What Rookies?

Limitations due to class standing is quickly becoming a thing of the past in college football.

The days of ‘wait your turn, freshman’ are long gone. That’s the case in Athens, anyway. Georgia has a Heisman Trophy candidate in the backfield, but also has two true freshman tailbacks averaging nearly 10 yards a carry through three games — in the SEC. Remember when coach Mark Richt redshirted Knowshon Moreno in 2006?

You can forget that type of move repeating itself.

“I think you see it around the league and around the country,” Mark Richt told reporters Tuesday. “High school players are more advanced than they used to be.”

Being more advanced comes with the territory when a kid is training for football year round. From 7-on-7 summer camps, to personal training, to just flat-out, first-class high school football programs, first-year players appear ready to play as early as National Signing Day. Richt says, “90 percent of them are bigger, stronger, faster and even more skilled at some of the things that we’re going to ask them to do. In the past you might have to train a guy from scratch on certain things in the passing game, especially, whatever it is. A lot of these high school teams are very outstanding passing teams and concepts and things that you used to have to teach from ground zero, you don’t have to do that anymore.”

The Bulldogs have Sony Michel and Nick Chubb getting significant carries behind Todd Gurley. Michel is averaging 10.3 yards per carry, Chubb 9.5. Defensively, defensive backs Dominick Sanders and Rico Johnson have logged significant minutes.

“I’m not shocked that freshmen come in and are able to play, even some offensive linemen, you know,” Richt said. “We’ve had in the past, Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones, and (Trinton) Sturdivant, and you know some of those guys are much more advanced than they used to be. Used to be a lineman, it was a couple years before you could get him ready physically to compete. Now some of them show up ready to go. It’s amazing. I think the athlete is different than they used to be even ten years ago.”

Different indeed. Times have changed, and so have its athletes.

“There are not a lot of three-sport guys like there were back in the day,” Richt said. “It’s mostly you choose the sport you like and you play it year round.”

Georgia has not been timid to let its youth serve. Whoever practices the best plays the most.

“They’ve done a great job, obviously. It’s incredible,” senior wideout Michael Bennett said. “It’s a lot of maturity from guys coming right out of high school. They’re learning fast and playing fast and doing a great job. I don’t know the real reason for it. Maybe it’s just a different level of athlete nowadays than there was in the past. Obviously, there are just great athletes coming in with phenomenal athletic bodies ready to play against 21 and 22 year old people right away.”

Sometimes it’s a case of having freshmen that are physical specimens, but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes freshmen don’t arrive ready, but they step up when an opportunity is presented.

“(It’s) kind of a situation we’ve been in here at Georgia with injuries,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “It seems like we’ve had them at the skill positions the past few years and freshmen had to step in, and I think guys are more prepared when they come to college (with) what they do in high school. Guys are doing more and more at every level. They know more football when they get here.”

A little extra rest for Gurley gives him a chance to be even more explosive, and presently, he can thank a few of his youngest teammates for that.


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