COLUMBIA, S.C. — James Cook wanted the Georgia-South Carolina game to end up in a 45-16 blowout.
There’s an obvious reason, like the confidence regained from a thrashing of an SEC East rival. There was redemption from the 2019 contest where the Gamecocks hung on to an overtime win in Athens and took bites of the hedges on their way back to Columbia, South Carolina.
But there was another reason, too.
“With games like this, you want to beat them so you can get your younger guys in there, so they can get the feeling and the jitters out,” Cook said in a virtual press conference after the game.
And Georgia sure put the young guys in against South Carolina.
The group includes a laundry list of freshmen from Georgia’s No. 1 2020 class — on offense, the Bulldogs played tight end Darnell Washington, offensive linemen Broderick Jones and Sedrick Van Pran, running back Daijun Edwards and wide receivers Arian Smith and Jermaine Burton. On defense, Georgia saw defensive lineman Jalen Carter and outside linebacker MJ Sherman make waves.
Past the true freshman class, redshirt freshman defensive lineman Zion Logue put on his own showcase, illustrating how different 2020 Georgia looks from its 2019 edition.
Head coach Kirby Smart said in his virtual postgame press conference it was unfortunate Georgia didn’t get more chances to play the young Bulldogs through its first seven games. He said the all-conference schedule and Georgia’s inability to earn big leads over opponents has made it tough to spread playing time.
“I was proud of those guys,” Smart said. “I certainly wish we could play them more. That’s what kids do, they come to Georgia to play in the games.”
Most of the young Bulldog excitement comes from the offense. Against South Carolina, Smith came down with his first reception and first touchdown, Burton built upon his 197-yard receiving performance against Mississippi State and Jones and Van Pran each saw meaningful playing time along the offensive line.
“I’m really excited for what the offense can do,” sophomore safety Lewis Cine said in a virtual postgame press conference. “I feel like we’ve progressed and gotten so much better the more the season goes, and you can see that through how we’re playing, how they’re making things happen.”
As for the young players on defense, Logue recorded three solo tackles against South Carolina, finishing with five total and one for loss. They were Logue’s first solo tackles with the Bulldogs, where he finished third-best on the team this weekend.
Carter, meanwhile, played well in place of defensive tackle Jordan Davis. He contributed to making the Gamecock offense one-dimensional and totaled three tackles, one for loss, and a quarterback hit.
“The sky’s the limit [for Carter],” Smart said. “But he’s got to work really hard to realize his potential. He did make some knock-back plays, and we’ve got to be more disruptive with guys like him.”
And Edwards, who has played in all but one game of his freshman season, broke through on the ground against the Gamecocks. The freshman rushed for 77 yards on 14 attempts, averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Smart called Edwards a “warrior” postgame, and Cook offered his own praise for the fellow running back.
“He played a good game for a freshman,” Cook said. “He’s got years to go at it.”