-fought top 10 home win against Notre Dame.
The freshmen report files a little later this week. This space will not chronicle excuses as to why.
It won’t be because keeping up with a busy recruiting weekend is taxing. Or because its author is taking an “off” week on the schedule just as the Bulldogs do.
The reality here is that this top 10 matchup with a stout opponent said something about the team, its freshmen and the quality of the opponent.
The Bulldogs didn’t go heavy on the young pups on Saturday.
While the Bulldogs have an enviable stable of freshmen players this was the first time all season in which the redshirts and first-year guys did not make a sizable impact.
Why? Well, this is Georgia. The nation’s No. 3 team now has at least two waves of highly-regarded classes ahead of those 2019 signees in Athens.
Notre Dame is also a formidable opponent. The 2019 version of the Irish will wake up some more echoes this fall under Brian Kelley. This group was so stout that the Sanford Stadium crowd gave them a classy standing ovation at the end of the 23-17 result.
Georgia played 60 players on Saturday night. They sent 86 out on the field for the previous game against Arkansas State.
This freshman report feels more worthy of a hybrid “2019 signee report” after the Irish win. That’s because at least one 2019 signee (junior college cornerback D.J. Daniel) loomed very large in the win after getting thrust into increased service after Eric Stokes suffered an early injury.
What did the freshmen movement look like against Notre Dame? Let’s start fast with a brisk pace around a few key weekly numbers:
- 13 of the 60 Bulldogs who played were freshmen (redshirt or true freshmen)
- Georgia did start two redshirt freshmen players in OLB Azeez Ojulari and STAR Divaad Wilson.
- The Bulldogs did start a 2019 signee in graduate transfer Lawrence Cager for the second straight game.
Want a clear takeaway from the freshman who played earlier this year? The Bulldogs saw 13 of 61 play against Vanderbilt, 29 of 86 see time against Murray State and 30 of 86 log reps versus Arkansas State.
Who played against Notre Dame (by classes):
- Freshmen: 9
- Redshirt freshmen: 4
- Touchdowns by true or redshirt freshmen: 0
- True or redshirt freshmen among the leading tacklers: Divaad Wilson (3) was it a two-way tie for the sixth-highest tackle total on the team.
Notre Dame game freshman focus
Georgia played 13 redshirt or true freshmen against the Irish. That’s 13 out of the 60 total Bulldogs who saw the field. As a means of comparison, Notre Dame played 54 players against UGA. There were also 13 true or redshirt freshmen among that lot.
The big picture tallies up to 22 percent of all the Bulldogs who played on Saturday. That equates to:
- 0 of 1 QBs (3 QBs played last week)
- 0 of 4 RBs (8 RBs played last week)
- 2 of 7 WRs (9 WRs played last week)
- 0 of 8 OLs (13 OLs played last week)
- 1 of 3 TEs (8 TEs played last week)
- 2 of 9 DLs (11 DLs played last week)
- 2 of 7 ILBs (7 ILBs played last week)
- 2 of 5 OLBs (6 OLBs played last week)
- 3 of 9 DBs (12 DBs played last week)
- 0 of 1 PKs (2 Ks played last week)
- 0 of 1 Ps (No change)
- 1 of 2 LSs (No change)
An interesting finding from that study: Georgia basically plays the same group of DLs, ILBs and OLBs regardless of the difficulty of the opponent.
FRESHMEN BULLDOGS IN 2019
What’s more important? Snaps or starts? Both are important, but there is a reason why certain players start the game and stay on the field for the biggest plays. That’s because the coaches trust them to play winning football by what they have seen on the practice field.
There are common instances where the scheme fit based on each opponent allows for a different starting rotation as well.
Here is the weekly list of the true freshmen and redshirt freshmen that have started games in 2019.
- Redshirt freshman TE John FitzPatrick (1 game)
- Redshirt freshman WR Kearis Jackson (1 game)
- Redshirt freshman OLB Azeez Ojulari (4 games)
- Redshirt freshman DB Divaad Wilson (1 game)
Who started against Notre Dame (all freshmen): Redshirt freshman OLB Azeez Ojulari and redshirt freshman DB Divaad Wilson
How many different Bulldogs have played in 2019: 94
How many of those have been freshmen or redshirt freshmen: 33 (35 percent of all participation)
Overall participation in 2019
- Redshirt or grad transfer seniors: 9
- Seniors: 7
- Redshirt juniors: 5
- Juniors: 15
- Redshirt sophomores: 13
- Sophomores: 11
- Redshirt freshmen: 12
- Freshmen: 21
THE BIG PICTURE, PART I
(Redshirt) Freshman Game Ball
DB Divaad Wilson (Northwestern High, Miami, Fla.)
