Freshman report on UGA football: Alabama 35, Georgia 28

DawgNation will offer this report after every game which focuses on the freshmen who played, what they did and who lost one of those newly-reshaped (four games or less) redshirts.  Check out this UGA football edition after another deflating loss to Alabama. 

“Tell them we ain’t going nowhere, Adam.”

That was what at least one unidentified Georgia player said during Adam Anderson‘s open locker room interview on Saturday night. That moment arrived shortly after Alabama again pulled the football away from the Bulldogs in a 35-28 comeback victory.

It was what at least one Bulldog said behind a live microphone while the freshman OLB met the media for the first time in 2018. Anderson was one of the seven recruits to carry the 5-star rating when they signed with UGA in the class of 2018.

That’s why the DawgNation freshman report came about this season. To place a good zoom on the contributions of all those highly-touted prospects. Freshmen aren’t allowed to meet the media per UGA rules, but the SEC’s open locker room policy allowed the first time to speak with an up-and-coming talent like Anderson.

As it turns out, that voice might likely be proven right. The Bulldogs again went toe-to-toe with Alabama with a championship on the line yet. As it turns out, they were still step-for-step with the Tide.

Except for this time it was done with a playing rotation which went heavy on freshmen and sophomores. Those two classes comprised 52 percent of the Bulldogs who saw the field in the SEC championship game.

There were two redshirt freshmen, 12 true freshmen, 11 true sophomores and three redshirt sophomores listed on the official participation report. That means the majority of the Bulldog team could see two more trips to the SEC championship game stage.

Let’s allow that freshmen component to sink in one more time. Those 2018 signees could very well face Alabama in the SEC championship game in 2018, 2019 and 2020. At least.

SEC championship game freshman focus

Georgia played 14 redshirt or true or freshmen against Alabama. That’s 14 out of the 54 total Bulldogs who saw the field against the vaunted Crimson Tide.

The big picture tallies up to 26 percent of all the Bulldogs who played on Saturday. That equates to:

  • 1 of 2 QBs
  • 1 of 5 RBs
  • 0 of 7 WRs
  • 3 of 7 OLs
  • 0 of 2 TEs
  • 1 of 8 DLs
  • 2 of 6 ILBs
  • 2 of 5 OLBs
  • 3 of 8 DBs
  • 1 of 3 specialists

To be very clear, some of those 14 names only played on the kick teams. Special teams are still a vital one-third of the game. Those Bulldogs earned those reps against an opponent that does not come any more elite than the Crimson Tide.

It builds a strong case that the Bulldogs really aren’t going anywhere.

POTENTIAL = PRODUCTION

FRESHMEN STARTERS IN 2018

Here is the weekly list of the true freshmen and redshirt freshmen that have started games in 2018.

How many freshmen played against Alabama (true or redshirt) : 14

Who started (all freshmen) : P Jake Camarda; DT Jordan Davis; OL Trey Hill; CB Eric Stokes; OT Isaiah Wilson

THE BIG PICTURE, PART I

This blog “starts fast” with a hot take: Does elite recruiting matter? What about stars and rankings?

Let’s look at the Bulldogs which received the 15 highest ratings in the 2018 recruiting class. How much of a factor were they in the 2018 season?

  • 5-star Justin Fields : Played in 12 games.
  • 5-star Zamir White: Did not play. Had a season-ending ACL injury in fall camp.
  • 5-star Jamaree Salyer: Played in 12 games.
  • 5-star Tyson Campbell: Played in 13 games and started 10.
  • 5-star Adam Anderson: Played in 13 games.
  • 5-star Cade Mays: Played in 10 games and started in seven.
  • 5-star Brenton Cox: Played in 12 games.
  • 4-star Quay Walker: Played in 13 games.
  • 4-star James Cook: Played in 13 games.
  • 4-star Luke Ford : Played in nine games.
  • 4-star Trey Hill: Played in 13 games and started in three.
  • 4-star Otis Reese: Played in 10 games and started one game.
  • 4-star Channing Tindall: Played in 13 games.
  • 4-star Kearis Jackson : Played in four games and will likely use a redshirt.
  • 4-star Azeez Ojulari: Played in two games after a November ACL injury and will redshirt.

