Analysis: Which newcomers will play, and which will redshirt?

Rico McGraw has played himself into a possible first-team role.

By now, Georgia coaches have likely met and decided who will definitely play this season, and who will likely be aimed for a redshirt. Some are obvious and without debate. Those players are assigned not only to the two-deep at their position but also to special teams, where their redshirt can be burned without regret.

Other players, however, do get the redshirt, at least for now. Injuries, and the course of the season, often intervene to change those plans.

In any case, Georgia coaches rarely inform the media whether someone is in the latter category. The mantra is that everyone is being prepared to play, at least everyone who is healthy, because you don’t want anyone letting up in practice. The reality, of course, is that some players will redshirt because it’s best for them and the program.

Here’s a best guess as to how Georgia’s newcomers – including freshmen and transfers – project for playing time this season.

BOOK IT: THESE GUYS WILL PLAY

DL Trent Thompson: He will play. Oh, he will play a lot.

QB Greyson Lambert: Yeah, we won’t get into whether he’ll start  on Saturday, but it’s a good bet he’s going to play. Lambert actually doesn’t have a redshirt year left so he’s going to play regardless.

WR Michael Chigbu and Terry Godwin: These two freshmen separated themselves early on as the new receivers ready to play right away. Chigbu’s size fills a void, while Godwin’s talent is too good to sit.

DB Rico McGraw: He may start at the star, and even if he doesn’t he figures into the mix at the other cornerback spots.

ILB Natrez Patrick and Roquan Smith: There may not be a starting position for either quite yet, but they’re going to push the veterans ahead of them for playing time. Both are being prepared to contribute early.

ILB Jake Ganus: The UAB transfer is only at Georgia for one year, and even if he doesn’t start he’ll see the field, perhaps in a third-down role.  But Ganus appears to be more than just a nice spring story. The coaches feel he has something to offer.

OLB Chuks Amaechi: This junior college standout wasn’t brought to campus with the idea of waiting around a year. The depth chart at both linebacker spots is daunting, but Amaechi’s ability to play both makes him too useful not to play.

DB Juwuan Briscoe and Jarvis Wilson: Maybe they don’t start right away, but both are being prepared to play. Briscoe could be a factor on special teams, possibly even returning kicks. Wilson first came to the fore during spring practice, and might be the first safety off the bench in place of Dominick Sanders or Quincy Mauger.

IT’S UP IN THE AIR

DE Michael Barnett: The shoulder surgery that Barnett underwent in January, shortly after arriving on campus for what was called a pre-existing injury, took Barnett from a certainty to play to a maybe.

S Johnathan Abram: This Mississippi native had a solid spring, but not as good as Wilson. Abram almost certainly would have played if this was last year’s greener and depth-challenged secondary. But this year the playing time won’t come as easy.

OL Patrick Allen, Sage Hardin and Sam Madden: Georgia is set at all five starting spots, and Rob Sale doesn’t plan to substitute until the game is out of hand. But if Sale is looking to 2016 he might want to get one of these guys some game experience; both of the team’s tackles are seniors, and guard Greg Pyke will be eligible for the NFL draft. Allen especially projects as an eventual starter at tackle.

S Deandre Baker and Rashad Roundtree: The secondary depth and quality of the other newcomers would normally indicate a redshirt, but Jeremy Pruitt’s week-to-week depth chart gyrations could end up benefiting the young guys.

TE Jackson Harris: Everything would normally indicate a redshirt for Harris, with Jeb Blazevich, Jay Rome and Jordan Davis seemingly ahead of him. But Harris impressed in the spring and has apparently kept doing so in the preseason. He might already be ahead of Davis on the depth chart.

DL Jonathan Ledbetter, Chauncey Rivers and Justin Young: It’s a good bet that one or two of these three plays this year, it’s just hard to tell which one it would be. Ledbetter was a near-lock to play this season but has missed the past few weeks with a knee injury. Tracy Rocker said it didn’t necessarily mean Ledbetter can’t help this season. He did have the spring to get acquainted with the team and the system.

WR Jayson Stanley and Shaquery Wilson: The indication right now is both are out of the projected rotation, which consists of six-to-eight receivers. But they’re both probably an injury or two away from getting into the mix.

OLB D’Andre Walker: This is a case of someone with a good future who’s capable of playing this season, but who just has too much talent in front of him.

PROBABLY WILL REDSHIRT

TB Tae Crowder: There would have to be a lot of injuries at the well-stocked tailback position, where Crowder has five guys ahead of him. Of course, 2013 and 2014 saw exactly that happen, so who knows.

DL DaQuan Hawkins: It didn’t help Hawkins’ cause that he was the last member of the class to arrive on campus.

ILB Juwan Taylor: Another numbers situation. Georgia is much deeper at inside linebacker this year, though Taylor has earned positive reviews from assistant coach Mike Ekeler.

S Kirby Choates: There’s a numbers game in the crowded secondary. But it’s also dangerous to count three-star recruits out of Jeremy Pruitt’s secondary, as he’s done well with them, including Dominick Sanders as a true freshman last year.

OL Mirko Jurkovic: The former Ohio State signee, who joined the Bulldogs late this summer, is set to miss the season with a knee injury.

 

 

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