The Fountain of Youth

MACON – With most of its components having been on campus for over a week, the 2011 Dream Team has now dissolved into a working part of the Georgia team.

For the incoming group of kids, that means early morning workouts, summer classes and the first taste of college living.

For returning players, the arrival marked the most talented flood of young players (top to bottom) in the Mark Richt Era. While Richt remains excited about his best recruiting class to date, he's mindful of the upperclassmen he says are still the most important part of his program.

"I think over the years people tend to remember your starters and they remember your freshman class because that's kind of what's on their mind," Richt said at the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame Tuesday. "They tend to forget about all those guys in between that have been working their way toward becoming a starter because there's 85 guys on scholarship and 125 guys on the team. I just think at times we forget about that next group of guys that are preparing for their moment, and we've got plenty of those."

Surely a few freshmen will play key roles this season. Another handful will probably serve in important capacities on special teams or spot duty on offense or defense.

But Richt says counting on a freshman class to come in and win a season isn't in the team's best interest.

"We're not expecting the freshman class to win a bunch of games for us," he said. "We're expecting the freshman class to come in and compete and hopefully provide enough competition for the level of play for our current players to rise, and if there are freshmen who can do a better job than our older players then they will play. But we're not sitting here thinking we're going to line up 22 freshmen and go kick somebody's rear end. That's just not going to happen."

What is currently happening to the new kids on campus is a full tilt grind. While the coaches can't conduct practices, the freshmen are going through workouts and player-driven pass skeleton drills and practice sessions. These are important times for young players still trying to find their way.

"Right now they just need to work and take the time to realize that, you know, if you have the right attitude now and the right work ethic then people will trust you and coaches will see how you work," said junior linebacker Christian Robinson. "If you can get the trust of your teammates and do what's best for them then the coaches will trust you as well."

Both Robinson and Richt hit on how important trust is when it comes to a young player gaining early playing time.

"The coaches are always looking for a great athlete for sure, a great talent, but they're looking for guys that are dependable," Richt said. "If you're the best athlete in America, or you may even be the best tackler in America, but if you don't know what to do and you're not going to get where you're supposed to be and you're not reliable in that way it's tough to get on the field.

"But that's why we have those first 29 practice opportunities before that first game," Richt, entering his 11th year at Georgia, continued. "We want to see just if they can become dependable enough to play, and I don't think there's much doubt about the talent base with this bunch of guys. It will just be a matter of how quickly they can learn what to do and they can earn some playing time."

The amount of talent in the freshman class has created quite a stir (with the media and fans). But the upperclassmen don't seem to mind, or at least are saying all the right things.

"I don't mind it," said senior left tackle Cordy Glenn. "At the end of the day, it's all one team, so if they can come in and help us out I have no problem with it. I'm just all about Georgia and us winning as a team."

As a team, Glenn says. That means there is no longer a Dream Team. Recruiting labels are for February headlines. On June 5, when most of the class arrived, the Dream Team became the freshest collection of faces on the Georgia team. While it remains to be seen who will help out this fall, the freshman class is already serving a vital purpose.

"I think just everybody pushing everybody, everybody challenging everybody, is nothing but great energy for the team," Glenn said. "Nobody is staying relaxed, everybody is staying motivated and playing with a sense of urgency. I think it will be great for everybody on the team to get pushed, whether it's me or anybody. I think it's good to get pushed."

Dawg Post Top Stories