NEW ORLEANS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart says freshman outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari is the first person that comes to mind when it comes to which young player took advantage of the bowl practices
“Azeez is a kid that came out with an attitude of ‘I”m going to go play, (and) I want to get better,’ ” Smart said at his Monday morning press conference at the Marriott Convention Center.”
There were plenty of others who impressed the head coach during the bowl workouts, too.
“Channing (Tindall) and Quay (Walker), and I think the young O-linemen really grew up,” Smart said. “You saw them most of the year in Cade Mays and Trey Hill, but those guys grew up a lot.”
Smart said receivers Tommy Bush and Matt Landers “made strides,” along with tight end John Fitzpatrick.
The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) will have their depth tested at 8:45 p.m. on Tuesday against No. 15 Texas with as many as three top defenders out.
All-American cornerback Deandre Baker reversed his initial decision to play and will be on the sideline cheering.
Smart said Monday that All-SEC outside linebacker D’Andre Walker (groin) and Freshman All-American candidate Jordan Davis (back) could be limited at defensive tackle or out against Texas.
Georgia has one of the youngest rosters in college football, with 68 percent of the players freshmen or sophomores.
The Bulldogs, however, have shown growth and improvement throughout the season and Smart sounds confident the young players will step up.
Ojulari’s growth could lead to a few snaps in place of Walker, but Smart pointed out there are other options, as well.
“Behind (Walker) we’ve got a group of freshmen that have all kind of played different roles throughout the year,” Smart said. “Brenton Cox, Robert Beal, Azeez are getting an opportunity to work in that group, too, with the time we’ve had.
“And then you’ve got to look at Malik Herring and other guys that play defensive end. It will be done by committee.”
Smart said Georgia will also use a committee approach when it comes to defensive play calling with former coordinator Mel Tucker moved on to Colorado as the Buffaloes head coach.
“Between Dan (Lanning), (Glenn) Schumann, Tray Scott, myself, the GAs work really hard,” Smart said. “Both Wendel (Davis) and Bakari (Guice) have done a great job of stepping up and helping from that standpoint.
“We do it by committee most of the time, anyway. Mel called the defenses for us, but between series, during the week of game planning, it was done by committee.”
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