football Edit

Too soon for predictions

Everyone wants to know about the mid-year enrollees. How are they doing? What role might they play?

These are questions reporters and fans alike often ask this time of year to coaches like Georgia’s Kirby Smart.

It’s understandable.

This year, the Bulldogs boast a record 16 mid-year enrollees who are currently going through their first spring practice. Of the group, some may indeed play key roles; some may be required to step up. Defensive backs Kelee Ringo and Nyland Green jump immediately to mind.

However, as talented as this season’s group of newcomers may be, Smart said Thursday it’s simply too early to start making predictions regarding what freshmen might ultimately be able to do what.

“The biggest discrepancy in our mid-year enrollees and our young players is usually strength and point of attack. They’re just not strong,” Smart said. “I’m not going to call names, but we have a lot of guys out there who are mid-year enrollees that may be talented enough, but they’re not ready to take on a Justin Shaffer or a Jamaree Salyer or a George Pickens or whoever it is—a Jordan Davis. They’re just not ready for it. They’re not going to be able to walk out there and be able to do that.”

Smart said that’s true even with some of his returning players: younger athletes still looking to make their respective marks and prove to coaches they're ready to start making additional contributions.

“That’s what the offseason is for. And what you start to see is that guy is in his second or third year, taking on that role of Zion Logue, or a Nazir (Stackhouse), a Tate Ratledge. You’re looking for someone who’s been in the program where you say, ‘Oh, that guy’s ready to take another step, because he’s stronger, he’s been there, he’s realized that the recruiting rankings aren’t as good as maybe he thought they were,’” Smart said. “Most of those guys who are mid-years are just starting to experience that.”

Don’t get Smart wrong.

He’s certainly not suggesting that freshmen won’t be able to come in and earn a starting role. What he is saying is it's difficult to make bold declarations two days into spring practice.

“I've had them where I've been like, 'He's going to be inserted at a position where he's not ready to play, but we better go ahead and insert him.' I've had it that way. He wasn't ready, but he gotten thrust into that, because there was no one else, by default,” said Smart, who added he will avoid that situation at whatever costs.

“We’re not really deep at DB, but that's not going to be the case. We've got guys returning who've been here; it's not like a midyear—well, a midyear might win the job, but they're not going to be thrust into it,” he continued. “I've been in situations before where it was like, 'Well, we don't have anybody else. They're going to have to play, because we're so thin.'

"I've been very fortunate to be at some deep places. They've been guys where you say, 'You know what, he's going to start on some special teams, because he can move, he can run, he's really intelligent.' And we've got some of those guys out there right now."

Kelee Ringo during practice Thursday afternoon.
Kelee Ringo during practice Thursday afternoon. (Tony Walsh/UGA Sports Communications)