Georgia football: top three freshman from the 2018 Bulldogs

(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Georgia football unfortunately missed out on the playoffs. But the Bulldogs are 11-2 meaning the current freshman are off to a great start.

3. Justin Fields – QB

Justin Fields may be on his way out of Georgia, but there’s no doubting he was one of the best freshmen on the 2018 team. He completed almost 70-percent of his passes for 328 yards with four touchdowns. And he ran for 266 yards with another four scores. Plus, he didn’t turn the ball over.

His prominence in Georgia’s offense varied week-to-week. Some games he didn’t see the field, like against Florida. In other games, he was a major part of a victory. The Tennessee game is the first to come to mind in that category. With Georgia’s offense going stagnant that week, Smart decided to substitute Fields and Jake Fromm after every first down, and it paid off with a long touchdown drive.

But as a young backup, on-the-field play might not have been his most important job. Fields played the “Steve Young” role very well, pushing Fromm in practice, and sometimes on the field, to be a better quarterback. Knowing Fields was right on his heels, Fromm had some amazing second halves this season because he knew after the break, it was score or get benched. Hopefully the incoming quarterbacks can push Fromm the way Fields did.

2. Cade Mays – OT

The only offensive lineman to appear on one of these lists, and Cade Mays certainly deserves it. Ben Cleveland’s injury earlier in the season forced Mays to become the full-time starter after just three weeks. Mays ended up starting seven games as a freshman after he also succumbed to an injury. He appeared in 75-percent of Georgia’s offensive plays and earned a spot on the Coaches All-SEC Freshman Team.

Watching Mays play on the offensive line, you wouldn’t know he’s a freshman. It helps when you arrive on campus at 6-6 and 318 pounds. Georgia’s running game and pass protection didn’t seem to go through any struggles in switching to Mays from the junior Cleveland. The only question about Mays now is where he’ll lineup in 2019. Cleveland should be 100-percent again and I’d expect the senior to retake a starting position. Does Mays come off the bench, or move elsewhere to start on the line? Georgia’s offensive line depth and talent is certainly a blessing going into 2019.

1. Tyson Campbell and Eric Stokes – CB

Originally, I only had Tyson Campbell in this spot. But as freshmen cornerbacks playing opposite to the great Deandre Baker, Eric Stokes also deserved the top spot. Campbell started 10 games, but later in the year, the coaches had Stokes start. Either player is a good option. They often had to go up against great receivers with more experience than them and they played very well.

Campbell and Stokes kept big plays to a minimum, sometimes creating some themselves. Most notably the Missouri game when both scored touchdowns. Campbell scored on a 64-yard fumble return, and Stokes later scored after blocking a punt.

Campbell also had the best pass interference ever when he was beat deep on a play against Florida. Knowing he couldn’t make the play cleanly, he tackled the receiver and accepted the penalty. In the NFL, pass interference is spot foul and the penalty would have hurt Georgia. But in college the penalty is added to the line of scrimmage. This gave Georgia’s defense one more chance to stop the Gators with a lot of field still behind them. They forced Florida to settle for a field goal, so Campbell’s penalty kept four points off the board.

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Now with Baker leaving, fans shouldn’t fret about the cornerback position. With two freshman playing prominent roles as corners in 2018, both will probably start together for the next several seasons. With a year of experience as starters behind them, Georgia’s pass defense might actually be better next year without Baker.