Notable playing time outside of that top 15

  • In this class, 3-star DT Jordan Davis had the third-lowest composite rating among the 24 signees who enrolled and yet he played in 11 games and started four. He was one of the best finds of the class.
  • 3-star P Jake Camarda was the lowest-rated 2018 signee who enrolled, but he won the starting punting job and played in every game. That wasn’t a rankings miss, though. It is very rare for a kicker or punter to receiver anything higher than a 3-star rating.
  • There were 19 Bulldogs in the 2018 class that were rated higher by the recruiting industry than Chris Smith, but he was able to play in five games his freshman year. He proved too good to redshirt in 2018.

GAME-BY-GAME FRESHMAN HEAT CHECK 

Isaiah Wilson-UGA football-Georgia football
This thought comes through my mind just about every time I see Isaiah Wilson: He’s on the verge of outgrowing his equipment. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Let’s continue the blog with an assessment of the five most valuable freshmen and redshirt freshmen to the team for the 2018 season.

We kicked this feature off after the LSU game. It is a nod to the top freshmen (redshirt or true) who have impacted the overall balance of the season up to this point.

  • OT Isaiah Wilson (Redshirt freshman and a former 5-star recruit): Wilson is not starting to be seen as a guy who will be right to consider his NFL draft ratings after the 2019 season. That’s the best analysis we can provide there. Movement: Remains at No. 1.
  • CB Eric Stokes  (former 3-star recruit): The redshirt freshman was an asset in coverage against those highly-regarded Crimson Tide receivers. Deandre Baker will not be back next season. The ability that Stokes has flashed as a redshirt freshman will serve the team well in 2019. If he keeps improving, he can win the No. 1 cornerback job. If he does, he will be ready.  Movement: First ranking.
  • DT Jordan Davis (former 3-star recruit): There was strong consideration given to moving Davis up to No. 2 on this list. That’s because he made the much of a difference once he started to get a full plate of reps after the LSU game.  Movement: Up from No. 4.
  • OL Cade Mays (former 5-star recruit): Let’s be honest with ourselves here. If he was healthy, he would have helped against Alabama. He’s missed the past three games, but he was everything Georgia could have hoped he would be during his freshman year. We’re not forgetting those reps on this list.  Movement: Down from No. 2.
  • CB Tyson Campbell (former 5-star recruit): Despite that lofty ranking, most folks do not know that he only started one season in high school at cornerback. He’s just going to keep getting better.  Movement: Dips to No. 4.
  • C/OG Trey Hill (former 4-star recruit): The best defensive lineman in college football beat this true freshman for an early sack in the SEC championship game. Hill provided steady play in the game from that point on. It was his third straight start for Georgia.  Movement: First ranking.

OTHERS WHO HAVE MADE THE HEAT CHECK THIS YEAR: Freshman OLB Adam Anderson, Freshman P Jake Camarda, Freshman OLB Brenton Cox, and freshman QB Justin Fields.

THE BIG PICTURE, PART II

Adam Anderson-UGA football-Georgia football
How much does Adam Anderson look like a Bulldog in this picture? (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

The Justin Fields stat line: Fields did not complete his only pass attempt. He also carried the ball three times for six yards, including just two of those on that 4th-and-11 fake punt from the Alabama 50.

Fields first entered the game when: He came into the game on Georgia’s second series. It was the eighth Bulldog snap of the contest. There was no score in the game. Fields gave the ball to D’Andre Swift for a four-yard gain up the middle and then subbed out for Jake Fromm.

Subtle freshman note of the week: Freshman ILB Channing Tindall picked up his second sack of the season. That is now the second-highest total on the team.

