Athens — I tried this last February and was — stop if you’ve heard this before — wrong as all get-out. I thought Georgia’s biggest impact freshman of 2009 would be Branden Smith, who made a couple of plays but wasn’t half as significant as Washaun Ealey or Orson Charles. I thought Marlon Brown would be starting by the end of September; he didn’t start at all. I thought Aaron Murray wouldn’t be redshirted; he was.
In sum, I guessed wrong on pretty much everything involving a true freshman last season. (Though I was correct in suggesting Abry Jones and Montez Robinson wouldn’t be redshirted.) This year I tried to cheat: I solicited Mark Richt’s help. And he, being smart, wouldn’t bite.
“If you say this guy’s going to make an impact,” he said Wednesday, “the other guys read it and say, ‘What about me?’ ”
And then Richt went into those cautionary tales that make recruiting so much fun. “Tra Battle was a walk-on, and he starts in our nickel package as a freshman. We offered Tim Jennings a scholarship the night before Signing Day — he was going to South Carolina State — because we’d seen him in an all-star game and he was the best player on the field.”
Postscript: Jennings will play in the Super Bowl on Sunday. He’s a cornerback for Indianapolis. He was a 2-star recruit exiting high school, according to Rivals.com, and he’s in his fourth season as a professional now.
In sum, you never know. But we, being all too human, love to guess. And the guess here is that no 2010 offensive signee will leave much of a mark this fall. Why? Because Georgia returns starters at every offensive position save quarterback.
Defense, however, is another matter. The Bulldogs have lost six starters and are thinnest up front. That could pave the way for Mike Thornton, the tackle from Stephenson. Todd Grantham, the new defensive coordinator, sees Thornton fitting into his 3-4 as the 1-gap tackle, and that’s a big thing. Because Georgia hasn’t been recruiting 1-gap tackles in previous years. Garrison Smith, the tackle from Douglass, would be another possibility.
T.J. Stripling, the defensive end from Southwest DeKalb, figures to see time at that position or, since Georgia will now field one extra linebacker, at that position. But Alec Ogletree, the safety from Newnan and the highest-rated Bulldog signee, stands to have the best combination of ability and opportunity. (There’s a chance Ogletree will become a linebacker before he’s done, but Georgia is listing him as a DB.)
Were I guessing today — and I guess I am — I’d go with Alec Ogletree as Impact Freshman of 2010. (Not to be confused with Alexander “Zander” Ogletree, his twin brother who’s likewise a Georgia signee and who UGA lists as a linebacker.) But I invite your input and, in the poll above, your vote.