Which of UGA’s early enrollees have the best chance to play?
Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. Let’s look at which early enrollees have the best chance to see game time. You know what’s up.
I like doing this “Top Dawgs” section once a week, but to be honest I’m quickly running out of Dawgs to rank. If you have any rankings you’d like to see in the future, let me know in the comments section and I’ll do my best to include it sometime soon.
But we have not run out of Dawgs to rank quite yet. On Wednesday, we’re ranking the newest Dawgs, those from the recruiting Class of 2017 who enrolled early. I’m not ranking these based on ratings from 247, Rivals, ESPN or any of the other recruiting services. Instead, I’ll be giving my own evaluation of UGA’s six early enrollees based who I think has the best chance to garner minutes as a true freshman.
- Richard LeCounte III, DB — LeCounte deserves minutes next season, if only as a reward for his role in putting together this stellar recruiting class. Aside from that, though, LeCounte is just a magnificent talent. He has freak athleticism on top of ridiculous ball skills. Most importantly in regards to trying to get playing time in his first season, LeCounte is versatile. He projects as a safety, but he can likely step in at nickel if needed. With the loss of Maurice Smith and the transfers of some backups, playing time is up for grabs in the secondary. If he brings the passion he had recruiting other players to Georgia to studying Kirby Smart’s playbook, it shouldn’t be difficult for him to find time somewhere in the secondary.
- Jeremiah Holloman, WR — Jacob Eason is desperate for a go-to receiver. Isaac Nauta, Riley Ridley and Terry Godwin have shown some potential to provide that, but none of those players solidified a spot as that option. Holloman has good size and speed and he has an entire spring to get on the same page with Eason. If only because there is no other proven option and Holloman is the only new receiver on campus right now, he should have some kind of opportunity to contribute next season. Whether he can actually be that go-to option is the big question.
- D’Marcus Hayes, OL — Hayes is in a bit of a different situation than the other cats on this list in that he’s a JUCO transfer. And while you don’t want a team full of JUCOs, a few of them can really help a team fill gaps. Right now, UGA has a huge gap on the line. There is tons of freshman talent on the way, but those young guys will take time to develop. Hayes has two years of college experience. Yeah, it’s junior college, but it’s still more than any of those freshmen. At 6-foot-6, 320 pounds, Hayes certainly has the size UGA is looking for on the line. Besides, Smart will only recruit JUCOs if he expects them to contribute immediately.
- DeAngelo Gibbs, DB — Gibbs is the second top defensive back UGA brought in in January. Gibbs doesn’t have as much raw athleticism or talent as LeCounte, but he’s still damn good, and he holds a size advantage. With that size comes a bit of a different skill set, as Gibbs should be able to hold his own with bigger receivers. Ditto all the stuff from earlier about spots up for grabs in the secondary, so if he plays at the level his talent projects him to, we should see Gibbs as a backup or on special teams at the least.
- Monty Rice, ILB — Rice is the lowest rated of the early enrollees, and one of the lowest ranked in this recruiting class. But that isn’t the biggest reason he’s one of the unlikeliest to see minutes this season. There’s just too much talent at ILB. Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick will be back next season, so, unlike other positions, the two deep is pretty much set at ILB. Rice would have to be an otherworldly player to break into that unit.
- Jake Fromm, QB — I have little doubt Fromm’s day will come as the starter in Athens. He has all the talent to do it and in a year when Georgia didn’t have a QB set, he would probably compete for some time. But Eason has that spot on lock. Barring injury or blowout, there’s no reason any QB aside from Eason should take a snap. Fromm will redshirt and learn. Then when Eason leaves, probably after his junior year, Fromm will be there to take the baton.
A reason for optimism
28 Players form the Peach State on these two rosters…
6 of them are starters…
This is why Kirby Smart is trying to build a wall.
— Radi Nabulsi (@RadiNabulsi) January 10, 2017
If Smart really can keep all the Peach State’s best at home over his tenure in Athens, very good things are in store.
The Dabo connection
I typically don’t use this space for self-promotion, but I wrote this after the national championship. I grew up a Clemson fan and I hated Dabo Swinney. I thought he didn’t have the temperament or pedigree to be a winner. I was dead wrong and now I feel dumb. (Although, it feels real good to feel this dumb.) It’s a message I think is prescient to any UGA fans who have their doubts about Kirby Smart after only one year. Yeah, they may turn out to be warranted, but right now we just don’t know.
I stayed up until 5 AM re-watching the game. I'm still in shock. My jaw hurts from smiling. I wrote this: https://t.co/y9q9di7dFz
— Cy Brown (@cepbrown) January 10, 2017
TL;DR: Don’t judge a coach from a single year. You might feel real dumb later.
- Towers Take: Clemson’s accomplishment a ray of hope for UGA (Chip Towers, DawgNation)
- There’s one more Jake Fromm story from Texas that must be told (Jeff Sentell, DawgNation)
- UGA unranked in final AP poll, but most early projections for 2017 peg Bulldogs in top 15 (Marc Weiszer, Athens Banner-Herald)
- Pape Diatta ‘continues to improve’ with increased minutes during past two games (Jason Butt, Macon Telegraph)
- Georgia guard J.J. Frazier said his team will work on getting its issue of turning the ball over corrected (Jason Butt, Macon Telegraph)
- Georgia opens at 40/1 for national title (Haisten Willis, Dawg Sports)
- Old Deshaun Watson tweet calls out Mike Bobo for thinking Watson wasn’t ‘good enough to play at Georgia’ (Connor Riley, DawgNation)
BATTLE DOGS!!! (The cute kind. Not the Mike Vick kind.)
— Hiroyu (@_Hiroyu) January 10, 2017