Ten@10: Freshmen galore playing ball for Bulldogs

Quarterback Jacob Eason, here getting some encouragement from offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, was one of 12 true freshmen to play for the Bulldogs this past Saturday. That number will go up this weekend as Georgia plays host to Nicholls State.

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1. If you thought you saw a lot of freshmen on the field for Georgia this past Saturday, you were right. The Bulldogs played 12 true freshmen in the season opener against North Carolina. They also played two redshirt freshmen and two graduate transfers, so there were a lot of new faces on the field for UGA.

Tight end Charlie Woerner and punter Marshall Long were the only true freshman to start. The others that played were quarterback Jacob Eason, tailback Brian Herrien, defensive back Tyrique McGhee, defensive tackle Julian Rochester, receiver Riley Ridley, tight end Isaac Nauta, linebacker Jaleel Laguins, defensive end David Marshall, defensive tackle Tyler Clark and defensive tackle Michail Carter.

Graduate transfers Tyler Catalina (left tackle) and Maurice Smith (Nickelback) also started. So Georgia got some immediate impact from its 2016 recruiting class.

“To me, (that) is a lot,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “… (Twelve) true freshmen playing in that kind of game is pretty unique in my opinion. It was a tight game, back-and-forth. We knew it was going to be that way. We knew the guys that played were going to play.”

That’s further validation of just how young Georgia’s 2016 team is. Consider that the Bulldogs played a total of 22 true freshmen last season – including 19 in the first game — which was the most in the nation, according to UGA. In all, 33 Bulldogs played the first snaps of their careers last season.

Expect that number to go up this week. Tailback Elijah Holyfield and defensive back Mecole Hardman are among several newbies expected to get their first action against Nicholls State, which visits Sanford Stadium on Saturday.

2. Woerner was the only tight end to catch a pass in this past Saturday’s game – it went for just one yard — but that’s not an indication of their involvement in the passing game, according to Smart.

In fact, by the looks of it, tight ends are going to be a big part of Jim Chaney’s offense. All five played this past Saturday – sometimes three at a time – including Jeb Blazevich, Jordan Davis and Jackson Harris. It’s just that their primary responsibility Saturday was as blockers.

“Those 200 and however many yards that (Nick) Chubb got, there were three tight ends on the field for half of those,” Smart said. “So I would assess their blocking as good. Could show some improvement, but they were blocking some big men.”

The tight ends were targeted a few times. Nauta dropped a pass that Greyson Lambert hit him on the money, but Nauta dropped it. Harris caught eight passes in the G-Day game, so they definitely have some pass plays for the tight ends.

“In terms of the passing game, we did need to get open,” Blazevich said Monday. “I know personally I ran two routes that I could have done a better job on. At the end of the day, that’s what this week is for, to go over those mistakes and continue to progress.”

3 Likewise, Smart gave Georgia’s offensive line a passing grade for Saturday’s game. Obviously, they were extremely effective when it came to run blocking. But their pass protection skills are going to need some refining. The Bulldogs’ quarterbacks were sacked four times in the game.

“We thought those guys played really hard as a unit. That’s the number one thing,” Smart said. “We didn’t want to be complicated. We didn’t say you have to make every call right, that you’ve got to make every step right. We just said that you have to play physical and you have to play hard. They did that.”

Catalina and right guard Lamont Gaillard were the new additions to the No. 1 offense. Both gave up sacks in the game, and Catalina was whistled for a personal foul late in the contest.

“I thought Tyler held up well,” Smart said. “He made a dumb, bonehead decision that could be really costly on the personal foul late in the game. It was his first time playing in that kind of environment. It was loud there, regardless of what side of the ball you were on. He had to play with the noise, and it was his first time really doing that.”

Georgia’s No. 1 group was lining up the same way in practice on Monday, with Catalina at left tackle, Isaiah Wynn at left guard, Brandon Kublanow at center, Gaillard at right guard and Greg Pyke at right tackle.

“We’ve got a ways to go in that group to get to where we need to go,” Smart said. “We’ve got to play with more power. We’ve got to play with more consistency. We’ve got to sustain longer. They got a little tired during the third quarter. We’ve got to sustain longer.”

4. One of the most talked about aspects of Saturday’s game was Smart’s sideline demeanor. Many wondered how the first-year head coach might comport himself in his first game and the answer was, just like he did as a defensive coordinator, only more frenetic because he had more to do.

