Even after losing six NFL draft picks and a slew of key leaders, Georgia still is returning a good number of players from last year’s team that made the College Football Playoff National Championship.
But as is the case every year, the Bulldogs should receive some contributions from its incoming freshman class.
Last season, quarterback Jake Fromm, offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, running back D’Andre Swift and outside linebacker Walter Grant stepped up when called upon. This year’s class will surely have some players who do the same.
Here are five freshmen who could hit the playing field sooner rather than later in 2018:
OLB Brenton Cox
An early enrollee, Cox had a solid spring at a position that likes to rotate its players. D’Andre Walker should flourish this year as a pass-rusher but will need some help from others so that he isn’t overused. Cox, with 14 practices and a G-Day scrimmage game under his belt, could be a big factor in doing so.
Cox passes the look test for a freshman. Standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing 250 pounds, Cox possesses the power needed out of an outside linebacker at the point of attack. High school linemen had a hard time slowing Cox down off the edge. Georgia brought in a lot of talented outside linebackers in its recruiting class of 2018, but Cox may have an edge at early playing time due to his ability to take part in winter workouts and spring practice.
RB Zamir White
If White didn’t suffer an ACL tear then he just might have gone through spring practice competing for the No. 1 running back spot. As it stands, White was forced to rehab his injury while getting as many non-contact reps as possible. White arrived at Georgia in January as the nation’s No. 1 ranked running back out of high school. At Scotland High in Laurinburg, North Carolina, White ran for over 7,000 yards in his four seasons.
Considering how Georgia rotated three running backs a season ago, that approach should stay the same this season. And if White’s recovery stays on track, then he should be in the mix for plenty of playing time as a true freshman. White’s blend of size, speed and power make him a dangerous ball-carrier for defenders to deal with.
CB Tyson Campbell
Campbell was one of the top overall recruits in a star-studded Georgia class. As the nation’s second-ranked cornerback out of high school, it could be hard to keep him off the field if he lives up to his potential throughout preseason practice. Head coach Kirby Smart was highly complimentary of Campbell at his National Signing Day news conference. Smart loves the 6-foot-2 cornerback’s blend of size and speed.
“The guy can fly, and he's really competitive,” Smart said. “Obviously, we know what the stature and the size bring, but more important than that on Tyson Campbell is his intangibles. There are some other good DBs that we're able to bring in. We're really excited about the DBs as a whole. It's an area that we felt like we could improve our team, and we were able to do it through recruiting.”
ILB Channing Tindall
Coming out of the spring, it appeared that Monty Rice was the big winner at inside linebacker. Even so, this is a position very much in flux. After losing Roquan Smith and Reggie Carter, the position will feature Rice, Juwan Taylor, Tae Crowder, Natrez Patrick and Nate McBride. While Patrick is a proven player, the others don’t have much game experience at inside linebacker.
That could open up a door for Tindall, who earned four-star status in the 247Sports.com composite rankings. Tindall is a rangy sideline-to-sideline linebacker who can get after the passer in blitz packages. With Georgia possibly opting for a wide-open rotation at the position to start the year, Tindall could have plenty of chances to see the field as a freshman.
P Jake Camarda
Camarda comes to Georgia as one of the nation’s top-rated punters. He is also a standout place-kicker, which means Georgia should have a solid backup option in the event an injury occurs to starter Rodrigo Blankenship. Georgia will surely miss the production punter Cameron Nizialek gave as a graduate transfer in 2017 as it looks for a new starter.
Camarda will join a competition that already includes third-year sophomore Marshall Long and redshirt freshman Bill Rubright. But if Camarda, who averaged 46.2 yards per punt as a senior, continues to showcase the consistent leg he had in high school, he could wind up as Georgia’s starting punter by the season opener.