February 9, 2009

Impact Freshmen

Now that National Signing Day has come and gone, it's time to maybe do a little looking ahead to see exactly what members of the Class of 2009 may actually see the most playing time next fall.

Although predicting what true freshmen will eventually do can sometimes be a difficult task UGASports will examine five of the newcomers, who based on what we know now, will have the best opportunity to come in and contribute right away.

Remember, this list does not necessarily mean the quintet consists of the five best freshmen, but their opportunity to play seems greater due to a combination of their physical skills and attrition at the position they play. Players are not listed in any particular order.

Cornerback Branden Smith - Asher Allen's decision to jump to the NFL has opened up all kind of doors for Smith, who will certainly get his chance when he reports to school in June. Blessed with tremendous cover skills, blazing speed and a knack for making big plays, Smith will get every opportunity to show defensive coordinator Willie Martinez just what he can do. While it's true that young players Smith can be prone to mistakes, cornerback is one of just a couple of positions where talent and speed can overcome some of those initial issues. Although redshirt freshman Brandon Boykin will have a leg up on replacing Allen with a strong showing this spring, Smith's talent is too great to keep him off the field for long.

Offensive lineman Chris Burnette - Big, tough, smart. Those are just three of the attributes that Burnette will bring to the Bulldogs this fall. Barring any setbacks regarding injuries, Georgia's depth on the offensive line should be the best it's been in three years. Even so, Burnette is definitely good enough and smart enough to see some time in a backup role at guard and could get some work as the backup center to starter Ben Jones. According to Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every coaches in the U.S. Army All-American game cited the former Troup County star for picking up the offensive scheme faster than any player on his squad. Offensive line coach Stacy Searels would appear to have a good one in Burnette.

Wide receiver Marlon Brown - Although many believe that Brown will eventually become a much-more polished receiver than he is right now, there's no denying the 6-foot-5, 205-receiver from Memphis has the potential to cause some major headaches for opposing defensive backs. Brown doesn't come in with quite the same fanfare as A.J. Green, but you can bet that quarterback Joe Cox is already salivating at the thought of having both receivers as targets on the field at the same time this fall. Just how quickly Brown adjusts to the college level of play will determine how fast this happens. But make no mistake, Brown was considered one of the top receivers in the country for a reason and will get his opportunity to strut his stuff.

Defensive end Montez Robinson - In most cases, Robinson might be in line for a redshirt but because Georgia's depth at defensive end is what it is, the 6-5, 235-pounder will get a shot to show what he can do. Robinson will still need to get a little bigger for the taste of defensive ends coach Jon Fabris, but with only three healthy defensive ends available this spring (Demarcus Dobbs, Jeremy Longo, Justin Houston), the opportunity will be there for Robinson if he can step up his play. The Bulldogs will have Roderick Battle, Neland Ball and Cornelius Washington back after off-season surgery. However after what happened with all the injuries last year, the door is open for Robinson to make an early statement.

Wide receiver Rantavious Wooten - The signing of Brown has left Wooten somewhat in the background, but make no mistake. When you have a player with the quickness and speed that Wooten possesses, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will find a way to get the Belle Glade, Fla. native into the game just as much as he possibly can. His overall athletic ability and threat to take it to the house every time he touches the football makes him too valuable to stay on the sidelines. The guess here is he will get plenty of chances to find his niche in the receiver rotation giving Cox yet another weapon at his disposal. Wooten, along with Smith, will also give the Bulldogs another weapon to use on special teams and could also get his shot returning punts and kicks.

Others to watch (in no particular order)

TE Arthur Lynch, QB Aaron Murray, RB Washaun Ealey, DT Derrick Lott, DT Abry Jones, CB Jordan Love, S Shawn Williams,

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