Three freshmen impress in win

AP photo

Georgia running back James Cook (6) leaves the game after being ejected for a hit on Austin Peay wide receiver DeAngelo Wilson during the second half of Saturday's game in Athens.

In Georgia's 45-0 victory over Austin Peay, several freshmen got an opportunity to play, as expected.

Some played on special teams, some played in mop-up duty in the second half, but a few made big contributions, including one starter. Here's a breakdown of how three freshmen fared in Saturday's game.

Tyson Campbell, cornerback

Campbell started at the left cornerback position against Austin Peay. Although he was likely just filling in for an injured Tyrique McGhee, Campbell has the talent and capability of making that position his own for good this season, and his performance Saturday reflected that.

The freshman finished with three tackles and a pass break up, but still made freshman mistakes, head coach Kirby Smart said. Part of it was due to nerves, but Smart wanted Campbell to experience that. The decision to start him his freshman year in the first game of the season reflected that.

"I think we just had an instinct that he's the next best guy. He's athletic, fast, strong and has good ball skills," Smart said. "We thought Tyson [Campbell] was the best guy to go with."

His teammates shared their coaches' sentiment. Starting linebacker Monty Rice recognized how much skill Campbell has.

"Tyson is an elite player," Rice said. "He has all the tools and intangibles to play at a high level, and he's only a freshman. He's worked hard and that's the product."

Justin Fields, quarterback

The freshman quarterback appearing in the game comes as no surprise, as the highly-touted freshman was expected to get snaps if Georgia was ahead in the game.

But Fields played as early as the second quarter. He showed his dual-threat ability, rushing three times for 33 yards. He also went 7-for-8 passing for 78 yards and a touchdown.

"I thought early in the game he was a little nervous," Smart said. "He had a couple of plays where things broke down a little bit and he created… I encouraged him not to take a hit and he ran over like two guys."

Smart said that Fields had a "bit of" an ankle sprain, yet he continued to play. Whether or not that injury is due to taking hits is unknown.

Nerves and injuries aside, Fields impressed when he was given the opportunity. Sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm was able to relate to what Fields went through given his own experiences playing as a true freshman last season.

"It's tough, but you've got to go in and trust the guys next to you and know that they are doing their own job and you have to do yours," Fromm said of playing as a freshman quarterback. "At the end of the day you're just playing a football game, just playing in a different atmosphere, so hopefully those guys can block that out and play football."

James Cook, running back

A lot of buzz resided around James Cook from preseason camp. He was able to back some of that up on Saturday.

Cook rushed six times for 66 yards and broke a couple of long runs, playing significantly in the second half. He also caught the ball out of the backfield in the first half.

"I thought he did a great job," sophomore running back D'Andre Swift said. "Especially a young guy knowing what his assignment was so he could do it to the best of his ability."

Cook did make one mistake that cost him, though. In the fourth quarter, Cook failed to see that a punt returner was calling a fair catch. He went for a big hit where he led with his helmet and got called for targeting. Not only was he ejected, but he has to sit out the first half of next week's game at South Carolina.

"Just a poor decision, the kid is playing tough with a lot of effort," Smart said. "Just not a good decision, kind of a rookie mistake, because he's a really good player that we'll miss for the first half of next week."

Printed with permission from The Red & Black independent student media organization, based in Athens, Georgia. For more UGA sports news, visit

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