THE BIG PICTURE, PART III

Cade Mays-UGA football-Georgia football
A subtle reminder that Cade Mays dressed against Alabama but did not play. If he was healthy, then he surely could have helped the Bulldogs against the Tide. He’s been one of the best freshmen performers all season for the Bulldogs. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

The 12 true freshmen who played against Alabama: Jake Camarda + Jordan Davis + Trey Hill +

  • OLB Adam Anderson
  • CB Tyson Campbell
  • RB James Cook
  • OLB Brenton Cox
  • QB Justin Fields
  • DB Otis Reese
  • OG Jamaree Salyer
  • ILB Channing Tindall
  • ILB Quay Walker

Which redshirt freshmen Bulldogs played against Alabama:

  • DB Eric Stokes (starter)
  • OT Isaiah Wilson (starter)

Position breakdown for the true freshmen who saw action against Alabama (with the Tech number in parentheses):

  • DB: 3  (3)
  • ILB: 2 (2)
  • OLB: 2 (3)
  • OL: 2 (4)
  • DL: 1 (1)
  • P: 1 (1)
  • QB: 1 (1)
  • RB: 1 (1)
  • TE: 0 (1)
  • WR: 0 (0)

Something you might only learn by reading the DawgNation “freshmen report” each week: Want to see a little long-range balance? Want to learn a little about the Alabama program the Bulldogs will always have their sights on? The Crimson Tide wound up playing 12 of their freshmen against Georgia on Saturday. That’s out of their 51 players who saw the field in the SEC title game.

It broke down to:

  • Freshmen: 12 (2 starters)
  • Sophomores: 15 (10 starters)
  • Juniors: 13 (8 starters)
  • Seniors: 11 (3 starters)

The half-full DawgNation reader will see that and note that 11 starters could potentially not be back in 2019. The sky is falling club member will note that the Tide’s sophomore class will be even better next year. That means at least six starters are set to return for that prolific offense, including the entire receiver corps and the Heisman contender at quarterback.

THE BIG PICTURE, PART IV

Jordan Davis-UGA football-Georgia football
This was a very bright moment for freshman DT Jordan Davis this fall. It proves he’s not just a “Big Dawg” in the middle. Davis set off on his rush and then kept his head on a swivel. He read his keys and knew to drop back to prevent Tua Tagovailoa from dumping the ball to his receiver crossing over the middle. Davis is not just a big body there to soak up space and blocks. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

What should the 2019 recruiting class address: These answers have been apparent for a few weeks, but these spots look like the priorities for the next class based on what we have seen in 2018.

  • ILB: The Bulldogs still more athletic play from this position.  Monty Rice’s ankle injury shows how thin this position will be next year in terms of veteran depth for a big game. (This class has a  pair of impressive 4-star commits. It is also really  in it for the nation’s No. 1 ILB for the 2019 class.)
  • Defensive backs: Senior Deandre Baker is the team’s top player. He’s about to get NFL money in the spring. Campbell and Stokes played key roles against Alabama, but the Bulldogs need more elite talent in their nickel and dime packages to deal with all the weapons that the Tide have. ( The Bulldogs do have a solid pledge from the nation’s No. 3 safety in Under Armour All-American Lewis Cine. They also flipped 4-star junior college CB D.J. Daniel from South Carolina this season. The Bulldogs need more size and speed at the cornerback spot.)
  • Defensive tackle: Freshman DT Jordan Davis was the only freshman defensive lineman to see time against Alabama. Malik Herring and Devonte Wyatt were the only sophomore DLs to get reps. ( UGA has a 5-star and a pair of 3-stars committed at this time. Another DL will likely slide over to DT as he matures.)
  • Offensive line: The Bulldogs need OTs in the class and still more talent for the interior line.  The ability shown by Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson this fall means they will be legit NFL prospects after the 2019 season. Thomas looks like a bona fide first-round pick at this time.  Trey Hill also started his third straight game. ( UGA currently has two 4-star commits at OT and an eye on a third for the 2019 class. The Bulldogs are also very much in the race for 5-star center Clay Webb. Webb hopes to be a guard early on in college .)
  • Quarterback: Everyone knows about  Justin Fields. The Bulldogs are razor-thin at this position with just two scholarship players. ( Mississippi senior John Rhys Plumlee is committed in the 2019 class. He rates as the nation’s No. 8 dual-threat QB prospect, but another recruit at this position makes a lot of sense for scholarship depth. Look for the Bulldogs to try to add a second scholarship QB to this class. Dillion Gabriel, a 2-star prospect from Hawaii, plans to take his official visit to UGA this weekend. He’s an up-and-coming prospect who was at one time committed to Army, but he now has offers from both UGA and USC.)
  • OLB: D’Andre Walker is set to graduate. That’s the starter at the “Jack” position for the Bulldogs. Senior Keyon Richardson has also seen action in every game after signing with UGA in 2014. He will also free up a scholarship slot. Walter Grant, who has started eight games this year, will be a junior in 2019. ( Georgia has a commitment from 5-star OLB Nolan Smith and 4-star junior college OLB Jermaine Johnson. It is very hard to imagine any school anywhere having a more impressive pair of incoming prospects at this position. )

