ATHENS — Rico McGraw has been and continues to be a great mystery.
It started with his wild and woolly recruitment, which saw him twice commit to Georgia and once to Alabama, before ultimately signing with the Bulldogs. And it has continued with virtually no interviews since national signing day, then showing up in Georgia’s season opener as a starter in the defensive backfield.
So while we still don’t know much about McGraw as a person, we do know he must be a pretty good football player to earn a start in the Bulldogs’ nickelback as a true freshman.
“Part of the reason young guys play this time of year is because they’re ready to, and other times it’s because you have a lack of depth at certain positions,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said this week. “You almost have to play them. It’s probably a little bit of both for him, but he’s done a nice job.”
The 6-foot, 192-pound athlete from Nashville got an indoctrination by fire this past Saturday in the Bulldogs’ opener against Louisiana-Monroe. As the nickelback – or “Star” as Georgia labels the position – McGraw was often assigned to covering the slot.
Manning that position for the Warhawks was Rashon Ceaser. The senior got loose in Georgia’s secondary to the tune of 153 yards on 13 catches and scored two touchdowns. McGraw was credited with three tackles.
So whether McGraw continues to be the starter as the Bulldogs head to his hometown to face Vanderbilt this Saturday remains to be seen. Georgia does not list the “star” as one of its positions on the two-deep depth chart it releases each week. McGraw is listed as a co-starter with Malkom Parrish at left cornerback for Saturday’s game.
Junior Quincy Mauger, who also drew a start when he was a freshman, said there’s a lot to adjust to playing in your first college game, never mind starting it.
“My first time being out there, there’s definitely a lot of things you’re looking at,” he said. “There are thousands of people in the stands and there are a lot of reads to learn and there’s a lot of excitement.”
But Mauger also said it is for good reason McGraw earned playing time in the first place. He was one of seven defensive backs recruited in the class of 2015 to help the Bulldogs in the secondary and he was the only one to draw a start.
The former 4-star prospect out of Nashville’s Ensworth School was rated the top defensive back in the state of Tennessee and was recruited by every team in the South.
“So I’m pretty sure he’ll be fine,” Mauger said. “He has a great head on his shoulders. He’s very physical, very competitive.”
Said Richt: “He’s really versatile. He could play corner, safety or nickel. He’s a smart kid. He picked things up quickly this summer and throughout fall camp. He’s not afraid to strike you. … He’s a great kid.”
He should be particularly pumped to play before the home crowd.
“They do get excited to go home and play,” Richt said. “It’s part of the recruiting process. I’m sure he probably looked at this game and said, ‘this will be important to my family and friends.’ So hopefully he’ll have a good performance.”