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Big paws on the pups: A look at how the true freshman are performing so far

Starting ILB Jake Ganus is among many new faces making an impact so far.
Starting ILB Jake Ganus is among many new faces making an impact so far.
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

With two games under our belts, Mark Richt has given his kids a chance to show what they can do.  Georgia is already looking at a star studded 2016 signing class, but their 2015 class was filled with plenty of promise as well, and that promise is already seeing the field.  16 players who signed this past spring saw the field in Nashville, with three more participating in the season opener against Louisiana-Monroe.  Two true freshman have already started games.  Due to the travel squad limitations for road games, that number should bounce back up with some who weren't on the sidelines Saturday able to see special teams duty against South Carolina.

Plainly put though, Richt isn't shy about getting his kids some work so they can grow and develop this season before assuming bigger roles later on in their careers, if not this season.  So let's take a look at the ones we've already been able to get a look at.  If it was a kid you followed last recruiting cycle, and their name isn't on the list, just ask in the comments below, and know that they may well get their chance as the season goes on and injuries take their toll or talent emerges, as some kids have always done.

#88 Jackson Harris - The big tight end from Tennessee was on the field for the first offensive snap back in his home state at Vanderbilt this past weekend.  With a frame some thought could develop into an OT, Harris has seen plenty of work alongside Jeb Blazevich in two TE sets the last two games.  With Jay Rome working his way back into action, that playing time may reduce going forward, but it won't be because of the play of big #88.  Harris has been a solid in line blocker, and has moved well on pass routes providing a bigger target over the middle.  So far, he only has one catch for 10 yards, but Harris is clearly ready to compete now and should only get better as he matures physically and develops his game.

#36 Rico McGraw - Another native of Tennessee, McGraw didn't start back in his hometown of Nashville but was on the field to begin the season against Louisiana-Monroe when the Dawgs started in a nickel look.  The 6' CB was subject to a recruiting tug of war between Jeremy Pruitt and his old employer, Alabama, but the Dawgs won his signature in the end.  A bigger CB of the ilk Pruitt is said to prefer, McGraw has shown a willingness to stick his nose in with five tackles so far, and he has also registered a QB hurry coming on a blitz.  McGraw has mainly worked on the slot WR on nickel packages, which is one of the harder places to work as a CB with the quicker opponents and the lack of a sideline to help cover certain routes, and has performed admirably so far.  Unlike Harris, he doesn't have a returning to health veteran able to supplant him, so McGraw should see his playing time increase as the season goes on.  McGraw should be a big part of Pruitt's plans for his secondary going forward.

#78 Trenton Thompson - The big DT from Albany was the headliner for this class, and as of yet has failed to register a tackle.  That isn't to say he's been a disappointment, cause he hasn't.  Thompson was said to have a strong fall camp, and has seen action in both games so far in the defensive line rotation.  His play hasn't stood out yet, but that also means he hasn't played poorly either.  Veterans Chris Mayes and Sterling Bailey have been playing well up front, so that has thankfully lessened the need to rely on Thompson to carry the load for the defensive interior in his first season on campus.  That also means he can work in the rotation and make plays as his talent dictates instead of needing to grind out 50+ snaps per game in close combat with OL 3-5 years older than him.  Thompson will almost certainly have his wow moments this season, and become a bigger piece of the defensive puzzle as his career progresses.

#5 Terry Godwin - Another five star stud in this class, the talented athlete was taken by the Atlanta Braves in their MLB draft this summer but was always destined for Athens.  The WR from Hogansville has already seen the ball, catching passes in both games so far.  New OC Brian Schottenheimer has called his number on a couple WR screen or quick passes, so the staff is definitely making getting him involved a priority.  And with the speed and elusiveness he's shown on those four receptions, it's easy to see why.  With Malcolm Mitchell healthy at the moment (knocks on wood), Godwin won't have to shoulder the burden of being the go-to guy out wide.  But does seem to be in line to provide a Mitchell-like style of play going forward when #26 needs a rest this season and after this season once Mitchell graduates.

#15 DeAndre Walker - The slender OLB out of the Atlanta area has seen a lot of action so far on special teams, showing the speed and athleticism that made him a coveted recruit.  With veterans Lorenzo Carter, Jordan Jenkins, Davin Bellamy, and others available to attack off the edge, Walker's defensive snaps might not be numerous, but he will get more work there as the season progresses.  In the mean time, we can just watch a large, lanky rifle shot fly down the field in coverage units.  Walker is tied for the lead among tackles as a freshman with McGraw at 5, and for mostly special teams work, that is a very impressive number that bodes well for his future.

#82 Michael Chigbu Yet to make a catch, the big New Orleans native has seen snaps in both games so far.  Considering the lack of size among the main wide receivers in the mix (Godwin, Mitchell, and Isaiah McKenzie are all slender, sub 6' guys), there is a role for Chigbu to play in this offense as the season continues.  Not much should be expected, but a few well timed, key catches could be on the cards for Chigbu.

#96 DaQuan Hawkins, #13 Jonathan Ledbetter, #90 Chauncey Rivers And now we get to the bundled portion of our package.  Rivers didn't make the field in Nashville, but did get snaps against Louisiana-Monroe.  Ledbetter and Hawkins both made the trip to Commodore Country, and got some snaps in.  These three lacked the hype of Thompson coming in, but considering the nature of defensive lines and our stated desire to keep legs fresh and rotate deeply, all three will have a chance to make plays this season.  Hawkins is the bigger, nose guard type of the three, and has been working in behind the emerging Chris Mayes there, while Ledbetter and Rivers will get their action closer to the edge across from opposing tackles.

#3 Roquan Smith, #6 Natrez Patrick, #12 Juwuan Briscoe, #18 DeAndre Baker, #19 Jarvis Wilson, #30 Jonathan Abram, #33 Kirby Choates, #39 Rashad Roundtree, #43 Nick Moore, #44 Juwan Taylor - This group, like Walker, has been mostly getting special teams work so far.  Smith is just behind Walker with 4 tackles, while Patrick's made a pair of tackles.  Briscoe, Abram, and former Boston Red Sox farmhand Moore have one a piece.  Choates, Moore, and Roundtree weren't in the travel squad, so their work came in the season opener.  These guys will get work at LB and DB as the season progresses (Moore may get work at FB as well), and injuries as well as their development warrants, but right now they are mostly special teams help.

#41 Chuks Amaechi - Amaechi is a JUCO signee, so while he's not a freshman, he is a newcomer to this mix and deserves mention.  He's played in both games so far, and got more extensive work Saturday thanks to Lorenzo Carter's ejection for targeting.  The Arizona native combined with Leonard Floyd to register a sack against the Commodores, and will remain in the rotation for snaps at OLB, as well as get special teams work this season.

#51 Jake Ganus - Kind of like Amaechi, Ganus isn't a freshman, but he is a new member of the squad after transferring in from the formerly defunct and now coming back Alabama-Birmingham program.  That indecisiveness has helped Georgia this season land a starting LB, as the Blazers two-time leading tackler lined up alongside Leonard Floyd inside to start both games.  Ganus has made nine tackles so far, 6 of which came in Nashville, along with a fourth quarter interception that helped seal the win.  Ganus will be a big part of the defense this season it appears, and he also seems a good fit alongside Floyd as the more patient, sideline to sideline runner and cover man to complement the attacking, blitzing NFL prospect.