Here’s a look at the times when Fields has entered games this year:

  • Austin Peay: The fourth UGA series during the second quarter of the game.
  • South Carolina: The 10th UGA series during the fourth quarter of the game.
  • Middle Tennessee: The fourth UGA series during the second quarter of the game.
  • Missouri: The fourth UGA series during the second quarter of the game.
  • Tennessee: The third UGA series during the second quarter of the game.
  • Vanderbilt: The fourth UGA series during the second quarter of the game.
  • LSU: The fifth UGA series during the second quarter of the game.
  • Florida: Did not play.
  • Kentucky: The fourth UGA series during the second quarter of the game.
  • Auburn: The first UGA series during the first quarter of the game.
  • UMass: The third UGA series during the first quarter of the game.
  • Georgia Tech: The eighth UGA series during the third quarter of the game.
  • Alabama: The second UGA series during the first quarter of the game.

Freshmen tweet of the game: We shared that picture of it earlier, but look at the way Jordan Davis dropped back into coverage this time to take away an easy Alabama completion.

True freshmen to play in every game

Simply put, they have seen time in every game. There are a few of these guys who largely get those snaps on special teams.

  • OLB Adam Anderson
  • P Jake Camarda (13 starts)
  • CB Tyson Campbell (10 starts)
  • RB James Cook
  • OL Trey Hill (3 starts)
  • ILB Channing Tindall
  • ILB Quay Walker

True freshmen players who did not play this week: WR Tommy Bush; OT Owen Condon; C Warren Ericson; TE John FitzPatrick; TE Luke Ford; WR Kearis Jackson; OL Cade Mays; OLB Azeez Ojulari; DB Chris Smith II; RB Zamir White (out for the season); DB Divaad Wilson (Spring ACL injury but has now been cleared to play.)

Participation for 2018 freshmen signees 

This was worth watching in terms of the new redshirt rules.

  • OLB Adam Anderson: 13 games
  • WR Tommy Bush: 2 games
  • P Jake Camarda: 13 games
  • CB Tyson Campbell: 13 games
  • OT Owen Condon: 3 games
  • RB James Cook: 13 games
  • OLB Brenton Cox: 12 games
  • DT Jordan Davis: 11 games
  • OL Warren Ericson: 3 games
  • QB Justin Fields: 12 games
  • TE John FitzPatrick: 2 games
  • TE Luke Ford: 9 games
  • OL Trey Hill: 13 games
  • WR Kearis Jackson: 4 games
  • OL Cade Mays: 10 games
  • OLB Azeez Ojulari: 2 games
  • DB Otis Reese: 10 games
  • OL Jamaree Salyer: 12 games
  • DB Chris Smith: 5 games
  • ILB Channing Tindall: 13 games
  • ILB Quay Walker: 13 games
  • RB Zamir White: 0 games (Redshirt-Summer ACL injury)
  • DB Divaad Wilson: 0 games (Spring ACL injury)

Redshirt status watch: OT Owen Condon (3 games); OL Warren Ericson (3 games); WR Kearis Jackson (4 games); DB Chris Smith II (5 games and can no longer redshirt)

2017 signees who did not show on the game participation report: R-Fr. DB Tray Bishop; OLB Robert Beal, Jr. (did not dress); DB Latavious Brini; WR Ahkil Crumpton; DB Deangelo Gibbs; OT D’Marcus Hayes; ILB Jaden Hunter; WR Matt Landers; DB William Poole III; ILB Monty Rice (injury); OG Justin Shaffer and CB Ameer Speed.

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