One bonus of going 8-5 last year was that a lot of young talented players got to see the field. Georgia fans spent a lot of money on Maalox and Pepto Bismol last year because we were loose with the football and played a lot of wild up and down games (South Carolina, Arkansas, Arizona State, LSU, Auburn, and Kentucky come to mind). Georgia has a lot of guys that played as freshmen (or redshirt freshmen) last year and are poised to become stars or significant contributors this year.
Washaun Ealey- He didn't play until the 5th game last year against LSU. Ealey averaged 79 ypg after seeing the field in week five. This is 2nd among returning players in the SEC. The leading returner is the defending Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram of Alabama. Chris Low, ESPN SEC Blogger, has Ealey ranked as the #21 player in the SEC going into the season. Ealey saved his best game last year for Georgia Tech when he ran all over Tech for 183 yards while chewing off 9.2 yards per carry. Ealey is going to be more comfortable this year in the offense and he's going to hit the ground running from Day 1 as a co-starter with Caleb King (who also gained over 500 yards last year). Washaun is on Phil Steele's 2nd Team pre-season All SEC team (behind Mark Ingram and Derrick Locke). One thing Ealey needs to improve on is finding the end zone as he only had 4 TD in his debut season and 2 of those came against Tennessee Tech. Another thing going for Washaun is Georgia's veteran offensive line. They finally came together at the end of the year last year. Georgia has 155 starts returning on the OL, which is the most in College Football (the 2nd most in the SEC is Auburn with 111). Steele also ranks Georgia's OL as #1 in the Nation overall. In addition to the OL Washaun has one of the best 1-2 fullback combinations in Shaun Chapas/Fred Munzenmaier blocking for him.
Orson Charles- If there is one guy on the team that I look at besides A.J. Green and say "this guy will play on Sundays" it's Orson Charles. He was a Top 100 recruit coming out of High School and he made an impact almost immediately as he had 2 catches for 46 yards in the opener against Okie State. He ended up with 23 receptions for 374 yards and 3 TD last year as a freshman. Charles is a supreme athlete that will see the field more this year as he becomes more comfortable at the college level and improves in the running game. Charles has a rare quickness and athleticism at the Tight End position that makes him an impossible match-up for line backers due to his speed and a difficult match-up for Safety's because of his strength. Phil Steele lists Charles as Third Team on his pre-season All SEC team. Orson has been working hard this off-season, he took a Military Science class this spring and worked out with the ROTC (which was not a class requirement) part-time in addition to his daily football workouts. Another factor that could lead to a big year for Orson is the fact that he and new QB Aaron Murray are High School teammates and already have a connection on the football field. If you still don't like Orson then just remember that he's the kid that knocked over Florida's 2006 BCS Championship Trophy and shattered it while touring the stadium.
Bacarri Rambo- The dudes last name is Rambo and he's a football player. How can you not like him? He's also the player that saved the Auburn game for us last year. Georgia was up on Auburn but the Tigers were driving down the field. On second down Chris Todd lofted a pass towards the goal line that looked like it was going to connect. Out of nowhere Bacarri Rambo came in and separated the Auburn player from the football in a play that basically saved the game for Georgia. The hit took it's toll on Rambo and knocked him unconscious and gave him a concussion. It would have been a moment for the ages had we not been 5-4 and trying to save our season. Unfortunately, Bacarri didn't get to see the field that much in 2009 due to Willie Martinez sticking with Bryan Evans (a senior who played really hard but was often out of position). Rambo finished 3rd on the team with 2 interceptions (we really struggled to get turnovers last year) and took one of those to the house. Phil Steele has Rambo on the 4th Team pre-season All SEC team despite his limited playing time last year.
Brandon Smith- Ask South Carolina about this guy. Smith made a critical error in that game by bringing out a deep kickoff and then fumbling it to the Gamecocks. One minute into the second quarter (Smith's second game as a Bulldog) Smith got a chance to redeem himself. Smith took a reverse pitch and found a gear that not many people on planet earth have ever found. He ran away from every South Carolina player on the field en route to a 61 yard TD. It was one of those moments that makes your eyes get big and your mouth drop to the floor. It was explosive. Smith ended the year with 17 rushes for 208 yards and TDs. For the math majors that's 12 yards per carry. Smith also caught 2 passes and had a long of 48 yards returning kick offs. Smith's biggest issue was holding onto the football. If he can hold onto the football this year he can be a good change of pace at RB, WR or even in the Wild Dawg position. Did I mention that Smith is a CB by trade? He started to see the field more in the second half of the season and he finished with 13 tackles and 2 passes broken up. He is currently listed 2nd on the depth chart behind Senior Vance Cuff (opposite returning starter Brandon Boykin) but Smith will push him for the starting spot this year and will also see a lot of time at the nickel position. Richt also has mentioned this summer that Smith will see more time on offense. A.J. Green, Washaun Ealey/Caleb King, and Orson Charles are going to present problems for the defenses we face this year. Adding Brandon Smith on the field at the same time as those other guys might just be the straw that breaks the camels back (even if he's used as a decoy).
Cornelius Washington- Earlier we mentioned Bacarri Rambo's huge hit against Auburn that saved that game. Well, Cornelius Washington made the play that won the game. On third down, on the previously mentioned Auburn drive, Cornelius Washington sacked Chris Todd. This made it 4th and 23 and all Auburn could do was throw up a wild pass that fell incomplete. He played in 13 games last year but started only 1. He had 4 sacks and 13 QB pressures in limited action last year. This year he will be moving from playing DE in Willie Martinez's bend and hope you don't break defense to OLB in Todd Grantham's aggressive 3-4. He's a guy to watch out for. If things break right for the Georgia defense, Washington and All-SEC performer Justin Houston could be spending a lot of time in opponent's backfields.
Rantavious Wooten- Despite being a 4-Star recruit he came to Georgia a little under the radar but he was ready to play after competing in High School football in South Florida. Wooten ended up with 10 receptions for 197 yards with 2 TD. So despite not seeing the football much he made it count when he did as he averaged 20 yards per catch and caught a TD every 5 times he got the ball. He was also late to get into the action, like Washaun, as he didn't catch a pass until Week 4. He will see more action this year but I think his true impact might be in 2011 when A.J. Green is catching passes on Sundays.
Those are the Six Super Sophomores that I think can really impact the game this year for Georgia and they are all guys that I am excited to watch grow and progress on Saturdays this fall. There are other sophomores that could also develop into weapons like highly recruited WR Marlon Brown (who Richt thought would struggle initially because of the level of High School football he played), DT/DE Abry Jones (who is listed on the depth chart as a starter), Christian Robinson (listed on Spring Depth chart as starting Mo LB), and Mike Gilliard (listed on Spring Depth chart as #2 Mike LB). Georgia has a lot of talent right now on both sides of the football the question is if we will be able to put it all together this year or next year.