Wilson had his first breakout game for the Bulldogs. It built on the promise he showed against Texas in the Sugar Bowl at the close of the 2018 season. He was in line for a lot of playing time coming out of spring practice, but a knee injury limited him for the balance of his true freshman season.
Wilson kept rehabbing and working. He waited for his time. The injury to Tyson Campbell allowed him to earn the first start of his Georgia career and he made the most of it.
He made his UGA debut against Texas in the Sugar Bowl. Wilson came up with four stops in the game, including one TFL and also a pass breakup. He first dressed for Georgia last fall for the Auburn game.
Check out a glimpse of his inspiring personal story. His grandfather meant the world and them some to him.
— Divaad "Newt" Wilson #LLP (@NikemanNewt) December 24, 2017
Wilson was at one time committed to Florida during his recruiting story. DawgNation is thankful he made the move to flip to Georgia on that very productive first early signing period for the Bulldogs on Dec. 20, 2017.
.@NikemanNewt on third downs in the third quarter:
Interception, tackle to keep Notre Dame short of a first down and a pass breakup 👀👀https://t.co/H6Ot1NvLjt
— DawgNation (@DawgNation) September 23, 2019
- The Divaad Wilson stat line: 3 tackles, 1 interception, 1 PBU
- What Kirby Smart said about Wilson: “He works hard. Divaad’s a talented player that loves football,” Smart said after the win. “He works every day. He understands coverages and leverages real well and made a big play tonight.”
- What Wilson told DawgNation: “I live for big games. My mom always tells me I’m built for big games, so let’s do it.”
- Final 247Sports recruiting rankings: Nation’s No. 26 CB/No. 242 overall prospect/Wilson was the 17th highest-rated recruit in Georgia’s 2018 class.
Notable time for other freshmen against Notre Dame
- Redshirt freshman OLB Azeez Ojulari: Had two tackles in the game. He now leads the Bulldogs with his nine QB hurries for 2019.
- Freshman WR Dominick Blaylock: Caught two passes for 19 yards and flashed more of that All-American ability with a 16-yard gain in the game. He also served as the punt returner in the game after Tyler Simmons fumbled a punt that the Irish recovered at the Georgia 8.
- Interesting that: True freshman WR George Pickens did not catch a pass in the game but he was targeted several times. He seems to be adapting to becoming a more physical blocker in the Georgia run game. Redshirt freshman RB Zamir White also did not play in the game. Georgia only played three running backs all night against the Irish. James Cook also got spot duty behind primary run threats D’Andre Swift and Brian Herrien.
FRESHMEN SUPERLATIVES FOR 2019
There are a number of categories in which a redshirt or a true freshmen Bulldog is already leading the team in 2019.
- Receptions in a game: 5 (George Pickens is now tied with graduate transfer Lawrence Cager)
- Receiving yards in a game: 112 (Blaylock)
- Leading receiver (yards for the season): 169 (Blaylock)
- Touchdown catches: 2 (Tied for 1st – Blaylock)
- Longest catch: 60 (Blaylock)
- Longest TD catch: 60 (Blaylock)
- Longest run: 62 (Kenny McIntosh)
- Longest TD run: 62 (McIntosh)
- Sacks (game): 1.5 (Nolan Smith)
- Sacks (season): 1.5 (Ojulari and Smith are among a five-way tie for the team lead)
- Tackles for a loss (game): 1.5 (Smith)
- Interceptions (game): 1 (Lewis Cine, tied for season-high)
- Interceptions (season): 1 (Cine, tied for season-high)
THE BIG PICTURE, PART II
What was another buzz-worthy freshman moment of the game? It had to be the trips down on kickoff return for true freshman DT Travon Walker.
Walker is an oddity in his own right for college football. It is very uncommon to see an athletic “3-tech” DT flying down the field on kickoff coverage at 290 pounds.
The former 5-star from Thomaston can do it. Nimbly.
The Fighting Irish took note of that role for Walker across the season’s first three games. They saw the damage he was capable of doing. So the visitors sought to apply a market correction. Notre Dame sent a pair of blockers flying at Walker on almost every Georgia kickoff.
Those scrums were among the most heated of the game. It drew a least one penalty for holding on a return that caused a massive rules interpretation on the play.
Walker never backed down. Didn’t budge an inch. It was just another snapshot of what will make him a special player at Georgia outside of his elite size and boundless athletic ability. He’s a fighter.
