NEW ORLEANS — Georgia freshman Divaad Wilson made his collegiate football debut in the Sugar Bowl, capping his determined return from knee surgery.
“It was a new experience for me,” said Wilson, who suffered a torn ACL and MCL in the Bulldogs’ third spring practice back in March. “I’d been cleared to play since the Auburn game (Nov. 10). I knew since the SEC Championship Game I’d be playing (in the Sugar Bowl).
Georgia coach Kirby Smart said he’d looked forward to Wilson’s return, as the 6-foot, 195-pounder from Miami Northwestern brought the sort of size and speed he’s looking for to the nickleback (star) position.
“We thought with a 30-day window that if we’re going to get to where we want to go as a program, as a football team, we’ve got to get bigger at the nickel star,” Smart said last Tuesday. “We’ve got to get more athletic and be able to play heavier guys, 200 pounds.”
Georgia freshman Divaad Wilson (16) leaves field with Richard LeCounte
Wilson, a 2018 early enrollee who chose Georgia over Alabama, Ohio State and Florida, among others, made four tackles and recorded a pass break-up.
Wilson got significant playing time in the 28-21 loss to Texas, coming in when junior nickleback Tyrique McGhee left the game injured in the first quarter.
“The plan was for me to get in the first quarter, all along,” Wilson said. “Learning the scheme wasn’t really difficult because during the rehab process I was practicing with the team day-in and day-out.”
Wilson stayed focused and engaged, making way for Tuesday night’s opportunity and impressing his head coach in the process.
“I give the kid a lot of credit, he’s been frustrated, and he wanted to play,” Smart said. “He had the ACL injury in the spring, and we thought he was going to be a really good player.”
Wilson figures to be an important figure in the secondary, and especially so if junior J.R. Reed decides to forego his senior season of eligibility.
Reeds is one of a handful of UGA juniors mulling over their future.
Georgia started two freshmen at cornerback, Eric Stokes and Tyson Campbell, along with sophomore Richard LeCounte and Reed.
McGhee, who came in as the fifth defensive back, is a junior. Mark Webb is a sophomore defensive back who also played in the Sugar Bowl.
Wilson marks the most notable Georgia example of a player benefitting from the NCAA’s new redshirt rule. Players can now play up to four games — at any point during the season — without losing a year of eligibility.
Proud of u my boy.💯☝🏽Felt good being on that field with you https://t.co/ozBpu4HHp1
— Tyson Campbell™ (@tysoncampbell_) January 2, 2019
Georgia football Sugar Bowl coverage