Kirby Smart gives details on freshmen who haven’t seen much action this season

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Kirby Smart gives details on freshmen who haven’t seen much action this season

Georgia defensive back Daran Branch (26) during the Bulldogs’ practice in Athens, Ga., on Thursday. Sept. 3, 2020. (Photo by Steven Colquitt)

According to both Rivals and 247Sports, Georgia signed the No. 1 overall recruiting class in 2020, which was huge for a program that had three players taken in the first two rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft.

Several of those freshmen have already made a significant impact this season, especially wide receiver Jermaine Burton, running back Kendall Milton and defensive lineman Jalen Carter. Safety Major Burns and tight end Darnell Washington have made a difference on the field as well. But there’s a lot of the 2020 signing class that hasn’t seen the field much or any snaps at all.

Fifth-year head coach Kirby Smart met with the media Tuesday night and was asked about some of those players and how they’ve progressed. Smart gave some great insight on guys that haven’t seen a lot of action this season. A majority of them were about Georgia’s offensive linemen, which was a group that position coach Matt Luke helped secure after the departure of Sam Pittman.

OL Broderick Jones: “Broderick missed some time early, and Broderick’s been playing left and right tackle. He’s probably our fourth tackle in the game the last couple of weeks. Now that Owen’s back—because Owen had some illness and sickness stuff—Owen and Broderick are fighting for that spot behind (Xavier) Truss, Warren (McClendon), and Jamaree (Salyer). Very pleased with Broderick. Broderick needs a year in the weight room, but he’s a good athlete. He’s just going to have to get stronger and more physical in the run game, but he can pass pro and stay in front of people. The beauty is, these guys get to go up against our outside backers one-on-one in pass rush every day, and I love it. There’s not a day on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, that we don’t make them go good-on-good and have to go block really good people, because that’s the only way to get better.”

OL Tate Ratledge: “Tate is making really good progress. He was getting some [second team] right tackle, I guess it was when (Owen) Condon was out. But Tate had an injury and missed two or three weeks, and has just come back. So, he’s behind a little bit, but we were really pleased with Tate in camp. He’s just missed some time with injury.”

OL Devin Willock: “I’ve been extremely impressed with him recently. He’s climbing up the charts, in my opinion. He’s really smart; he’s very conscientious. It’s important to him, but he missed—I forget how long it was; I don’t know if y’all knew. He had an MCL sprain, maybe the last scrimmage in camp, and so there were three or four weeks when he didn’t even practice. So it was like, golly, this guy is going to be way behind. And now he’s come back. He’s cut; he had to lose a lot of weight. I think he lost, like, 30 pounds. He’s in the 330 range, and he’s a massive guard. He struggles in pass pro right now, but he’s going to be able to move people, and that’s what you want at the guard position. You want a massive, big man that is hard to run through. So, I’m excited about him. He’s just so bright, such a good kid.”

OL Sedrick Van Pran: “Yeah, Van Pran, he runs with the twos. He reps with the twos, so Warren (Ericson) can flip at the guards. So, Warren Ericson goes back and forth at guard, and Van Pran works at center. He’s been really consistent. He’s getting better fast—really smart. I felt like, if something happened to Trey (Hill), it would be really close between Van Pran and Ericson who would go in. But Van Pran is closing that gap, so that Warren can play the guard spots.”

Sedrick Van Pran - Georgia vs. Austin Peay - Visiting Football Recruits - September 1, 2018
Sedrick Van Pran – Georgia vs. Austin Peay – Visiting Football Recruits – September 1, 2018

 OLs Austin Blaske, Chad Lindberg, Cameron Kinnie: “(Austin) Blaske continues to improve. I haven’t seen a guys that’s as tough and hard-working as he is. He works hard and Chad (Lindberg) is working at guard. He’s working with us on the scout team, so when you look across the scout team and you’ve got Cam Kinnie, Lindberg, Willock, Blaske, and Tate across the scout team, it’s good. We get really good work with those guys. I don’t know if there’s anybody else we didn’t cover.”

Then Smart gave an update of defensive back Daran Branch and wide receiver Ladd McConkey.

Smart said that McConkey is coming back from having missed 14 days due to COVID contact tracing.

“Ladd is another guy that was coming on, like really exciting, because he goes on the scout team and does so many good things,” Smart said. “Man, he’s tough; he’s physical. He blocks well, and then he had a contact trace that he had to miss 14 days, so it crushed him, because when we were down receivers, we thought we were going to get to bring him up and really work him, and then he got 14 days and just got back. So, we’re limiting what we can do with him.”

Smart then gave some inside of Branch, who left the program earlier this year and returned a short while after.

“Branch has worked on the scout team. He missed a little bit of time in fall camp, but he’s worked with the scout team and is really competitive,” Smart said. “Hopefully, he grows into a good player, but he’s just not ready right now.”

Georgia’s highest rated player of the 2020 class, Kelee Ringo, is out for the season, although Smart said that he’s been practicing in a black non-contact jersey.

“Ringo is out there in a black jersey,” Smart said. “He can probably do 70 percent of the work. It is very promising, but I don’t see him getting back out there any time soon.”

Here is the video from Smart’s Tuesday press conference:

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Currently an intern for BI, and a junior journalism major at the University of Georgia.