Would you like to receive DawgNation news alerts? Excellent! News alerts will be displayed in your browser.
Jeff Sentell/DawgNation
Channing Tindall (left), Brenton Cox (center) and Quay Walker are three potential impact freshmen defenders for the Bulldogs in 2018.

UGA recruiting: How hard will it be for all these talented freshman to play?

Jeff Sentell

Want to attack every day with the latest UGA football recruiting info? That’s what the Intel will bring at least four days a week. We offer a good rep at an interesting question: How many of Georgia’s elite freshmen prospects can contribute significantly in 2018? 

Can the Bulldogs see a big impact from the nation’s top-rated recruiting class in 2018? The Bulldogs do have a history under Kirby Smart of playing guys regardless of class standing.

“What we’ve driven home to those guys is everything you get here, you will have to earn,” Smart said during his preseason press session with the media. “You will have to go out there and earn it, and you say, where can this class impact you.”

UGA football-UGA recruiting-Georgia recruiting
Looking for three names who could make an early impact? Channing Tindall (left) and Brenton Cox (center) and Quay Walker (right) certainly could get their numbers called early in 2018. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

The Bulldog staff showed the team a few clips on the eve of camp that should have made an impact.

Those featured some of the best players in college football over the last 4-5 years.

They were doing things that no recruiting service gave them their stars for.

“We watched a tape last night of Reuben Foster hitting Leonard Fournette his freshman year, Trent Richardson making a tackle on kickoff his freshman year, Sony Michel making a tackle against Clemson his freshman year, and there were two common themes to every guy we showed,” Smart said. “All four went in the first round, none started their freshman year, and all of them were on special teams.”

Those guys were special, but the first times they really flashed on Saturdays came in the kicking game.

“Can they buy into that?” Smart said. “Did they dream last year about coming in and making a tackle on punt team? Is that something they can see themselves doing and have value in that? Our job as a coaching staff is to sell that and make sure that we have those guys helping our team wherever it may be. It may be starting, but that’s not what you see all the time.”

How can 5-stars quickly see time for the defending SEC champions? We asked the returning Bulldogs that very question at SEC Media Days last month.

How hard will it be to crack the UGA lineup?

There are two clear perspectives to note here.

  • Georgia just signed the nation’s top-rated recruiting class. That includes a record haul of 7 prospects which carried the elite 5-star rating on the 247Sports composite standard. No program – not even mighty Alabama – had done that before.
  • The Bulldogs just played for the national championship. They took the Tide into overtime in a back-and-forth game that showed just how close the Bulldogs were to taking home a national title last season. Georgia will also be a popular top 5 pick as all the preseason national polls are released.

There’s an intersection there to think about. There is a lot of talent coming in for a team that was pretty good a year ago. It takes a strong core of players to extend the eventual national champion into overtime.

How hard will it be for a freshman to break through in 2018? Let’s look at last year. There were just three freshmen from last season that made a serious impact on that title run.

Justin Fields-Georgia football-UGA football-UGA recruiting
Freshman QB Justin Fields was another one of those 5-star recruits to sign with the Bulldogs in 2018. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Jake Fromm, D’Andre Swift and Andrew Thomas were also a part of the nation’s third-rated class in 2017, too.

They had to earn their roles, too.

“We bring in talented guys every year,” senior Terry Godwin said at SEC Media Days. “This year I still think it is going to be special. We just have a lot of talent everywhere. I guess that’s what the game is coming to… More talent and being able to be a better athlete than what it has been. Everybody is not (just) that big and strong and slow guy and then you have some of those fast guys.”

Godwin said that he sees more adaptable all-around players these days. Not just a few talented guys that fit into specific skill sets coming in.

“Everyone is big and strong and fast now,” he said. “The game is kind of speeding up and it is something we have got to adapt to.”

When do the vets know a young guy can help the team early?

Do the young guys look like they can help the team win now? That’s a question that will be vetted a lot over the next two weeks.

Channing Tindall-UGA football-Georgia football-Georgia recruiting
Freshman ILB Channing Tindall was also rated as a 5-star recruit for 247Sports. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Godwin has his answer. What does he look to see from even the most talented young players the Bulldogs bring in?

“His type of mentality,” Godwin said at SEC Media Days. “Not as far as the athleticism because you are at a D-1 college football program for a reason. We know you have the athleticism but it is all about the mentality. Can you mature fast enough and learn the plays and be able to go out there and play that football. It is a different speed out there and it is just something they have got to get used to.”

J.R. Reed keys on the mental side of the game.

“I look for them to learn the playbook,” Reed also said at SEC Media Days. “A lot of guys have talent on this team. We have a lot of young guys that came in with talent. It is all about learning the playbook. That’s the way they can get on the field.”

But be sure not to forget about …..

The secondary is depleted. The starters at OLB are now in NFL camps. Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker articulated how much John Atkins will be missed during his rare press session.

JR Reed cautions everyone to not forget about the upperclassmen Bulldogs when they focus on the season at hand. He said it is their time, too. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Atkins was a stout anchor along the defensive line. Tucker said that Atkins has now set the standard for that position at Georgia.

“We have a lot of spots open on defense,” Reed said. “So it is all up to them. How long will it take them to learn? But we also have got guys that have been in the program for three or four years that people that tend to forget and it is their time to play, too.”

He expects to see that happen at linebacker.

“We’ve got a lot of linebackers that have been waiting their turn,” Reed said. “Tae Crowder, Juwan Taylor and Natrez Patrick. We’ve got some guys on the D-line that is their turn. We’ve got David Marshall and Tyler Clark emerging.”

Reed seemed to be on it. Crowder and Patrick saw first-team reps during the open practice on Saturday.

With all the emphasis this blog places on recruiting, I think Reed’s message strikes the right tone. When most camp battles take place, the older and stronger guy should win. He has that physical advantage, but also a mental edge from having repped the playbook for multiple spring practices and fall camps.

That guy should know what the coaches want. They’ve seen what their peers had to do to get on the field firsthand.

When a freshman can still find a way to supplant those vets coming out of fall camp, that’s a sign that some of those recruiting analysts might actually know what they are talking about.

Big news regarding an elite JUCO target

D.J. Daniel is now ready to make his college decision. The 4-star CB target from Georgia Military College released his final 3 schools and his decision date on Monday.

Daniel rates as the nation’s No. 2 junior college cornerback and as the No. 5 overall prospect on that level for 247Sports this year.

Watch his most recent DawgNation interview here.

Miss any Intel? The DawgNation recruiting archive will get you up to speed just as fast as former Georgia All-American LB Roquan Smith found the ball after the snap.