This year’s freshman class didn’t come in with a catchy nickname, but it’s been pretty damned productive this season.
Nick Chubb has been the most visible member, of course, but he’s far from alone.
Two weeks ago, the conversation about Georgia’s freshmen might have been at a peak. In the Bulldogs’ 63-31 rout of Kentucky, a quartet of freshmen — running backs Chubb and Sony Michel, tight end Jeb Blazevich and return specialist Isaiah McKenzie — combined for six of the team’s nine touchdowns, recording rushing, receiving and special teams scores.
In that contest, freshman outside linebacker Lorenzo Carter did enough chasing the quarterback (2.5 sacks) to earn the SEC’s defensive lineman of the week, capping a three-honor week for Georgia freshmen with Chubb (co-freshman of the week) and McKenzie (special teamer of the week).
The freshmen didn’t fold under the spotlight of, arguably, Georgia’s biggest stage of the season against Auburn. Chubb was terrific. Carter earned yet another start within a loaded, veteran linebacker corps. And freshmen defensive backs Dominick Sanders and Malkom Parrish, who collectively recorded the team’s only pass breakups and forced fumble, impressed, as well.
Considering a variety of factors – the offseason attrition on defense, last year’s lackluster special teams, and, of course, Gurley’s suspension – the timing of all these kids stepping up as significant contributors couldn’t be more fortuitous. (Although you could argue it probably helps explain the somewhat up and down nature to this season, as well.)
And the best may be yet to come.
Fellow offensive lineman John Theus, who started on the offensive line when he was a freshman, said coaches and players are well aware of “guys who don’t play who (they) know are going to be really good” players, too, suggesting the team’s youthful depth goes far beyond what Georgia has put on the field in games this season.
I’m guessing that’s at least in part a reference to a couple of the freshmen offensive linemen who have already cracked the two-deep, although not the starting rotation. If that’s not just happy talk, and Georgia can hold serve on what looks like another stellar class coming in 2015, this team may not miss much of a beat next season.