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Thursday, June 27, 2013
Ranking Georgia's impact freshmen

By David Ching

It’s Rankings Week at DawgNation. Each day this week, we’ll rank some aspect of Georgia’s football program and the teams and players the Bulldogs will face in the 2013 season.

Tray Matthews
Tray Matthews could be one of the SEC's top freshmen this fall.
Today we’re ranking the top 10 freshmen we believe are most likely to make an impact this fall. On Friday, we’ll look at Georgia’s top five areas of need in the 2014 recruiting class and some of the players the Bulldogs are pursuing to fill those holes.

1. Tray Matthews: The most obvious choice on the list, Matthews enrolled in January, was a breakout performer during spring practice and put himself in position to start at free safety by the end of the spring. The big hitter with solid coverage skills is a lock to contribute and could be one of the SEC’s top freshmen this fall.

2. Tramel Terry: Terry enrolled in January as well but was unable to participate in spring practice while recovering from offseason ACL surgery. Georgia’s coaches haven’t guaranteed that Terry will play this fall, but he has the ball skills to be a dynamic performer at receiver and out of the backfield. It’s hard to believe he will redshirt if his knee is 100 percent in August.

3. A.J. Turman: This is a comfortable pick based on necessity. Last season's backup tailbacks, Richard Samuel and Ken Malcome, are no longer on the roster behind Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said earlier this summer that he expects both Turman and fellow signee Brendan Douglas to play this fall simply because the Bulldogs need other tailbacks to be ready beyond their star sophomores.

4. Reggie Carter: A well-rounded inside linebacker and hard worker, Carter turned heads during the spring after enrolling in January. The Bulldogs signed four inside linebackers in 2013 and at least a couple of them will need to play this fall after the departures of Alec Ogletree, Christian Robinson and Michael Gilliard. Carter probably earned some of that playing time in the spring.

5. John Atkins: Georgia’s summer depth chart lists the prep school transfer as the third-team nose guard, and he will have the chance to move up as the season progresses. The Bulldogs’ coaches have vowed to utilize a deeper defensive line rotation this season, and Atkins could conceivably play more and more if he makes good use of his early playing time.

6. Jonathan Taylor: Like Atkins, the redshirt freshman completed spring practice as a reserve defensive lineman. The 336-pound Taylor’s ability to contribute inside and outside will help him carve out a niche in coach Chris Wilson’s rotation as he competes in his first college season.

7. Shaq Wiggins: The highest-rated player in Georgia’s 2013 signing class, Wiggins should help address the Bulldogs’ depth concerns at cornerback. It appears that Damian Swann and Sheldon Dawson will be the starters, but more than one freshman will likely contribute in some capacity. Wiggins will likely be one of them.

8. Brendan Langley: Already one of Georgia’s biggest cornerbacks, the 6-foot-1 Langley fits the physical bill that the Bulldogs’ coaches like for the position. He still has a lot to learn, having just arrived on campus this summer. But with his physical tools, it’s not hard to envision Langley playing special teams initially and contributing as a reserve in the secondary this fall.

9. J.J. Green: Green had surprising value during the spring, taking some of the tailback workload off Gurley and Marshall, who sat out some of the early spring practices with a hamstring injury. Georgia’s coaches originally planned to use Green at receiver, but the 5-foot-8 scatback proved that he can help out in the backfield, too, if necessary.

10. Johnny O’Neal: Carter won’t be the only true freshman inside linebacker to see the field this season. We’ll add a second ILB to this list and give O’Neal the edge in a runoff with Tim Kimbrough and Ryne Rankin. He was rated highest out of Georgia’s four ILB signees in ESPN’s prospect rankings, so we’ll give the physically imposing O’Neal the benefit of the doubt.