During the 2017 season, William Poole appeared in just five games as a freshman and did not see many meaningful defensive snaps.
But during the G-Day game on Saturday in Athens, the sophomore from Atlanta proved to be a hidden gem on the Georgia roster.
Poole started the game at the star position for the black team, which featured Georgia’s first-team defense, and also saw snaps at cornerback. He even switched jerseys at times to play on the red defense due to a lack of depth.
And Poole’s best moment came in the third quarter of the game, when he jumped a route to pick off Jake Fromm, a play that was the culmination of a solid game played by the largely unknown sophomore defensive back.
"Poole was playing both ways,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “Not many people noticed but he was flipping back and forth jerseys because we were down guys. And he did a nice job. He didn't have a lot of mental errors and for him to make that pick, that was a big confidence booster for him."
Georgia’s secondary is a unit that has been of interest this spring. The team lost seniors Dominick Sanders, Malkom Parrish and Aaron Davis from last year’s team and injuries to freshman Divaad Wilson and sophomore Mark Webb this spring thinned an already inexperienced position group.
Smart and his coaching staff have been looking for someone that can be trusted at the star position and Poole, at 6-foot, 181 pounds, has the size to be a good fit at that position.
And while Poole’s G-Day performance may have surprised many, Georgia’s players expected good things from Poole because of how he worked in the spring leading up to the game.
“Over the spring, William focused on the playbook, on attention to detail,” senior cornerback Deandre Baker said. “He liked the playbook and now he's out there making plays."
Poole was a well-regarded recruit coming out of Hapeville Charter Career Academy in Atlanta, as he was rated as a four-star prospect, according to the 247 Sports Composite Rankings. But he was not quite as flashy as some of the other recruits that Kirby Smart has been reeling in.
The 247 Sports Composite had Poole ranked as the No. 195 player in the Class of 2017, which is good, but not quite at the level of prospect that Smart’s staff has been routinely landing.
Combine that fact with playing sparingly as a freshman, and Poole’s rise this spring has come as a surprise on the back end. But after netting an interception on G-Day, Georgia defenders are adamant that Poole’s performance on Saturday is something that will become normal.
"I always expected [this type of performance] out of Poole,” senior defensive lineman Jonathan Ledbetter said. “He plays sound, fundamental football and he's a great athlete as well. He's learning the material. It's not easy to learn the Georgia defense, especially as a DB...He's a young guy but he's really intelligent. So he's doing well. He's where he needs to be at all times."