ATHENS -- There was a good way this week to draw a short answer from any of the Georgia coaches: Ask if No. 2 quarterback Hutson Mason was going to get snaps Saturday.
“We’re gonna go out there with all our bullets, so to speak, and take it from there,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.
“No. Same amount of reps this week,” head coach Mark Richt said, referring to practice.
There might be a temptation to use Saturday’s game against unheralded North Texas as the warm-up game that Georgia didn’t get prior to facing Clemson and South Carolina. And Georgia could yet use it that way, but there was no way the Bulldogs were going to admit that publicly.
Still, with another mega-matchup looming next week against No. 6 LSU, the ninth-ranked Bulldogs are hoping to take control early against North Texas and save some key players from further injury risk.
If that happens, a number of younger and inexperienced players will get an extended look. Mason, the top backup to star quarterback Aaron Murray, might be one of them, but Richt and Bobo have been adamant that they’re not going to treat this game any differently than a normal contest. So it could be well into the second half before Mason sees action.
In fact, it’s more likely that players like Reggie Davis will emerge as story lines in this game.
Davis is a freshman receiver who has played in both games this year and said he played in between 10 to 15 snaps on offense against South Carolina. That number could double Saturday if the game goes well.
“I just want to get my name on the map and help my team win a championship,” Davis said, appraising his season goals. “By the end of the day everybody just wants to make plays. So just make plays and help my team win.”
Davis is one of 13 newcomers who has seen action thus far, and thus has burned a redshirt. Three of those players are freshmen who are already starting on defense: free safety Tray Matthews, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd and cornerback Brendan Langley. Defensive lineman Toby Johnson, a junior college transfer, is also a part of the rotation on the line.
Inside linebacker Reggie Carter and safety Quincy Mauger are in line for more defensive snaps, as coaches look to see if they deserve more playing time the rest of this season.
Tailbacks Brendan Douglas and J.J. Green could carry the load down the stretch if the game gets out of hand. The same goes for cornerback Shaq Wiggins and inside linebackers Tim Kimbrough, Johnny O’Neal and Ryne Rankin. Richt seems particularly high on Kimbrough.
“He walks around in a hitting position,” Richt said. “He’s one of those linebackers that really can get low and play low. He’s down in his stance, in a good striking position. But he moves around that way.”
Then it becomes a matter of the newcomers who could see their first action Saturday. The list probably won’t be that long.
Two names already have been ruled out: Receiver Jonathan Rumph, a junior college transfer, will miss a third straight game because of a hamstring injury. Receiver Tramel Terry, still recovering from an ACL surgery, could be headed for a redshirt.
Five players are virtually certain to redshirt: quarterback Brice Ramsey, offensive linemen Aulden Bynum and Josh Cardiello, receiver Uriah LeMay and defensive tackle De’Andre Johnson.
This could be the game that defensive lineman Chris Mayes, a junior college transfer, finally sees action. But it’s no guarantee for two more JUCO players, safety Shaquille Fluker, defensive back Kennar Johnson, or defensive lineman John Atkins.
It’s also up in the air for a number of other freshmen, including tailback A.J. Turman (whose injuries have dropped him to fifth on the depth chart), tight end Jordan Davis, offensive lineman Brandon Kublanow, safety Paris Bostick and defensive lineman Davin Bellamy.
Finally, outside linebacker Shaun McGee is expected to play “at some point” this season, according to defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
But if any of these players see significant snaps Saturday, it will only be after the game is in hand. The reality is that Georgia is a 32-point favorite, but the coaches aren’t taking anything for granted.
“When you watch (North Texas) you see a team that’s playing really well,” Richt said, citing 19 starters on the Mean Green who are upperclassmen. “They’re a really good team.”