ATHENS—Entering the eighth practice of the spring, it had been customary for Georgia’s early enrollees not to be available for post-practice interviews. The interviewing guideline has been especially unfortunate this spring since the newcomers have seemingly practiced well, and because there are so many of them—eight early enrollees (compared to only one a year ago) with all but one playing on the defensive side of the ball.
The Bulldogs’ seven early defensive enrollees are freshman linemen Michael Bennett, linebackers Jake Ganus and Chuks Amaechi—both transfers—and freshmen Natrez Patrick and Jonathan Ledbetter, and freshmen defensive backs Johnathan Abram and Jarvis Wilson.
Since the early enrollees are not available for interviews, the media is often updated, like tonight, regarding their spring performances by the individuals who know them better than most—their teammates.
“That’s one of the hardest things—to transition from high school to college,” said junior safety Quincy Mauger, who’ll enter the 2015 season with the most career starts (14) of any member of Georgia’s young, but rather experienced secondary. “I think [the early enrollees] have done a great job [this spring]. … It’s our job to teach them the ‘Georgia Way.’” Mauger added when the remaining freshmen enter the program in the summer, it’ll then be the early enrollees’ turn to teach them the “Georgia Way.”
“They’re getting it; they’re working hard,” sophomore cornerback Malkolm Parrish said specifically about defensive backs Abram and Wilson. He then admitted the two players were “a lot better” than he was at this time during his initial season as a Bulldog. Both hailing from Mississippi, Abram was a late bloomer in high school, gaining little attention from major southern programs until his senior year. Wilson was a standout during Saturday’s scrimmage, totaling five tackles, including one for loss, and two pass breakups.
Linebacker Natrez Patrick, a defensive end at Mays HS in Atlanta, where he was considered by Rivals as the seventh-best prospect in the state, was moved to outside linebacker upon his arrival at Georgia, and since has moved to inside linebacker, all while making quite an impression on some of his elder teammates.
“He can play outside, he can play inside; that kid is a baller,” junior linebacker Reggie Carter declared regarding Patrick. “Even today, he didn’t know [all the plays], but the feeling he had for [playing the position] was natural—unreal.”
As far as if any of the three early enrollees at linebacker will contend with Carter and junior Tim Kimbrough for the two starting inside linebacker spots vacated by Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera, the most experienced Georgia defender offered his opinion:
“I’m as impartial as ever [as far as who’ll start at inside linebacker],” said senior linebacker Jordan Jenkins. “All of them guys keep making plays. I’ve seen Tim and Reggie for the longest [time], and now add in Ganus and Chuks, I still don’t know—that’s how intense [the competition has] been this whole spring.” Junior Chuks Amaechi was considered one of the top JUCO linebackers in the country, whereas Jake Ganus was a standout for three seasons at UAB prior to the school’s football program discontinuing. Ganus also had perhaps the best defensive performance in the Bulldogs’ first scrimmage of the spring.
Towards the end of the interviewing sessions, one of those early enrollees at linebacker contending for a starting spot was surprisingly made available for questioning—Ganus. The senior transfer claimed although UAB had some players who could play anywhere in the country, the overall depth, size, strength, and speed of the players were the biggest differences he has encountered as a member of the Bulldogs.
As far as what Ganus believed he needed to do to indeed win one of those starting spots, “I just got to keep doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I’m going to leave [who sees significant playing time] up to the coaches. I completely trust them with that. I’m just going to keep working hard, keep making plays, and learning the defense.”