ATHENS, Ga. – For freshmen players, it often takes some adjusting for them to adapt to the college game. With Georgia, that’s no exception.
As of Thursday, the Bulldogs are now through 10 practices of fall camp, but for some fatigue, or “the wall” as coach Kirby Smart likes to call it, has come into play and affected their performances.
So how can they overcome it?
“Coaches,” Smart said. “It’s our job to lead them through it. Because some of those kids don’t know how to push through it. They’ve never been in consecutive practices this intense in their life.”
Smart says it requires meeting with the players to encourage them and even maybe send them a text message at night when away from the field. And while Smart says some of the 24 true freshmen don’t need the extra attention, for the most part, that’s not quite the case.
Smart says there are a few individuals with whom he’s been impressed to this point of camp. But for the most part, he wants to look at the whole group and not just individuals.
“There are some guys doing some good things,” Smart said. “I’m really proud of those guys working. It’s hard to single any one guy out that’s in the freshman class. As a unit, I want them to respond better from the challenges that the leaders are giving them. I’m not pleased with how they’ve responded to that. They’re good kids, competing hard and I think they’re going to create some depth in our special teams. But it’s not like you can say one of those guys is a starter.”
For instance, Smart joked that some media members have already named freshman cornerback Ameer Speed as the “next Deion Sanders” in their attempt to highlight the performances of freshmen players – something he finds to be premature because of fatigue.
Another case is with defensive end Malik Herring. Smart does think he has shown promise but also has since fallen victim to “the wall.”
We’ve challenged him and we’re going to continue to challenge him to show up,” Smart said. “Because he’s got ability and is going to be a good player. But the last couple of days, he’s been overpowered. He’s got to practice harder and play a little better.”
In 2016, Georgia had to count on a few freshmen to make meaningful contributions during the season. Quarterback Jacob Eason, defensive end David Marshall, defensive tackle Julian Rochester, and tight ends Isaac Nauta and Charlie Woerner all started for the Bulldogs last season.
Now that Georgia is a little older in 2017, the Bulldogs may not have to worry about playing as many freshmen this season. Still, those players are trying to make a case to get on the field and should have some sort of a role to play.
(You can follow Dan Mathews on Twitter @DanMathewsATL)
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