On the February day when Mark Richt’s “Dream Team” recruiting class became reality, the Georgia football coach said he expected the group would be the “most talented and best bunch” he’s landed in his 11 years with the Bulldogs.
Richard Hamm/Staff Georgia’s heavily hyped freshman class will officially take the Woodruff Practice Fields for the first time today when the Bulldogs open preseason camp.
Receiver Tavarres King, a 2008 signee, isn’t ready to concede this year’s guys are ahead of his pack.
“Not my class, we was the bomb,” King said. “We the dream team.”
King had a good laugh and then turned serious in offering his early impression from summer workouts.
“Nah, they’re good,” he said. “There are tremendous athletes in this class. I’m extremely excited to see what they can do when they put the pads on.”
After months of anticipation, Georgia holds its first preseason practice this afternoon with the new kids on the block now on the team. The first full-pads practice is slated for Monday.
“We had a tremendous recruiting class,” Richt said. “There’s tremendous momentum that we gained by the young men who decided to become a Bulldog.”
Just in the nick of time for a Georgia team picking itself off the mat after a 6-7 season.
“I feel like they have the potential to help this team go further than we did the last couple of years,” tight end Orson Charles said.
Among the 24 newcomers is touted tailback Isaiah Crowell. There are also 11 players ticketed for the Bulldogs’ 3-4 defense, including junior college transfer nose guard John Jenkins, outside linebacker Ray Drew, cornerbacks Damian Swann and Chris Sanders and inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera.
“This is the first year we’ve recruited for the system,” said second-year defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, hired weeks before signing day in 2010. “I think you’ll see more guys in this class playing early than in the previous class because we kind of targeted them and we kind of knew what they could do and how they would fit into what we want, so we kind of had a feel for them going in.”
The headliner in the class is Crowell, ranked No. 1 at his position by most scouting services.
“I’ve got a sense of anticipation,” Richt said. “I’m curious to see what’s going to happen when we put the pads on for the first time and get an inside drill or a team run and go live and just see what he does. See how he handles getting hit really hard. See how he handles the speed of the Southeastern Conference.
“I’m like any other fan would be, just to be curious to see how it’s going to go,” Richt continued. “We won’t treat him a whole lot different than any other player who is talented, but we’re wanting to make sure he has success.”
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who also will have wideout Malcolm Mitchell at his disposal, pulled Crowell aside as he walked into a study hall this summer to give him words of wisdom.
“Hey son, do you realize the opportunity? You’ve got a big opportunity here,” Bobo said.
Bobo said he talked to Crowell “about being dependable, being a guy that not only your coaches can count on, but your teammates can count on. That’s really my message to all these freshmen. We want dependable guys.”
Richt expects contributions from the freshmen, but not for the freshmen to carry the team by themselves.
“We’re not expecting the freshman class to win a bunch of games for us,” he said. “We’re expecting the freshman class to come in and compete and hopefully provide a level of competition for the level of play of our current players to rise, and if there are freshmen who can do a better job, then they’ll play.
“We’re not thinking we’re going to line up 22 freshmen and go kick somebody’s rear end. That’s just not going to happen.”
That 2008 class that included King produced a top-five NFL overall pick in receiver A.J. Green, a Groza Award finalist in Blair Walsh, preseason first-team All-Southeastern Conference kick returner Brandon Boykin and offensive linemen Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones, who will anchor this year’s line as fourth-year starters.
“I was in the class with Ben Jones that was a two or three-star center and is probably going to be one of the top guys for the Rimington (Trophy),” starting inside linebacker Christian Robinson said. “It’s about dedication to this team and the effort you put in here. You can be a five-star everything, but if you don’t work and you don’t care, it doesn’t mean anything.”
That on-field work with the entire team begins today.
“I don’t think there’s much doubt about the talent base of these bunch of guys,” Richt said. “I think it will just be a matter of how quickly they can learn what to do and prove they can earn some playing time.”
“I do see a lot of talented guys,” Robinson agreed. “But I want to see it on the field.”