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KIRBY SMART: "Half" Of the Freshman Will "Play a Role" This Season

August 22, 2022

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ATHENS - Every year there’s a true freshman or two who step up and make an impact in year one. 

Last year we saw big freshman seasons from Brock Bowers and A.D Mitchell. In 2020, Jermaine Burton, Sedrick Van Pran, and Jalen Carter all flashed at times. 

According to Georgia Bulldog head coach Kirby Smart, we should see plenty of true freshmen on the field once again this fall. When asked how many younger players would be able to contribute this year, Smart said that due to injuries, he wants a good bit on the incoming freshman to have some type of role heading into the season.

“It all depends on injuries during the year”, Smart said about younger players getting an opportunity to contribute. “As it is now, and I don’t know what you define as young, if you just mean the freshmen class, probably half of them will have to play a role, whether that’s special teams or as a backup or substitution role when they go in and play. Some of them may start.”

Starting freshmen may sound like a bad idea, and normally it is, but when you recruit like Kirby Smart and his staff, there’s always a few who find a way to make an early impact. Also, with tough, hard-hitting practices come injuries, and that makes it more important for Smart to get his players ready to play as early as possible.

“I think more and more we’re finding every year there’s more freshmen that have to play and contribute.”

Celebrate Georgia's 2021 NATIONAL TITLE


In the end, it won’t be the true freshmen who make and break the team. If the Bulldogs want to repeat as national champions, it might have to come down to how many second and third-year players step up and make big plays. There are a lot of talented, hungry players, especially on defense, just waiting on their opportunity.

Their opportunity is now, and while mistakes will be made as these players gain experience, Smart believes there are “a lot of those guys that are going to help us”.

“If you talk about young players like guys who didn’t play last year but will have to play more this year, there’s certainly even a larger number. You get up into 45, 55 percent of our roster would be freshmen and sophomores playing, that actually go play. Any time you have that, you’re susceptible to lack of experience with mistakes, anxiety mistakes, composure mistakes, so we try to create situations in practice to make them want to do right as much as they can and feel like they’re in a game, so that when they’re in a game, they can just relax and go play.”

Getting comfortable is key. Reacting before thinking. The more these younger players play, the more they’ll learn, and the better they play as the season progressed. If the 45% or 55% of the roster Smart is talking about starts off strong against the Ducks, the Bulldogs have a real chance at holding up another trophy in January. 

Tags: Georgia
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