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Tuesday, March 5, 2013
Spring questions: Will early enrollees play?

By David Ching

Editor’s note: Each day this week, we’ll ask a question that Georgia’s football team faces this spring as it moves toward the 2013 season. Today’s question: How many of the Bulldogs’ 13 midyear enrollees will play this fall?

ATHENS, Ga. -- While predicting which freshmen will play this fall is obviously an inexact science this far ahead of the regular season, Georgia coach Mark Richt on Saturday shared an easy explanation of how quickly his staff must bring along certain members of their 13-man class of midyear enrollees during spring practice.

If they play a position of particular need, Richt said, their learning curve naturally will accelerate.

“It just depends on the depth chart. Is there a lot of guys on campus right now at certain positions?” Richt asked. “Like safety, we don’t have a boatload of guys at safety. Tray [Matthews] and [Quincy] Mauger, those guys are going to get some reps with the No. 1 units, I’m sure. So it’s going to go fast and their brains are going to start really spinning a little bit with all the information they’re trying to get.”

It’s a well-publicized fact by this point that Georgia has several of holes to fill on a defense that lost 12 regulars and seven starters. That’s part of the reason that the seven early enrollees on defense were so important. Defensive linemen Chris Mayes and John Atkins, linebackers Ryne Rankin and Reggie Carter and defensive backs Matthews, Mauger and Reggie Wilkerson all have an opportunity to contribute immediately because the Bulldogs lost key players at their positions and their enormous 33-man signing class -- particularly the members who are already on campus -- simply have to fill some of those depth-chart holes.

Tray Matthews
Tray Matthews will have spring practice to show if he's strong enough to handle the reps with the No. 1 units.
“You talk about 40 percent of your team in this class, there’s going to be a bunch of them that will have to play and come through for us,” Richt said.

Playing time projections get a bit hazier on the offensive side of the ball. Junior college transfer Jonathon Rumph is a solid bet to enter the receiver rotation right away, but the other five offensive early enrollees have less certain prospects for this fall.

Clearly something strange will have happened if quarterback Brice Ramsey -- one of five scholarship signal-callers on the roster, also including Aaron Murray and Hutson Mason -- plays this fall. And he’s happy to use his first season on campus to learn behind a record-setting veteran like Murray.

“That’s like the best situation for me,” Ramsey said. “I can come in and redshirt or back him up, it doesn’t matter. Either way I’ll be learning from him and just adding the preparation before my time comes.”

And it remains to be seen whether receiver/running back Tramel Terry will be fully recovered from a torn ACL suffered in December in time for the start of the season or whether a redshirt will be the better course of action.

Otherwise, the remaining early enrollees will have to show they deserve some playing time.

J.J. Green will have an opportunity to contribute, as he’s playing running back this spring because of a depth shortage. That, along with his abilities as a receiver and kick returner, should serve him well in playing as a freshman.

Offensive linemen Aulden Bynum and Josh Cardiello join a group that returns all five starters and all of the key backups from a season ago. Bynum, who has guard and tackle skills, seems to be the more likely redshirt candidate of the two since Cardiello plays center, a position where Georgia faces a bit of a depth shortage.

It appears as if somewhere between nine and 11 of the 13 midyear enrollees will figure into the coaching staff’s plans in 2013. Obviously a variety of factors can impact whether those players contribute much between now and September, but their being on campus gives them a leg up on the other members of their signing class. Now they must take advantage of that opportunity.

“What’s going to happen is when spring’s over and they can review it and they’ve got all summer to practice things that they know what they’re doing instead of just showing up in June and trying to figure it out,” Richt said.

“So now when fall practice begins, those midyear guys, they’re going to be glad that they went through everything in spring. Because when they’re watching their other freshman teammates go through it, they’ll be like, ‘Man, I’m glad I got that over with.’ ”