NEW ORLEANS —Kirby Smart and his Georgia assistants have a saying, “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.”
“It’s ‘Next man up” time for the Bulldogs, and Smart will need freshmen to produce in the Sugar Bowl.
Georgia’s uncharacteristically high attrition has been well-documented, with 12 Bulldogs who have started games this season expected not to play against Baylor.
The Georgia coaches and players who are going to compete in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome have spun it forward as an opportunity for younger players to show their abilities.
The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) play No. 7 Baylor (11-2) at 8:45 p.m. on Wednesday.
UGA quarterback Jake Fromm, who could be playing his last game in a Georgia uniform, has led the young players with a positive mindset.
“I think it says a lot about the guys who are here, who have stepped up to the challenge and are ready to go in and compete,” UGA quarterback Jake Fromm said. “It’s an awesome opportunity for those guys to show what they’ve been working on all season.
“Just because they haven’t been playing as much doesn’t mean they haven’t been working as hard. They’re here, they’ve been putting in work, and so they deserve the opportunity.”
Fromm said that freshman receiver George Pickens, in particular, has impressed him in the bowl practices after a season of ups and downs.
“I think George has continued to get better and better, and he keeps showing how he’s going to be a big-time football player,” Fromm said. “We’re excited for him and hoping he has a big break-out game.
“He’s come a long way … he’s a great guy to have on the team, in the locker room and on the field with you.”
Atop the list of players who could break out against Baylor, we begin with No. 1:
WR George Pickens
Pickens has had to grow as a person as much as learning to be a more disciplined and better player, and the bowl sets up well for him to showcase his abilities.
“It’s a pleasure to go play with him, he makes it fun, and that’s what you want,” Fromm said. “You want guys who love football, and he loves football.”
Georgia fans should love it that Fromm is speaking glowingly of Pickens and feel even better if they play well together in the Sugar Bowl.
RB Kenny McIntosh
McIntosh didn’t get as many opportunities as other backs this season, but when he did touch the ball, he produced.
Smart said on Tuesday that D’Andre Swift’s availability would effect how much work McIntosh gets, but he has been impressed with the freshman from Pompano Beach.
“Kenny didn’t get as much work in practices until now, (and) he’s gotten a tremendous amount of work and done a really good job,” Smart said, asked which players have impressed in bowl practices. “Kenny’s done a really good job. He’s grown up and played a lot more.”
McIntosh’s vision and ability to cutback makes him a good matchup against a Baylor defense that swarms the ball.
S Lewis Cine
Cine’s speed and athleticism bring great appeal, and his Texas roots may provide added incentive. Baylor was among Cine’s offers, along with such high profile schools as Alabama, Clemson, Auburn and Texas.
Cine had six tackles against LSU, playing in 12 of 13 games this season. He recorded an interception against Arkansas State.
Cornerback Eric Stokes said on Monday that Cine would rank among the four fastest player on the team, along with himself, Tyson Campbell and James Cook.
OG Warren Ericson
Ericson has only seen action in five games this season, but all of the sudden, this redshirt freshman from Suwanee is expected to start at right guard against one of the top defenses in he nation.
Ericson is a 6-foot-4, 315-pounder who played at North Gwinnett High School. An early enrollee in the 2018 class, Ericson could further solidify a spot in the 2020 rotation with a strong performance.
In fact, Ericson’s ability to play center, tackle and now guard makes him an early candidate for the Swiss Army Knife role Cade Mays has played the past two seasons.