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Gobs of freshmen may play for Dogs this season..


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Georgia's top-ranked football team looks like it will dip deep into its highly-regarded 2008 signing class for reinforcements this season.

The Bulldogs are poised to play their most first-year freshman in five years and could approach or surpass the most in coach Mark Richt's eight seasons at Georgia.

Richt said the grind of a long season - which could be as many as 14 games if Georgia plays in the SEC title game - combined with the mindset, athleticism, size and strength of these freshmen has them ready to contribute right away.

"They're really pretty strong kids and they're athletic and they're eager still," Richt said. "They're not shutting down mentally. They're still banging away trying to make it, trying to play. A lot of times right now you see a bunch of guys just rolling their eyes going 'Coach, where is that redshirt?' I don't see that as much."

Kicker Blair Walsh, receiver A.J. Green, offensive linemen Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones and running back Richard Samuel are near-locks to play.

Safety Baccari Rambo, wide receiver Tavarres King and linebacker Marcus Dowtin seem more than likely to also get playing time from a recruiting class that was ranked fifth in the nation by Scout.com and ESPN's Scouts Inc.

Richt has indicated that all five of Georgia's freshmen defensive backs and three freshmen running backs will be groomed to play this season.

"We'll still sort it out," Richt said, "but there's other seasons you're more sure a guy's probably not going to be ready, but every one of those DBs ... our true freshmen backs, our true freshmen receivers, they all are in the running for playing time and a much higher percentage will play than won't."

Georgia played five first-year freshmen in 2007, six in 2006, five in 2005 and six in 2004.

Richt said earlier this month that if he could do it again, he would have played tailback Knowshon Moreno in his first year on campus in 2006.

Coaches seem more willing to put a red Georgia game jersey on a player than a redshirt.

"I just think it has to do with the numbers in college football, being 85 (scholarships allowed) and then the 12 games and just how physical the game is," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "Some of these guys might not be ready early on but eventually they're going to be ready and be able to give us quality depth at certain positions and definitely quality play at the special teams."

Tailbacks Carlton Thomas and Dontavius Jackson could be more ready to help Georgia on special teams than on offense early, making the decision about whether to play or redshirt more difficult.

"Our mindset is, 'You guys be prepared, work to be a contributor,' but we have to see how the season unfolds and how we can use them and how much we can use them," running backs coach Tony Ball said. "We're not just going to throw them out there just to play one special teams and burn a year. We're not going to do that, but we feel they're athletic enough to help us, but just where and how much has yet to be determined."

The most first-year freshmen to play under Richt was 12 in 2002, which included current NFL players Max Jean-Gilles, Kedric Golston, Tim Jennings, DeMario Minter and Tony Taylor.

Nine freshmen played in 2003, with eight turning into starters during their college careers: Sean Bailey, Jarvis Jackson, Nick Jones, Kregg Lumpkin, Leonard Pope, Ken Shackleford, Danny Verdun Wheeler and Fernando Velasco.

Richt addressed this freshmen class as a group during preseason camp.

"I talked to the whole group about how pleased we are with their ability and work ethic and trying to encourage them not to get down because if that group can all stick together and grow and mature together, we'll have a real fine team when they get into their junior and senior years," Richt said.

August 30

Georgia Southern at No. 1 Georgia

Sanford Stadium

12:30 p.m. (PPV)

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