Dillon Bell-Georgia football-UGA football
Georgia freshman WR Dillon Bell (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Freshmen Report on Georgia football: UGA 33, Samford 0

DawgNation will offer this report after every game which focuses on the freshmen who played and their contributions. Check out the Georgia football edition from the 33-0 home opener against Samford at Sanford Stadium.

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The Samford win was a game of firsts for the true freshman players on the Georgia football program. Let’s just tick them off right here at the jump:

  • Freshman DL Bear Alexander had his first career tackle
  • Freshman WR Dillon Bell had his first career reception and first career touchdown reception
  • Freshman CB Daylen Everette finished tied for second on the team with his three tackles
  • Freshman LB E.J. Lightsey also had his first career tackle and also provided one of the most incredible under-the-radar moments of the entire game
  • Freshman WR De’Nylon Morrisette had his first career catch
  • Reclassified freshman CB Marcus Washington Jr. had his first career tackle
  • Freshman DL Shone Washington also had his first career tackle
  • Freshman DE Mykel Williams got his first career sack

Georgia started three true freshmen on Saturday in Athens against Samford. That’s one more than in the season opener against Oregon.

Promising safety Malaki Starks added his name to the list of true freshman getting starts for the ‘Dawgs in 2022. Freshman P Brett Thorson and freshman DE Mykel Williams earned that rare nod in the opener.

The ‘Dawgs also played a total of 22 true freshmen against the Bulldogs. That’s an 83 percent increase from the 12 that saw their first reps against Oregon in Atlanta.

Kirby Smart’s program did not start any redshirt freshmen against Samford. When the game ended, we saw that another 19 players from the 2021 class also saw time in the runaway 33-0 rout. That means that 42 of the 82 players that hit the field for the ‘Dawgs in the game have been on campus for less than two years.

If you didn’t know any of that but are glad you do now, then the weekly DawgNation “Freshman Report” is put together with that level of reader interest in mind.

Those feats – and the young Georgia football players behind them – is what the weekly DawgNation “Freshmen Report” is all about.

It was created for the 2018 season to move the needle forward on all the elite recruiting classes the program signs. The feature made its DawgNation debut after UGA signed the first of a series of top-ranked recruiting classes under Smart.

Do those young players that get hyped up truly measure up? Are they talented enough to make an impact during their first season on campus? Let’s hunt down those answers from Saturday’s game.

Freshman EDGE Darris Smith has now played in his first two career games. He has as much future potential as any player on the Georgia football team. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

Rapid-fire participation info from Georgia-Samford

  • Georgia played 31 redshirt or true freshmen Bulldogs. That’s out of the 82 total players who saw action. It adds up to 38 percent of all the ‘Dawgs on the field. That’s 10 percent more freshmen participation than the previous week against Oregon.
  • As a means of comparison, Georgia called on 72 players to beat Oregon last week.
  • Big picture: The Bulldogs started two true freshmen (Starks and Williams) and another four sophomores on defense. Those were DB Javon Bullard, LB Jamon Dumas-Johnson, CB Kamari Lassiter and LB Smael Mondon Jr. versus Samford. TE Brock Bowers and WR Adonai Mitchell were the sophomore starters on offense.
  • Class action: The number of Bulldogs from each of the last few high school classes who saw action against Oregon: 2022 (22); 2021 (19): 2020 (20); 2019 (14); 2018 (5) and 2017 (2).
  • Starter check: The first-team guys by classes on Saturday: Super Senior (1), Redshirt senior (2); Senior (2); Redshirt junior (2); Junior (3); Redshirt sophomore (5); Sophomore (6); Redshirt freshman (0) and freshman (3). The big difference from the Oregon game was Starks for 2019 walk-on Dan Jackson at safety.
  • Homegrowns vs. out-of-state signees: Georgia saw 10 off of its starting 22 sign with the program from out-of-state. That breaks down to six on offense and four on defense.
  • Of note: This isn’t freshman fodder but it is the sort of stuff when you take a deep dive look at this roster. The Bulldogs signed six defensive backs in the 2019 and 2020 classes. Lewis Cine was a first-round draft pick. Kelee Ringo is now a 2-year starter for Georgia. That’s it. There is not another DB signee from those classes playing right now at Georgia. Jackson was a walk-on in 2019.
  • As a means of comparison, the ‘Dawgs signed five DLs in the 2019 class. We’ve seen two of those guys go on to be NFL first-round draft picks. The other two are rotational assets on this team. The Bulldogs signed three DLs in 2020 and two of those are starters in Jalen Carter and Nazir Stackhouse. Warren Brinson is another rotational guy. That’s a hit rate of 7 of 8 for that room and just another reason why Tray Scott is one of the best in the country at what he does. The lone “miss” per se was Tymon Mitchell and he portaled to TCU in the offseason.
  • Did you know that the ‘Dawgs saw seven former walk-ons take the field? Stetson Bennett IV, Dan Jackson and Jack Podleszy played key roles. Redshirt freshman RB Cash Jones and WR Mekhi Mews also got time. Specialists William Mote and Payne Walker are longtime starters at their roles and walking on to snap is just the way it is in big-time SEC ball.
  • The 2022 class is taking on huge roles on this team in select areas away from the lines of scrimmage. The ‘Dawgs put four receivers on the field, two linebackers, and three EDGE rushers. They also saw six true freshmen DBs get reps. The major takeaway here is that they also saw four true freshmen DLs get into the game.
Bear Alexander, Christen Miller and Shone Washington all got to play together on Saturday against Samford. What are these three guys going to look like in the fall of 2024? (Jeff Sentell / DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

