University of Georgia

Freshmen making strong first impression for Georgia

ATHENS -- On Monday, Nick Chubb earned SEC freshman of the week honors. At this point, it was merely a formality.

For the fourth time this season, Georgia’s freshman tailback netted the conference’s top freshman recognition following his 144-yard, two-touchdown performance as the running back torch symbolically passed to Chubb after Todd Gurley sustained a season-ending ACL tear.

And while Chubb deserves all the credit he has received this season, he’s far from the only Bulldogs freshman making significant contributions in his first year on campus.

“A lot of people are talking about them,” head coach Mark Richt said. “There are some young guys that are being highly productive, which is great.”

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.

“Bright future. I’m excited to see some of the things they do in Athens,” senior cornerback Damian Swann said. “I’m excited to see these young guys that I’ve been around the last few months. I’m excited to watch them in the future.”

In Carter’s mind, however, the future is already here.

“To be honest, I barely even think of myself as a freshman anymore,” he said.

He’s not the only one. Now 10 games into the season, offensive lineman Kolton Houston doesn’t look at the “new guys” as really even being all that new.

After all, they’ve already endured their entire first year of an SEC schedule.

“Now, week nine, week 10 of the season, they’re not freshmen anymore,” Houston said. “They’re older.”

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.

The flurry of compliments is a far cry from the “babies” defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt referenced in the preseason. But it is that work in the summer and fall that Houston credits to the increased contributions the freshman class has given as the season progressed.

“They just came in back in the summer with a great work attitude,” Houston said. “None of them came with that cocky, five-star attitude where they thought they deserved something right away. They all earned their respect. It’s starting to show late in the season how much work they put in.”