ATHENS - It's not that I don't respect my own football judgment. But during my time on the beat I've realized that, absent being able to watch practices in their entirety, the best way to glean insight on who's standing out is by asking players on the opposite side of the ball.
Offensive players will tell you who on defense is giving them fits. And the reverse is true, such as last year when Shawn Williams compared Todd Gurley to Trent Richardson, people laughed, and then Gurley ran for more than 1,300 yards.
So as curiosity about Georgia's defense abounds, it's at least useful to ask a couple Georgia offensive veterans which younger, inexperienced defensive players have impressed them.
The first person receiver Malcolm Mitchell mentioned, not surprisingly, was a cornerback: Sheldon Dawson, who is the favorite to earn a starting spot. But in further evidence that Tray Matthews has a chance to start right away, Mitchell next mentioned the safety who enrolled early.
"Tray looks really good," Mitchell said. "I think he could (start). Not taking away from anybody else, because anybody else could start as well. I'm not saying who's gonna be the starter, but he definitely could start because he definitely has athletic ability, and the physicality to play safety. I think he's a good player. I don't know how good he is as far as the coverages or anything, but that just comes with time. When everything's put in, then you'll know."
Another early enrollee has stood out to quarterback Aaron Murray: Reggie Carter, the inside linebacker.
"He's definitely impressed me thus far," Murray said. "We were doing one-on-ones with him and the running backs and tight ends, and Arthur (Lynch) and I were watching him and saying, This kid is gonna be good. He's a very big kid, good-looking kid already. Works hard."
Mitchell also mentioned another inside linebacker: Ramik Wilson, currently working first-team at inside linebacker. The other first-teamer, Amarlo Herrera, is also getting better and better, according to Mitchell, but that's expected.
Back to the younger, inexperienced players:
"Corey Moore is gonna have an outstanding season," Mitchell said of the safety, who will be a junior this fall. "Just because he's been playing behind Shawn Williams for two seasons, nobody really got to see him. But now it's his time and I believe he's gonna have a great season."
Then there's Josh Harvey-Clemons, who is Mitchell's fellow Valdosta native. (Though they went to rival high schools.) Mitchell echoed what others have said: He's too good not to play. It just remains to be seen whether it's safety, linebacker or some sort of hybrid position.
"He's gonna be on the field somewhere," Mitchell said. "I don't know where, but somewhere."
Harvey-Clemons is still very thin for an outside linebacker, or even a strong safety. But head coach Mark Richt has said Harvey-Clemons packs a punch when he does hit - and Mitchell echoed that.
"He will come down and hit you. So it's not like he won't hit," Mitchell said. "And you feel it if he hits you. And he can move."
All of this is nice, of course, which is why we're writing about it. But it's still months from the opener.
"Spring is good," Mitchell said. "But camp will tell it all."