So Smart rarely stopped moving throughout the game, running back and forth throughout the game to confer with the defense and cajole and encourage players from both sides of the ball. Several photographs captured him a couple of feet off the ground as he reacted to the action on the field.

“I don’t think of it,” Smart said of his sideline demeanor. “I just do what I’ve always done. I don’t think about it beforehand, it’s just what naturally comes out. We’ll see if it continues. It’s not something I think about a lot. I just want to help the kids play well, so anything I can do to help that. I want them to see the energy and the passion for the game.”

They did. Asked to describe his coach’s style Saturday, Lorenzo Carter laughed and said, “fiery.”

“He is always fired up,” Carter continued. “He is going to let you know what you have to do and he is going to be direct.”

Said Blazevich: “He is the same at practice and in meetings. It’s not like just on game day when there’s people there that he’s just going to get energized for. He has a bunch of energy and he’s consistent.”

5 We actually heard very little about Nicholls State – or just Nicholls, as they prefer to be called – from Smart or the players. That’s because the Colonels have not played yet this season. Turns out their off week was the first week of the season.

“They are fast on defense,” according to fullback Christian Payne. “They have a lot of returning starters and they are a young team. This will be their first game so you know they have spent all fall camp preparing for us. You know they will give their best against us.”

Nicholls is in its second season under head coach Tim Rebowe. The Colonels were 3-8 last season.

Probably their biggest accolade coming into Saturday’s game is they have two players on their roster who played at East Mississippi Community College and, therefore, were on the Netflix reality television series, “Last Chance U.” They are defensive linemen Marcel Andry of New Orleans and Ronald Ollie of Shubuta, Miss.

6. In case you missed it, the Georgia basketball team went 3-0 in its tour of Spain last month, winning by an average of nearly 30 points per game. The Bulldogs’ big men led them offensively in all three contests, with Yante Maten pacing Georgia in the first (19 points) and third (23 points) contests and Mike Edwards doing so in the second outing (20 points). Derek Ogbeide posted a pair of double-doubles.

Georgia returns eight of its top-10 scorers from last season when the Bulldogs notched a third-straight 20-win campaign. That marks just the second time in 111 seasons of basketball competition that Georgia has posted three-consecutive 20-win efforts. Mark Fox now has four 20-win finishes in seven years in Athens, matching Hugh Durham for the most 20-win performances by a Bulldog head coach.

7. As for Georgia’s recently-departed hoopsters, say what you will about Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann’s long-term pro prospects, but they have certainly wound up in nice places. Both are playing professionally in coastal cities in Europe.

Gaines is playing for the Antibes Sharks in France. Antibes is on the Ligurian Sea, about 15 miles from Nice.

Mann is playing for BK Barons Kvartals Riga in Riga, Latvia. Riga is on the Baltic Sea.

8. As professional golf is winding down with FedEx race, college golf is just cranking up. The Georgia men’s team opened the fall portion of its 2016-17 schedule this past weekend by placing second in The Carmel Cup at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California.

The Bulldogs, who are rated No. 6 by Golfstat and No. 9 by Golfweek, shot a final-round 4-under 356 to wind up at 30-under 1,050. Oklahoma State, on the strength of a 16-under 344 Sunday, won at 38-under 1,042. The tournament format consisted of six players competing with five counting (as opposed to the typical five players with four counters).

Senior Greyson Sigg paced the Bulldogs as he came in second at 12-under 204, including a third-round 3-under 69. Sigg finished two shots in back of Texas Tech’s Fredrick Nilehn.

9. The Georgia women’s golf team opened its season a little over an hour ago with a shotgun start at the Cardinal Kickoff at Berkeley Hills Country Club in Duluth. The one-day, 36-hole event will continue this afternoon if you happen to be around I-85 and Pleasant Hill.

The Bulldogs are ranked No. 3 in the preseason Golfweek poll and return three consensus All-Americans – Bailey Tardy, Harang Lee and Jillian Hollis. A year ago, Georgia began the season ranked No. 27 but quickly climbed into the top 10 after winning two of its first four tournaments, a breaking the school single-round record en route to a runner-up finish in a third event.

10. This & that: Georgia’s soccer team is 2-3-1 so far, opening SEC play on Saturday against South Carolina. … The volleyball team is off to an unbeaten start, 6-0, which must feel nice after last season’s struggles. In fact the six wins already exceeds last year’s win total, when they went 5-25. The caveat: Lizzy Stemke’s team has yet to play an SEC match, and last year they were 0-16 in conference play.


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