Georgia coach Jim Donnan thinks freshman offensive lineman have the roughest time making the transition to big-time college football.
"It's very hard for a freshman to play the offensive line, because that's probably the hardest place to play," Donnan said.
Perhaps that's a tribute to incoming linemen Alex Jackson and Kevin Breedlove, both of whom are expected to fill key roles early for the Bulldogs this season. The two will report to Athens, Ga., today with the rest of the freshman class. Georgia's varsity reports next Tuesday.
Donnan said he typically is reluctant to start freshmen on the offensive line, but the promise of Jackson and Breedlove provided him with an exception.
The Bulldogs' fourth-year coach hopes the two will help fill the gaps left by tackles Matt Stinchcomb and Chris Terry, both of whom were drafted by the NFL.
"How they mesh with our team, depth-wise, is going to say a lot about how good we're going to be," Donnan said.
The 6-foot-5, 310-pound Jackson and the 6-5, 295-pound Breedlove likely won't press for starting time this fall, but they'll add size to the offensive front, according to Donnan.
"We've got two special guys here," Donnan said. "Look for them to be in the hunt to play."
Donnan said he also expects former Laney star Kendrell Bell to provide immediate impact at the linebacker spot. Bell, who spent the past two years at Middle Georgia College and was named the National Junior College Player of the Year in 1998, arrived in Athens on Wednesday.
"When I first heard about him, I said we're not going to take any junior college linebackers, because we've got so many good ones," Donnan said. "Then our coaches saw him play and told me, `Hey, you need to watch the tape.' Then I watched the tape and said, `We're going to take him.'
"He's a special player who can help us tremendously. He's the man."
Defense and the kicking game are areas Tech coach George O'Leary is eyeing as the Yellow Jackets' freshman class reports today.
The 31 newcomers, including 23 scholarship players, will practice Saturday (9:30 a.m., and 4 p.m.) and Monday (9;25 a.m., and 4 p.m.) and then go through academic orientation on Tuesday when Tech's veterans report. The first full-squad practice is next Thursday.
Secondary and linebacker are key spots on defense that freshmen could fill. Incoming defensive backs Cory Collins of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., Jeremy Muyres of Stone Mountain and Algis Motiejunas of Scottsdale, Ariz., are top candidates to play immediately. Collins was named Northeast defensive player of the year by SuperPrep magazine, Muyres is the younger brother of Tech junior wide receiver Jon Muyres and Motiejunas is a junior-college transfer.
Both Tech kickers graduated, leaving Parade Magazine All-American Luke Manget of Conyers and Philip Newman of Marietta as the top candidates to fill those roles.
"I think you always expect freshmen to be better able to help right away in the skilled areas, because at those positions, athletic ability takes over rather than size and strength," Tech coach George O'Leary said.
Two of Tech's freshman are sons of former star Yellow Jackets -- cornerback Eric Lavette (all-time leading rusher Robert Lavette) and running back Kelley Rhino (defensive back and three-time first-team All-American Randy Rhino).
Lou Holtz said the immediate academic future of three incoming South Carolina players appears bright.
Holtz said Thursday he felt good about the fortunes of three newcomers -- Travelle Wharton, Willie Sams and Andrew Pinnock -- whose academic credentials are in question.
"We hope, by the time we practice, at least by Saturday, that Travelle Wharton and Sams will be able to practice," Holtz said.
Wharton, a 6-4, 295-pound offensive lineman, is awaiting word from the NCAA Clearinghouse on whether his high school transcripts meet approval.
Sams, a junior college transfer who is expected to contend for duties at defensive end, is awaiting a grade from summer school.
Pinnock, a 6-foot, 260-pound fullback, encountered difficulty with an incomplete high school transcript. Holtz was confident Pinnock will qualify.
All news was not good Thursday, though. Holtz said the outlook is bleak for freshman Corey Jenkins, who was expected to see action at quarterback or defensive back.
Jenkins played four years of minor league baseball after a stellar football and baseball career at Dreher High School in Columbia.
He originally signed with South Carolina in 1995 and qualified academically, but requirements have since been tightened. Holtz said Jenkins will attend junior college if he is ruled ineligible.
After participating in freshman orientation, Holtz was scheduled to fly to East Liverpool, Ohio, where his mother had surgery Thursday.
"She's going to be OK," said Holtz of his 82-year-old mother. "It was exploratory surgery, and all indications are it was a good report. So I've got a lot of things going on in my mind."
Holtz was scheduled to make a return trip in time for today's practice session.
The freshmen will participate in two-a-day practices today at 9 a.m. and 3:15 p.m., and Saturday at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Holtz said he expects as many as 37 players to participate. Both practices will be open to the public.
Larry Williams covers college sports for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (706) 823-3645 or firstname.lastname@example.org.