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Could rising sophomore Jaden Hunter take a redshirt this season?

Could any sophomores redshirt for Georgia this season?

Cy Brown

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3 UGA sophomores who could redshirt

The NCAA handed down a new rule last week that will allow college football players to play in as many as four games and still redshirt, retaining a year of eligibility. In the time since the announcement, a lot has been made about how the new rule will change college football, and rightfully so. And most of that talk has centered around how the new rule will affect the freshmen arriving on campuses this fall.

But what about those already on campus? Because while we’re likely to see a higher percentage of freshmen redshirted across college football next season, it’s also possible we’ll see an uptick in the number of sophomores taking a redshirt, at least in the short term.

Last year at UGA, eight out of 25 signees avoided a redshirt. And most of those who avoided the redshirt did so because they were needed, and their importance to the team should grow in their sophomore seasons. But there are a few special cases of rising sophomores who could benefit from sitting most of next season and gaining an extra year of eligibility. Here are three:

  • Jaden Hunter, LB — Hunter is a prime example of the issues with the old redshirt rule. He played in one game last season, the opener against Appalachian State, and burned his redshirt. Had the new rule been put in place a year ago, he’d still be a freshman with four years of eligibility remaining. But if the coaches have no plans to use him extensively on defense or special teams this season — a distinct possibility considering the immense amount of talent the Dawgs are stockpiling at linebacker — it might be prudent to limit him to four games, giving him three more seasons as a potential contributor instead of two.
  • Deangelo Gibbs, DB — Gibbs played in six games last season but wasn’t with the team for its College Football Playoff run and wasn’t enrolled in classes this spring. He’s since returned to school, but coach Kirby Smart called any talk of his return to the team “premature.” We really don’t know what his status is for this season, and if he is back with the team, there’s a good chance he’s fallen a step or two behind his teammates who went through bowl and spring practice. A redshirt season could give him a chance to catch up and still provide three solid years. However, a lack of depth in the secondary could prevent the coaches from redshirting any defensive back with a pulse.
  • Justin Shaffer, OL — Shaffer played in seven games as a backup guard last season. For a freshman offensive lineman, this amount of playing time typically is a sign that big things lie ahead. But Georgia has been loading up on talented offensive linemen. Five-star recruit Jamaree Salyer and 4-star prospect Trey Hill are the most talented duo of guards signed in college football last season, and both figure to fight for a place on the depth chart. With Kendall Baker and Ben Cleveland penciled into the starting guard spots, that could bump down Shaffer significantly. Giving him an extra year of eligibility and finding a role for him down the road could be the most appropriate move if it’s clear he won’t beat out Hill or Salyer.

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Sports Illustrated is in the midst of counting down the 100 best college football players of 2018, and four Georgia Bulldogs earned spots on the back end of the list. Here’s who made the cut so far:

  • 100. Rodrigo Blankenship
  • 73. Jonathan Ledbetter
  • 68. Andrew Thomas
  • 65. Jake Fromm

SI goes into too much depth on each player to include extensive excerpts here, but click the link to receive a national perspective on four of your favorite Dawgs.

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