ATHENS — Normally games like Saturday – featuring an overmatched visitor and, in all likelihood, a lopsided score – would be a chance to find out which true freshmen are going to play this season. If you don’t play in this game, the thinking goes, you’re headed for a redshirt.
This season, however, almost all the drama is gone. Georgia has already burned the redshirts for 21 true freshmen, the most in the nation according to UGA.
Only six true freshmen on scholarship have yet to play this year. Four are offensive linemen: Sam Madden, Patrick Allen, Sage Hardin and Mirko Jurkovic. The other two are tailback Tae Crowder and defensive lineman Justin Young.
The reason that so many have burned redshirts before the fourth game isn’t just that so many are good players who can help. Only four of them have started a game – receiver Terry Godwin, tight end Jackson Harris, cornerback Rico McGraw and safety Johnathan Abram. And in each case it’s been just one game started so far.
What’s really happening, to hear head coach Mark Richt tell it, is a change in philosophy.
“I don’t think as much about redshirting guys as I used to,” Richt said this week. “Because not many guys stay five years anyway. Even if they play just a little bit they’re just so much more ready to play.
“There’s so many guys that a year from now are gonna have to play. So if you know a guy’s gonna have to play for you next year, you might oughta get him as many reps as you can possibly get him. Because if he’s a redshirt freshman he’s almost like a true freshman in a lot of ways. So I’d rather have a true sophomore that’s got a few plays under his belt than a redshirt freshman that hasn’t played a game.”
So could any of the remaining six have their redshirts burned on Saturday? Richt didn’t say. The fact four of them are offensive linemen is no surprise, as that’s the position where coaches still tend to want to save a player, and let them have a year to put on weight. Sometimes they do have to play right away, but Georgia also had four starters returning this year, plus depth behind them.
Still, given Richt’s overall thinking, don’t be surprised if the number of players eligible for a redshirt continues to be pared down.