Georgia Football Looking for the Next Freshman Special Teams Star

Georgia football head coach Kirby Smart said Saturday the staff is looking for the next freshman who will lead the special teams units.
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For players who don't immediately earn major roles on offense or defense, special teams units are a great place for young players to take the reigns of leadership and show coaches how vital they can be to their team's success.

That has rung true for Georgia football in recent years. D'Andre Walker, Tae Crowder and, most recently, Travon Walker each used special teams as their platform towards stardom in Athens. 

So it's no surprise that head coach Kirby Smart and his staff are looking for the next young player who will lead the Bulldogs' special teams units. 

"We showed some video of Travon Walker who played on special teams last year and dominated before the scrimmage," Smart said. "We're trying to figure out which freshman is going to be him, which freshman is going to be that guy that really dominates and takes over and plays on special teams and takes ownership of that."

It's something our very own, Brooks Austin asked Kirby Smart about following the Murray State matchup. How do you get players as highly recruited as Walker to commit to playing special teams with that kind of effort: 

"It's our standard man, it's what we do. We don't fake it, we live it. We open our season with meetings about special teams, and I don't ever miss a special teams meeting. I may miss something, but I'm not missing a special teams meeting. It's too important for our players to see me in there and know they are going to be held accountable before they ever play on offense or defense to play special teams. And when they do that, I know I can trust them."

With Smart mentioning Travon Walker by name, naturally all eyes this year would go towards fellow five-star interior defensive lineman Jalen Carter. Though Carter may not be long for the special teams. A leaked video from a recent practice showed Carter pushing around incumbent starting center Trey Hill. Carter will certainly begin the season on special teams, but as he develops the technical side of his game, his role on defense is bound to increase.

Past Carter, there are still plenty of young players with a golden opportunity ahead of them on special teams. 

Borderline five-star linebacker MJ Sherman comes to mind first. Barring injuries or something else unexpected, Georgia is set at linebacker this season and it'll be hard for a freshman, even one of Sherman's talent, to breakthrough. But according to veteran offensive lineman Jamaree Salyer, Sherman is an impressive worker during and between reps in practice. He would no doubt embrace any role the coaches gave him.

But finding the next big thing on special teams won't be easy. Smart outlined the challenges facing the team this preseason.

"I thought the special teams were behind on where we need to be," he said. "When you don't get spring practice... you're basically taking eight months off, you fall behind. We've got to improve there, we've got to have our best players play on those units.

"A lot of times in these scrimmages they're so exhausted, they don't have the juice for special teams. It's a lot easier to play special teams in a real game when you're not playing every snap."

The next big special teams star might not emerge in the preseason, but with Georgia's recent track record, it shouldn't take long to see one of the young players step up after the 2020 season begins.

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