November 10, 2008

Redshirt review

For some freshmen, the decision to accept a redshirt can be a difficult one to make.

Georgia's Bacarri Rambo agrees. But it didn't take the former Seminole County High star to realize it was truly in his best in his best interest to do.

"It's been the right decision," Rambo said in an exclusive interview with UGASports. "It's helped me get bigger, stronger and it's helped me understand the game more. Next year, I'll be ready to go."

He's not alone.

Rambo is one of 12 freshmen from the Bulldogs' 2008 signing class who are redshirting their first year to get acclimated to the college game, all with the expectations that an extra season of experience will enable them to become integral parts of the Georgia program.

"I wanted to play this year but the coaches just felt I was not ready," Rambo said. "I didn't quite know all the plays, but this extra season is giving me the opportunity to do that. I'll be ready for next year."

Apparently Rambo is making quite the impression.

Not only is he making strides at both the free and strong safety positions, Rambo is also seeing time as the Bulldogs' scout team quarterback to help prepare for upcoming games.

"It's something I started doing the week we played Vanderbilt," Rambo said. "LSU week I had to play receiver, but last week I was back running quarterback with the scouts."

Although the Bulldogs have no plans to move the 6-0, 205-pounder to offense, head coach Mark Richt has been impressed with what he's seen.

"Bacarri has done an excellent job," Richt said. "If we had to, we could probably design our offense around him. He's a very good athlete."

It wouldn't be that far of a stretch.

As a high school senior, Rambo rushed for 692 yards on 17 attempts with 17 touchdowns while completing 34-of-75 passes for 615 yards and four scores.

"It's been fun, but I'm all defense now," Rambo said. "Actually, it (playing quarterback) has really helped me understand the defense more."

Georgia's 11 other redshirting freshmen have similar stories to tell.

Below, UGASports examines what freshmen are being redshirted and speaks to teammates and coaches regarding their progress and how they should start contributing to the Georgia program next fall.

Players are listed in alphabetical order:

DB Sanders Commings (6-2, 210): One of the Georgia's more versatile signees out of Augusta's Westside High, Commings has played sparingly in three games for the Bulldogs coaches decided to shut him down following a shoulder injury that's limited his practice time.

C.J. Byrd on Commings: "He's improving in all areas. He's been injured a lot, so he's been on and off but he's still out there learning a lot about the defense. He's just go to improve his knowledge of the game."

Dasher's take: "Had it not been for a shoulder injury, Sanders would not have redshirted this year. But in the long run, the extra year will no doubt do the Augusta native some good as he will be able to come in next season and make a contribution at either strong safety or nickel back.

OLA.J. Harmon (6-5, 330): Harmon has found a home on the Bulldogs' offensive line after starting out the year at defensive tackle. The move is definitely paying off. Although he's redshirting, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Wednesday that the former Jefferson High standout is running at No. 2 left guard with some time at left tackle.

Bobo on Harmon: "He's done a pretty good job. It's always tough when you move a guy in the middle of the season from one side of the ball to the other because he missed all the installation in the fall camp. But he's rolling with our twos right now because of our lack of depth; we don't even have 10 guys so he has to play in there. But he's getting valuable experience that he probably wouldn't get if he was on the scout team. He obviously can't play this year, but those reps are definitely helping him learn the offense.

Dasher's take: "The move from defensive front to the offensive line should do wonders for Harmon's Georgia career. Although he's obviously a very large man, Harmon is very athletic to play either tackle or guard and will get a chance to work his way into the ration next fall."

RBDontavius Jackson (5-10, 190): The wrist injury Jackson suffered his senior year in high school has slowed his progress, but coaches remain extremely high on the former Heard County star.

Knowshon Moreno on Jackson: "He's still learning the system but he's still on the scout team and helping out as much as he can. He's very elusive. He's going to do some great things next year."

Running backs coach Tony Ball on Jackson: "Because of the wrist he had some issues with even carrying the ball and with protection, so it limited him in that regard. Because of the injury, he was inactive during that whole semester (spring) he got out of shape, so he was behind physically as well. But as he's gotten stronger and the rehab improved his range of motion he's been able to do more things. He's getting better fundamentally and has steadily improved."

Dasher's take: "Jackson's progress was slowed by the wrist injury he suffered as a senior in high school. Once he gets healthy, look for the former Heard County star to push for playing time next fall."

WRTavarres King (6-1, 181): A reoccurring ankle injury has kept King from being part of the Bulldogs' receiver rotation this year. King has played in four games with two catches for 66 yards, but coaches are seeking a medical redshirt for the former Habersham Central star who still figures to have an outstanding collegiate career.

