ATHENS – For all the big names, the only Georgia freshman who had a hand – literally – in a score on Saturday was one who hadn’t been mentioned much at all.
D’Andre Walker, a highly-regarded outside linebacker, came in buried on the depth chart. But there was a chance on special teams, where he grabbed it: Walker blocked a punt in the third quarter, resulting in a safety.
Walker didn’t technically get credit for the two points – it went as a “team safety” in the box score – but he did get the congratulations of his teammates as he walked off.
“Once we all saw it was him we were all pretty juiced up and happy, because it’s like seeing a little brother make a play,” senior outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said.
A lot of little brothers saw action on Saturday for Georgia, whose freshman class ranked sixth nationally this year, according to the 247Sports Composite. But only one of those started.
The newcomer with the biggest impact on Georgia’s 51-14 opening win was of course quarterback Greyson Lambert, the transfer from Virginia. In fact two transfers earned starts: Jake Ganus, the senior from UAB, was out there at inside linebacker, continuing a feel-good story after he was forced to depart a program that shut down last year. He finished the game with three tackles.
Rico McGraw, the freshman from Nashville, got the start at the star position and saw a lot of time. He was on the field for the good early moments for the defense, but also for the bad ones later, when Louisiana-Monroe started racking up its 206 passing yards.
But McGraw has a bright future, according to senior receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who has to face him in practice every day.
“He’s aggressive. He has good ball skills. That’s what I got from it,” Mitchell said. “And he loves the game. He’s passionate about it. I know every time he goes up against me in practice he’s going hard. And I know when he lines up against me I don’t have to take that play off.”
The offensive freshman who had the biggest impact was Terry Godwin, who actually caught Lambert’s first pass, a short screen.
“I was shocked when they called the play,” Godwin said.
Godwin finished with three catches for 31 yards, and was on the field a lot. If he stays healthy, it looks like he’ll be very involved in the offense.
“He’s elusive,” Mitchell said of Godwin. “We tease him all the time because he doesn’t move incredibly fast but you can’t tackle him. Every time he touches the ball. He didn’t go down on the first guy that tried to tackle him. I could be wrong but I don’t think so. I think he’s going to be a great player.”
Jackson Harris didn’t catch a pass, but the freshman played a lot, which stood out. Harris was the second tight end in the game, rather than veterans Jay Rome and Jordan Davis.
Receiver Michael Chigbu entered late in the third quarter but didn’t catch a pass. There were plans to continue emptying the bench, coach Mark Richt said, but they were derailed by the lightning that caused the coaches to end the game with 9:54 still left.
The most highly-recruited freshman didn’t have much of an impact. Defensive lineman Trent Thompson didn’t see the field until after the first lightning stoppage. Jonathan Ledbetter, another highly-touted defensive lineman, came in on the same series, replacing Thompson.