A lot of eyes will be on Georgia in Kirby Smart’s first season. The Bulldogs will be under a microscope locally and nationally, giving players and coaches the opportunity to make a statement about the future of the program.
Although the team’s stars and rising contributors will get attention, there are those whose impact will go largely unnoticed. A crucial backside block or a drawn double team are sometimes the most important parts of any given play – the dirty work that creates glory for someone else.
This is a chance to honor those men. Here are Georgia’s three unsung heroes for 2016.
Trent Frix, LS
The name “Frix” is becoming synonymous with the long snapper position at Georgia. Mitch Frix was the team’s starter in 1981-82 and his son Ty Frix manned the role in every game for the Bulldogs from 2009-12. Now, younger son Trent Frix is the third family member to carry on the tradition.
Frix attended the Air Force Academy for one year before transferring to Georgia in 2013. A veteran of 16 games, Frix is expected to be the team’s starter this fall.
Possibly the least glamorous position on the field, nobody notices the long snapper until he makes a mistake. Yet, like all other players, Frix will be counted upon to do his job every time, including snapping the ball perfectly before fending off one or two ravenous players hell-bent on blocking the kick.
With several special teams positions in flux, including kicker and holder, Frix’s job is all the more crucial.
Isaiah Wynn, OL
This selection is less about Wynn not receiving credit and more about him not receiving enough credit. In meeting with the media after the first week of fall practice, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney mentioned Wynn’s name first when asked about playmakers.
“A playmaker, that’s interesting,” Chaney said after Fan Day. “I think people associate playmakers with people who are creative when they have the ball in their hand. I think Wynn is a tremendous playmaker in the front. He is a lightweight kid with great feet and great football intellect and seldom gets beat. He makes plays when I don’t expect him to and gets leverage on a D-lineman he shouldn’t. So he’s a great playmaker.”
It’s not often that an offensive lineman earns the title of “playmaker,” but Wynn has more than earned that designation. Capable of playing every position on the line, Wynn worked at left guard and left tackle last season and continues to do so in camp.
At only 6-foot-2 and 280 pounds, Wynn doesn’t look like a typically SEC lineman, but he makes up for it with his athleticism and technique. While players like Greg Pyke and Brandon Kublanow might be more familiar to Georgia fans, Wynn might be the most important part on the line. The coaches have clearly noticed, now it’s time for the fans.
Mel Tucker, DC
Players aren’t the only ones whose work can sometimes go unnoticed. It’s not often that a coordinator could fly under the radar, but that’s entirely possible for Mel Tucker this season.
Smart was largely praised for his work with Alabama’s defense during its dominant run. He’s known as a defensive expert, who learned under one of the best defensive minds in the game in Nick Saban. It’s no surprise then that Georgia fans expect to see Smart’s defense on the field.
It’s certain that the Bulldogs’ new head coach will have a hand in shaping his team’s defense, but assuming Smart is the one running the show only discredits the work Tucker is doing. As the program’s leader, Smart has new obligations and responsibilities he’s never had before. These will take his time and focus away from each individual part of his team, as he seeks to focus on the program.
Smart knew this coming in, and it’s part of the reason why he hired Tucker. An experienced NFL coordinator, Tucker knows how to teach players and work with his fellow coaching staff.
“He gets after it,” Smart said of Tucker, according to a Georgia release. “He makes it fun for them. Makes it fun for the whole defense. He has kind of a different theme each week. The kids like it. They laugh in the meetings. They have a good time. That’s important. The guys will play hard for you when they have a great time learning, and he’s a great teacher.
“I think the defensive backs here have realized that he’s a technician. He’s going to teach them the technique that helps them advance, how to play press man, how to play this, and not just what the coverage is and what my check is. So he’s a really good teacher and that’s been a really great asset to those guys.”
Both Smart and Tucker have reiterated that this defense doesn’t belong to one man, but to the players on the team. That’s an important distinction. But it’s important to remember that Tucker is working most closely with the defensive players, particularly the secondary. Smart’s fingerprints are going to be all over the defensive side of the ball, but Tucker’s role is absolutely vital.
William McFadden covers the University of Georgia for Saturday Down South. For news on everything happening between the hedges, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.
Source: Saturday Down South