THE BIG PICTURE, PART III
HOT BOARD: Game-by-game freshman heat check
FRESHMAN MOMENT OF THE NOTRE DAME GAME: Did you see those late downs against Notre Dame with the game on line? The DawgNation “Freshman Report” must take note of the fact that true freshmen Nakobe Dean, Nolan Smith and Travon Walker were out there for the biggest plays of the game.
Let’s continue the blog with an assessment of the five most valuable freshmen and redshirt freshmen to the team for the 2019 season.
We introduced this feature last week after the first three games of the season. It is a nod to the top freshmen (redshirt or true) who have impacted the overall balance of the season up to this point.
- No. 1: OLB Azeez Ojulari (Redshirt freshman and a former 4-star recruit): The opinion here is that Ojulair is already among the best 10 players on the team. Easy. He might be inside the top 5 by now. The former Marietta High star is one of two redshirt or true freshman Bulldogs to start a game this season.
- No. 2 WR George Pickens (former 5-star recruit): Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm needs to keep throwing those jump balls to Pickens. The odds will always be in Georgia’s favor. If not for a few curious interpretations of the pass interference rules, he’d have had a much bigger impact in the Notre Dame game.
- No. 3 WR Dominick Blaylock (former 4-star recruit): Blaylock looks like he is capable of doing more for Georgia when he gets the opportunities. Don’t look now, but he’s the leading receiver (yards) on the team right now after four games.
- No. 4 OLB Nolan Smith (former 5-star recruit): Smith had some key late pressures against the Irish. His combination of power and speed rushes make him an all-around pass rusher.
- No. 5 DT Travon Walker (former 5-star recruit): Walker rounds out this list of former All-Americans making the first “heat check” listing for 2019. He’s been a first-teamer on kickoff coverage since the opener and he now appears to be a first-team contributor on the defensive line in third-and-long and dime situations.
- No. 6 DB Divvad Wilson (former 4-star recruit): That was a strong game for Wilson. He cracks the top six this week after his work against Notre Dame. The plays he made in the second half allowed the Bulldogs to take the lead against the Irish.
OTHERS TO MAKE THE HEAT CHECK THIS FALL: Redshirt freshman RB Zamir White.
FRESHMEN TO PLAY EVERY GAME
The following true or redshirt freshmen Bulldogs have played in every game so far this season:
- S Lewis Cine
- ILB Nakobe Dean
- Redshirt TE John FitzPatrick
- ILB Trezmen Marshall
- Redshirt OLB Azeez Ojulari
- WR George Pickens
- CB Tyrique Stevenson
- OLB Nolan Smith
- Redshirt walk-on LS Payne Walker
- DT Travon Walker
- Redshirt DB Divaad Wilson
Participation for 2019 signees
The Bulldogs who have seen action so far in 2019 is worth watching in terms of the new redshirt rules.
- QB Stetson Bennett IV (redshirt sophomore): 2 games
- WR Dominick Blaylock: 3 games
- WR Lawrence Cager (grad transfer senior): 4 games
- S Lewis Cine: 4 games
- CB D.J. Daniel (junior college transfer): 3 games
- ILB Rian Davis: 0 games
- ILB Nakobe Dean: 4 games
- TE Ryland Goede: 2 games
- OLB Jermaine Johnson (junior college transfer): 4 games
- DL Zion Logue: 2 games
- ILB Trezmen Marshall: 4 games (special teams)
- QB D’Wan Mathis: 0 games
- OL Warren McClendon: 2 games
- RB Kenny McIntosh: 2 games
- DL Tymon Mitchell: 3 games (he saw action against Notre Dame)
- DL Bill Norton: 2 games
- WR George Pickens: 4 games
- TE Brett Seither: 2 games
- OLB Nolan Smith: 4 games
- CB Tyrique Stevenson: 4 games
- WR Makiya Tongue: 2 games
- OL Xavier Truss: 2 games
- DT Travon Walker: 4 games
- DL Tramel Walthour: 0 games
- OL Clay Webb: 1 game (Murray State)
- TE Eli Wolf (grad transfer senior): 4 games
True freshmen signees who did not play this week: ILB Rian Davis, TE Ryland Goede, QB D’Wan Mathis, OL Warren McClendon, RB Kenny McIntosh, DL Zion Logue, DL Bill Norton, TE Brett Seither, WR Makiya Tongue, OT Xavier Truss, and OL Clay Webb.
The 2019 Freshman Reports on DawgNation
- Freshmen Report: Georgia 55, Arkansas State 0
- Freshmen Report: Georgia 63, Murray State 17
- Freshmen Report: Georgia 30, Vanderbilt 6