ATHENS -- Georgia freshman Jordan Jenkins got his first jolt of reality when he arrived on campus this summer.
I knew it was gonna be hard, the linebacker said. But when I first got it I was actually shocked, because we got a playbook about this thick -- and that was just for camp.
Now that the season is upon the Bulldogs, along with presumably a new playbook, Jenkins and most of his fellow freshmen are hit with a new reality: They better get ready to play.
This years signing class was not the most hyped in recent Georgia history. Nor was it the most highly ranked. That distinction still belongs to the so-called 2011 Dream Team.
But for various reasons, including some of the immediate disappointment of the Dream Team, the 2012 class will be called on to help No. 6 Georgia as it chases an SEC and national championship.
And the freshmen will occupy some very key roles on special teams and offense:
Place-kicker: Marshall Morgan hasnt quite been named the starter, but its either him or a walk-on. Morgan has been tabbed as the heir apparent to Blair Walsh ever since he committed 18 months ago.
Punter: Collin Barber is in the same position as Morgan -- tabbed as the eventual replacement for a longtime starter (Drew Butler) since he was offered and accepted a scholarship.
Right tackle: John Theus was one of the nations top recruits last year and as expected, earned a starting spot. His ability to be a dependable blocker right away will have a big impact on the teams main area of concern.
Tailback: Keith Marshall and Todd Gurley arent starting ... at least not yet. But both were highly recruited, Marshall has been on campus for a while, and Gurley was the leading rusher in each of the three preseason scrimmages.
Fullback: Quayvon Hicks currently sits third on the depth chart, behind former walk-on Merritt Hall and converted tailback Richard Samuel. But Hicks stands a good chance of getting playing time.
Then theres the defense, which returns almost every starter from a unit ranked fifth nationally last year. When seven rising seniors announced last January they were all bypassing the NFL, that seemed to close up playing time for any incoming freshman.
But at least two players -- Jordan Jenkins and Josh Harvey-Clemons -- have impressed so much in preseason practice that the Bulldogs are going to find ways to put them on the field.
Jenkins, an outside linebacker, should get a lot of snaps opposite All-American Jarvis Jones. And Harvey-Clemons is being used in a so-called star position, where he will alternate between safety, nickel cornerback and outside linebacker.
What you need to do is during the evaluation, youre looking at their ability to make plays, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. Youve gotta get certain kinds of playmakers, and obviously Jordans one of those kinds of guys.
The other thing youre looking for is guys that can be your quote core guys. That is, solid, who do things the way you want them done, and do those kinds of things. And really with that recruiting class and the guys we have here as freshmen, I do think theyre a good core group defensively to help us continue with where were going.
The 2012 class had 19 members, two of whom didnt qualify academically. Out of the remaining group, only two (quarterback Faton Bauta and defensive tackle John Taylor) are likely to redshirt. Receiver Blake Tibbs is also a candidate, barring injuries.
Otherwise, the Bulldogs are counting on the others to at least provide depth: Ty Flournoy-Smith as the third tight end, Sheldon Dawson at cornerback, Mark Beard and Greg Pyke on the offensive line and James DeLoach and Josh Dawson at outside linebacker.
To be fair, its partly by necessity. Offseason attrition -- including five members of the Dream Team class -- has left the team with just under 70 players recruited to campus on scholarship.
But the sense among Georgia coaches is that while this group of rookies may be a bit better than expected.
Its a very good class, said Georgia recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner, who doesnt tend to deliver empty praise. Theres gonna be some really good players to come out of this class.