Which Freshmen Will Play?

Athens — Georgia tailback Knowshon Moreno burst onto the national scene last season — albeit not really until about Game 7 — as a redshirt freshman, which in this day and time is somewhat of rarity.

These days the general attitude among college football coaches is if a true freshman has any notable talent, that player is going to play the first season he’s on campus. To a lesser extent Georgia coach Mark Richt thinks that way, too.

Including walkon running back Kalvin Daniels, the Bulldogs played six true freshmen last season, four of whom were regular starters by the end of the season. But for the most part Richt would rather redshirt every player he can. His philosophy is every player, no matter how gifted, can benefit from an extra year to mature physically and emotionally and to adjust to life as a student-athlete.

Ultimately you want to try to gauge if a guy is really ready to play. If he’s at a position where you’re absolutely hurting for depth, he may have to play sometimes. A lot of guys aren’t ready emotionally or physically and sometimes you’re just stacked at a position. That was Knowshon’s situation. There were talented guys and veteran guys ahead of him.”

That’s been the case increasingly the last few seasons. As a result, Richt and his staff have been able to redshirt more liberally.

There are currently 29 scholarship players on the roster that have redshirted and that doesn’t include any of 21 freshmen from this season’s incoming class, the majority of which — likely more than two-thirds — will sit out this season.

The question going forward is, is there someone in the current group of redshirt freshmen who might make the kind of impact Moreno did?

Fellow tailback Caleb King is the easy guess. He was the most decorated signee of the 2007 freshman class and he is slated to backup Moreno at tailback this season. Odds are good that, barring injury, he’ll be given ample opportunity to shine.

Here are five others that may be a little less obvious:

Justin Anderson, Tanner Strickland

6-5, 328, right guard, Hargrave Military Academy

6-5, 328, right guard, Berrien

There is a good chance one of these two players will start the first game. Anderson, nicknamed “Bean,” was one of the most highly regarded signees of 2007, earning SuperPrep All-America honors. But coaches have said inconsistency has held him back. He’s currently listed as the starter at right guard. Strickland, considered the No. 18 prospect out of Georgia by Rivals.com, was sidelined with foot problems last season but catapulted up the depth chart with his performance in camp.

John Knox

6-2, 194, free safety, Statesboro

The Bulldogs are set with starting safeties CJ Byrd and Reshad Jones and they’re very pleased with the development of redshirt sophomore Quintin Banks. But defensive coordinator Willie Martinez says Georgia needs at least a four-player rotation at that position and, so far, Knox is the leading candidate.

“He knows more than he did last year,” Martinez said. “He’s able to run our defense a lot better because he has the experience of going through our spring and fall last year. He still needs more consistency. He’s got a ways to go. But he just needs more practice.”

Charles White

6-1, 217, middle linebacker, Blythewood, Columbia, S.C.

White was nearly called into action when injuries ravaged the linebacker position last season. Though he came to Georgia as an outside linebacker, he’s the sole scholarship player slated to play the Mike, or middle, linebacker position behind preseason All-SEC selection Dannell Ellerbe. Georgia has only nine players on the second line of the defense, so they’re all going to have to play.

Israel Troupe

6-1, 215, flanker, Tift County

A recent injury aside, Troupe remains a favorite to crack the Bulldogs’ wide-receiver rotation this fall. Considered the top receiver in the state by both Rivals and Scout, Troupe put his considerable baseball talents on ice this past spring so he could concentrate on becoming a better football player. He’s down on the depth chart right and special teams will be his initial contribution but look for speed and smarts to get him on the field more and more throughout the season.

Aron White

6-4, 228, tight end, Rock Bridge, Columbia, Mo.

The experimentation at wideout is over. While he remains third string behind Tripp Chandler and Bruce Figgins, the Bulldogs have some “packages” to take advantage of White’s exceptional speed. Though he didn’t gain as much weight the last year that coaches had hoped, he’s an optimal player for special teams — big and fast with a need to impress.

– Courtesy of AJC.com


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