Samford game freshman focus

Georgia played 31 redshirt or true freshmen. The big picture tallies up to 38 percent of all the ‘Dawgs that played on Saturday. That equates to:

  • 0 of 3 QBs
  • 2 of 5 RBs (Fr. Branson Robinson; PWO RFr. Cash Jones)
  • 1 of 6 TEs (Fr. Oscar Delp)
  • 5 of 11 WRs (Fr. Dillon Bell; Fr. De’Nylon Morrissette; Fr. C.J. Smith; Fr. Cole Speer; RFr. Mekhi Mews)
  • 3 of 13 OLs (RFr. Dylan Fairchild; RFr. Micah Morris: RFr. Jared Wilson)
  • 6 of 12 DLs (Fr. Bear Alexander; Fr. Christen Miller; Fr. Shone Washington; Fr. Mykel Williams; RFr. Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins; RFr. Jonathan Jefferson)
  • 3 of 7 LBs (Fr. Jalon Walker; Fr. EJ Lightsey; RFr. Xavian Sorey Jr.)
  • 3 of 7 EDGE (Fr. Marvin Jones Jr.; Fr. Carlton “CJ” Madden; Fr. Darris Smith)
  • 6 of 13 DBs (Fr. Daylen Everette; Fr. Julian Humphrey; Fr. Malaki Starks; Fr. Jaheim Singletary; Fr. Carlton Thomas; Fr. Marcus Washington, Jr.)
  • 0 of 2 PKs
  • 1 of 1 Ps (Fr. Brett Thorson)
  • 0 of 2 LSs
Georgia freshman safety Malaki Starks made his first career start against Samford. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

At this rate, he’s likely only going to spend three years in Athens. That will be the same path as Travon Walker. Here’s a prediction setting the over/under at 24 sacks for his UGA career.

That’s a lofty number. The great Justin Houston piled up 20 sacks across his three years in Athens. The great Jarvis Jones had 28 sacks in just two seasons for the Bulldogs.

We realize the folly of making a statement like that, but Williams is just that talented.

The Georgia all-time career record for sacks is 36. David Pollack, a three-time All-American, accomplished that across his four seasons in Athens.

Have you subscribed to the DawgNation YouTube channel yet? If so, you will be able to see special 1-on-1 content with 2023 commits CJ Allen, AJ Harris and Jamaal Jarrett.

Freshman Game Ball: WR Dillon Bell/Kinkaid School/Houston, Tex.

Dillon Bell (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

Bell had three catches for 22 yards against Samford, including a three-yard TD catch. He was the only freshman with a touchdown, but what really cinched this honor was the burst and wiggle he showed on a 14-yard gain in the ballgame.

Final 247Sports Composite recruiting rankings: 3-star. Nation’s No. 68 WR and No. 452 overall

Commitment date: August 2, 2021.

What Bell thought of his mere 3-star rating back then: “When people ask me about that I don’t really care about stars,” Bell said last year. “I just play. At the end of the day, the people who are 5-stars they are really not that good. That’s just the hype and everything they have around them.”

“I don’t really think about the stars. Just play. Like you have nothing. I play every play as if it was my last.”

Something cool about his high school days: Bell wore the No. 6 in high school because of two family birthdays. He was born on November 6. His mother was born on January 6.

“I’m a mama’s boy so I chose six because of her,” Dillon Bell said last year.

He also wore No. 33 growing up playing youth ball. The fact that those two digits add up to six also adds to the sentimentality of that number. The fact he chose No. 86 to wear for his first season in Athens extends his affinity for that number.

Crazy versatility in high school: He was a two-time state champion in the Texas private school league. He threw for three touchdowns, ran for 14 and then caught 10 touchdowns. Bell ran for 655 yards and also tallied up 662 yards in receptions. He averaged 6.5 yards per attempt and 14.4 yards per reception.

As a junior, he was still the playmaker scoring 20 touchdowns in seven games. Bell flashed his track team speed that has been clocked at 4.53 seconds in the 40 often for his squad in a variety of ways.

Per MaxPreps.com, his stat line included 74 carries for 607 yards and 18 rushing touchdowns on the ground. He also caught 24 passes for 350 yards and two more scores.

Did you know the weekly DawgNation.com "Before the Hedges" program is available as an Apple podcast? Click to check it out and download it.

Georgia freshman WR Dillon Bell (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
Jeff Sentell, Dawgnation

SENTELL’S INTEL

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