- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Leonard Floyd has a simple philosophy on the football field.
“Really if you play hard, you’ll end up making a play,” the Georgia outside linebacker said after Tuesday’s practice.
It might not sound like much, but that playing style -- “I’m bringing speed all day, every day,” Floyd said -- has helped him become perhaps Georgia’s fastest-rising freshman during preseason practice. Other Bulldogs might play with a high motor, but Floyd’s consistent effort in practice has been enough for Georgia coach Mark Richt to single him out during a team gathering.
“His head’s still spinning learning stuff, but he’s really impressed me how hard he practices on a daily basis,” Richt said. “… He really stood out to me. He’s been standing out to me for a while.”
The pass-rush specialist quickly made an impression on teammates and coaches with his work at strongside linebacker, to the point that he could steal some playing time from expected starter James DeLoach. In fact, he almost seems to be a lock to contribute on scrimmage downs.
“Floyd’s going to be a good asset to us,” outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. “I think he’ll play a good bit this year, a guy with his size and his frame. He’s quick off the ball and he’s really like his nickname, Flow, because he’s real smooth with his moves and stuff like that.”
Floyd might be the freshman who made the biggest impression in Georgia’s preseason practices, but he’s not the only member of that group. Here are a few others whose names consistently cropped up as impact freshmen in a highly informal poll of Georgia veterans.
Brendan Douglas, running back
Douglas might be the most pleasant preseason surprise on Georgia’s veteran offense.
“He’s just running people over. He hurdled a DB [a diving Shaq Wiggins] last week in the scrimmage. It was an unbelievable play,” senior quarterback Aaron Murray said. “Just a tough kid, and one of our best blocking running backs right now. He’s not afraid to stick his nose in there, I don’t care who it is, and knock them right under the chin. So it’s great to see him back there. He’s worked his tail off and he definitely deserves some playing time.”
Douglas has ceded the No. 3 tailback spot to fellow freshman J.J. Green for now after spraining the MCL in his left knee on Monday. But Richt said after Wednesday’s scrimmage that the injury would not require surgery and will not end Douglas’ season.
Reggie Carter, inside linebacker
Wilson recently said that Carter possesses the quickest hands among the Bulldogs’ inside linebackers and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said he has been the most consistent of the four freshmen who arrived in the most recent signing class.
“I’d have to say Reggie’s the guy that’s kind of stood out the most right now,” Grantham said.
Carter tied Herrera for second on the team with three tackles in Wednesday’s final preseason scrimmage -- one behind Wilson. But it seems evident that all three players will fill key roles on Grantham’s defense once the Clemson game arrives.
Shaq Wiggins and Brendan Langley, cornerbacks
These days, you rarely hear one of the freshman cornerbacks mentioned without the other’s name following shortly thereafter. But that’s a good thing, as both of them have emerged as consistent playmakers in the injury-depleted secondary.
They both intercepted passes in each of the last two team scrimmages -- with Wiggins returning one for a touchdown in Wednesday night’s practice game and Langley taking one to the house the previous week.
Although the freshman duo has no chance of taking junior cornerback Damian Swann’s job and will face heavy competition for playing time from sophomore Sheldon Dawson, their performances have impressed the coaches.
“I thought our young guys were challenged [in the second scrimmage] a little bit and made some plays,” Grantham said. “I see those guys getting better. Langley’s a guy that continues to improve. He’s a very conscientious guy.”
As for Wiggins, take his fellow freshman’s word concerning his play thus far in August.
“We all know he’s a feisty little dude,” Langley said. “He’s making plays almost every play. Like I said, he’s real feisty, he’s a great cover corner. He’s come up and making big plays in the running game, so you can’t really ask for more.”
Reggie Davis, wide receiver
If there was any question whether Davis might redshirt this season because of Georgia’s impressive depth at receiver, it seemed to be answered on Wednesday. He played with the regulars, not the scout team, and ranked among the team’s leading receivers with two catches for 29 yards.
“He might play a lot this year. He’s a speed demon,” Murray said of the former high school track star. “He’s I think the fastest guy in our receiving corps and we have some speed over there, and he’s worked his tail off to earn his position, learn the plays, has definitely opened a lot of eyes out there with what he’s able to do with his route-running ability.”
Georgia has multiple reliable options at receiver, including Malcolm Mitchell, Michael Bennett and Chris Conley. But Davis’ speed and consistent hands have apparently helped him win some playing time.
“In the next two years, he’s probably going to be one of the best players here. Hands down,” Mitchell said. “He wants to learn, he wants to get better. That’s where it starts.”
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