Everyone is talking about Jeff Owens

ATHENS - In February, most everyone wanted to talk about Kade Weston. Now that No. 13 Georgia's season-opener is five days away, everyone is talking about Jeff Owens.

Kade Weston, a Parade Magazine All-America defensive tackle, was one of the jewels of the Bulldogs' recruiting class when he signed earlier this year. Owens, a Class AAAAAA all-state player in Florida at the same position, was considered a nice player but no Weston.

Fast forward seven months and Owens is leading the charge by Georgia's true freshmen for playing time this season. He, linebacker Marcus Washington and safety C.J. Byrd are expected to see significant playing time when the Bulldogs face No. 18 Boise State at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. All three have earned spots on the two-deep depth chart.

"I came all the way from Florida to get a new experience, and I can't wait," said Owens. "It's an overwhelming feeling right now."

The next best bet among the freshmen to get on the field this year appear to be wide receiver Mohamed Massaquoi and defensive back Bryan Evans. Weston, defensive end Rod Battle, safety Donavon Baldwin and wide receiver Michael Moore seem to be the players Coach Mark Richt has described to as "on the bubble."

Although Richt said he hasn't ruled any players out yet and won't until after the third game at least, quarterback Joe Cox, center Ian Smith and tight end Tripp Chandler seem the most likely healthy players in the class to redshirt. Safety Antavious Coates and linebacker Tavares Kearney are definite redshirts due to season-ending injuries.

Jeffery Owens may have surprised some people with his quick move up the depth chart, but defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner wasn't one of them.

"He never did slide under our radar," Garner said.

Anyone on the team who wasn't already impressed got on the bandwagon as soon as Owens got into the weight room this summer. He bench-pressed 485 pounds, the fifth-most on the team, and totaled 1,324 pounds in the Bulldogs' three main lifts. That was the 10th-highest total on the team and easily the best by an incoming freshman.

"I really didn't know my strength until I got here," Owens said.

"I think that helped him tremendously," Garner said. "He's is a very strong young man, very strong, and he is very football savvy. He's sort of a little football junkie. He just loves football."

Owens -- 6-foot-3, 280 pounds -- probably will be the team's third tackle in Saturday's game behind expected starters Gerald Anderson and Ray Gant. (Regular starter Kedric Golston is suspended from the first game.)

"I just love the game and love to watch film and be around and ready to learn something," said Owens, who said he began studying his playbook and films of practice drills right after signing day.

Owens still can't accept the fact that he'll be playing in front of more than 92,000 fans Saturday.

"I've never seen that many people in one place," he said. "When I step on that field, I'm going to explode."

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