Michael Moore on King: "TK is like my little brother and we had a long talk about it, and he asked how I felt. I told him he can take it as an opportunity to get better or you can waste your time and not buy into the system. But he's definitely bought into the system and he sees what he needs to do. He's still working hard in the weight room and going to practice like he's still playing. I like his focus right now."

Dasher's take: "King's bum ankle kept him from making an impact this year, but there's no question the former Hab Central star has what it takes to become an integral part of the receiver rotation in the near future."

DE Jeremy Longo (6-3, 255): Various ailments have set Longo back to some degree, but there's no denying his work ethic and desire to give 100 percent while on the field. Longo has a bright future with the Bulldogs. He just needs to get healthy.

Jeremy Lomax on Longo: "Longo has been coming along pretty good. He lost a lot of weight, but he's out there still competing and that's all you can ask for at this point. He's really working hard on the fundamentals."

Dasher's take: "Injuries have hampered Longo a good bit of the year, but coaches love his hustle and attitude. A smart player will should definitely make an impact, even at a position that is deep in numbers."

OL Jonathan Owens (6-4, 305): Injuries have slowed Owens' progress, so his redshirt season is definitely being put to good use. Coaches still hope he will become a contributing factor next year and beyond.

Clint Boling on Owens: "He's been hurt and hasn't been out there for a while but when he was, he's a big guy and maybe in a couple of years will be able to help out some. Hopefully, he'll be able to come back from his injury pretty well."

Dasher's take: "Jonathan has put on some weight and is till working on getting to where he can become a contributing factor to the offensive line next year."

DB Makiri Pugh (6-0, 195): Pugh is currently working at safety for the Bulldogs and has developed the reputation as a ferocious competitor. His future is very bright.

Byrd on Pugh: "In practice, everybody is like 'Man, I've got to go against Pugh.' They all know they've got to go hard because they've got Pugh going against them. He's a physical guy, so they know they've got to bring it when the go against him."

Dasher's take: "Makiri sprained his ankle back in preseason and has been gimpy for much of the year. Coaches do love his tenacity, however, and will figure into the rotation in a backup capacity in 2009.

LB Christian Robinson (6-2, 215): Robinson has picked up the system quite well but still needs to put on some weight and is getting the opportunity to do that this fall. Currently out with a broken arm, Robinson will have ample opportunity for playing time next year.

Akeem Dent on Robinson: "Christian's a real smart guy. Ever since he's come in he's been a quick learner. From Day One he's really been a hard worker."

Dasher's take: "Christian broke an arm several weeks ago, but was going to be redshirted anyway. Before that happened, the former Greater Atlanta Christian standout was making headway at both the Will and Sam linebacker spots and should be in a position to provide depth come spring.

TE Bryce Ros (6-4, 242): Bryce is still learning the system but there's no question that part of his game will come soon enough. He still needs to get bigger, but he has all the tools to become a solid collegiate tight end.

Aron White on Ros: "Bryce is actually toning up a lot lately. He's in the weight room four days a week on our redshirt program. He's also learning the system. Hopefully, this spring we can go step by step through the install again and maybe he'll pick up on stuff that he missed coming through the season. It's all looking up for him. If he keeps working, lifting and continues to develop he's going to be a player before he's done."

Dasher's take: "Bryce still needs to put on some weight and get a better handle on the Bulldogs' offensive system, but with his pedigree and knowledge of the game that should not be a problem."

RBCarlton Thomas (5-7, 170): Thomas may be small in stature but he's proving to coaches that he's got the ability to become an important cog in Georgia's offense and on special teams next year and the seasons to come.

Ball on Thomas: "I think the biggest thing for Carlton has just been getting acclimated to the speed of the game. He really had to learn how to play the game fast, how to practice fast, because he never had to do that in highs school. That's the biggest thing I've had to harp on with him, but now you see him running the ball with more energy, and more is determined as a ball carrier. You see that and as a result you see that speed and shiftiness, what he brings to the table."

Dasher's take: "Carlton is a dynamic back who took some time getting used to the speed of the college game. That doesn't seem to be a problem now, and the Frostproof, Fla. native could see extensive time both in the backfield and on special teams soon."

DE Cornelius Washington (6-4, 235): Washington recently underwent shoulder surgery so he's not practicing right now. However, he came into the summer as one of the Bulldogs' most impressive looking physical specimens. He's got a chance to become a big-time pass rusher for the Bulldogs before his career is through.

Lomax on Washington: "Cornelius has actually improved greatly. He came in needing to learn new stuff like the right stance, but he's made great improvement. He's got great explosiveness until he had his shoulder surgery. If he has a great summer, I can see him picking up where he left off."

Dasher's take: "There's no questioning Cornelius' athletic ability. His biggest issue right now is learning the system. One does, Washington has the potential to develop into the type of disrupter at defensive end that the Bulldogs have been lacking thus far in 2008."

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