Tray Matthews’ name atop Georgia’s newly-released depth chart wasn’t much of a surprise. Brendan Langley’s was.
Langley, a freshman cornerback from Marietta’s Kell High School, was listed as the starter ahead of sophomore Sheldon Dawson. The 6-foot-1, 181-pound Langley was getting almost all of the snaps with the No. 1 defense early in Monday’s practice and, according to coach Mark Richt, has earned the right to start.
“Any time you lose as many starters as we did, you’re going to have inexperienced guys jump in there,” Richt said. “You’d like to have as much experience in your system as you can. But sometimes a young guy jumps in there and has great ability and shows the ability to learn and seems to be a mature enough guy that you can give him more responsibility than other freshmen. So you’ve got to play him.”
Langley was a consensus 4-star prospect when he signed with Georgia in February. He was not among the Bulldogs’ 13 early enrollees.
Dawson, a 5-11, 190-pound product of Memphis, was expected to be the starter at after playing in 13 games as a freshman last season. A shoulder sprain sidelined him for several practices during preseason camp, however.
Richt gushed about Langley’s performance in the preseason.
“A guy with ability, a guy who can learn and a guy who is dependable and is focused and wanting to come in as a freshman and play like a veteran,” Richt said. “He (took) that approach in the offseason, he was in tremendous condition when he got here and he’s just done a good job of learning what to do and gaining the trust of the coach. That’s what it all comes down to, gaining the trust of his position coach and his coordinator before a game. And he’s done that.”
Matthews has a way to go in that regard as he returns from an injury. The 5-star freshman finally returned to practice on Monday and this time it was without limitations. The true freshman from Newnan hasn’t practiced in a week and has been limited for most of the last three weeks due to shoulder and hamstring injuries.
Richt said he was unsure if Matthews would start Saturday when the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs travel to No. 8 Clemson.
“He practiced, so that was good,” Richt said.
Asked how he thought Matthews looked, Richt said, “It was so hard to gauge. It was mostly scout team work and the tempo wasn’t just blazing. But he got into some competitive drills and he looked fine. When a guy’s coming off a hamstring, it’s going to be a couple of days before you really feel like he’s over the hump. So hopefully he will be. Hopefully no more setbacks.”
Freshman Quincy Mauger — Langley’s teammate at Kell — was getting most of the snaps with the No. 1 defense at free safety. Senior Connor Norman was at strong safety. Corey Moore (knee) continues to be listed as the backup but he was not at Monday’s practice.
Road trip: Even though Athens is an easy 90-minute drive from Clemson and Saturday’s game is a late 8 p.m. kickoff, the Bulldogs are planning to travel up and spend Friday night.
“I think you need to go,” Richt said. “The biggest part of going out of town, or one of the biggest features of it, is to just get away from everything and know where everybody is and know everybody’s focused, know everybody’s getting their rest and going to bed on time and all that type of thing.”
This & that: Former Georgia offensive lineman Austin Long has transferred to Union College, an NAIA school in Barbourville, Ky… . Though there is no limit on a non-conference game, Richt indicated Georgia won’t take many more than 70 players to Clemson.
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