During a recent interview, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham hinted that he would consider playing a few more of Georgia's true freshmen should they continue to show in practice that they were ready to step up and contribute in a serviceable role.
As it pertains to Georgia's defensive line, that's just what defensive end Garrison Smith has done.
Thought to be a candidate for a redshirt, the Atlanta native traveled to last Saturday's game at Colorado and received 10 snaps against the Buffaloes, giving the Bulldogs' defensive line another body to help out at a position that continues to experience its share of growing pains.
"It was just a matter of feeling like we needed a little more punch up front. He's a very strong player, very powerful guy. He's still playing too high as rookies tend to do. He has to learn that he's in a different league and that he's going against much bigger, stronger, more physical people," head coach Mark Richt said. "He has the ability, and it was good for him to get that under his belt and learn and I think he'll get better in a hurry. There is a chance that other guys will play. There are some other freshmen we have looked at to do that."
One of the Bulldogs' top targets from the Class of 2010, Smith himself thought he was headed for a redshirt until he began impressing Grantham and position coach Rodney Garner during practice approximately two weeks ago.
"I really thought I was going to be redshirted, but whatever I can do to help the team I will," Smith said. "I'll gladly sacrifice a year because I think it will only make me better. I'm just glad that God has blessed me with this talent. Those are some grown men out there and I'm a freshman just out of high school. I'm just glad I have the talent to out and compete with those guys."
Garner knew there would be some growing pains.
With Geno Atkins, Jeff Owens and Kade Weston all taken in last April's NFL Draft, Garner knew this year would most certainly be a growing process considering those losses plus Grantham would be implementing a new 3-4 scheme.
That's just what's happened.
Although Garner says that DeAngelo Tyson, Abry Jones and Demarcus Dobbs have done their best anchoring the new defensive set, it's still been an overall struggle for the group.
"They have shown improvement, but obviously we've got so much room to improve that it's hard to gauge," Garner said. "I thought DeAngelo had his best game, but obviously it doesn't matter because we lost."
Enter Smith, who was thrown into the fray partly due to an unspecified injury to Brandon Wood that he suffered Week 2 at South Carolina, which has led to Kiante Tripp receiving some extra snaps of his own at defensive end.
Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore Kwame Geathers saw 15 snaps at nose last week against the Buffs, but Garner said the 330-pounder still needs to get more consistent in practice before he's able to see additional playing time.
"We knew with the guys we lost that there would be some growing pain, although I don't think anybody envisioned we would be where we're at," Garner said. "But a lot of it has been self-inflicted so everybody has to look at themselves and take ownership in what's happening. Nobody's pointing fingers, nobody's singling any players out or anything like that. It's been a series of things happen that's put us in this position."
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