'Dream Team' provides lift

ATHENS, Ga. -- Many Georgia fans looked to the 2011 recruiting class to be the driving force behind the Bulldogs' recovery from a disappointing 2010 season.

Thus far, the newcomers -- dubbed the "Dream Team" by coach Mark Richt -- already have made an impact, and it's not just the class headliner, running back Isaiah Crowell.

Crowell led the Bulldogs in rushing again in a 59-0 rout of Coastal Carolina on Saturday, running 16 times for 86 yards and a touchdown, but the number of his signing-class mates to see the field increases by the week.

Saturday saw true freshman outside linebacker Ray Drew and offensive linemen Watts Dantzler, David Andrews and Hunter Long make their Georgia debuts, making it 14 of the 24 Dream Teamers who now have played this season.

"It was awesome. To get out there, it was a dream come true and a lot of fun," said Dantzler, whose team led 45-0 when he and Andrews entered. "Even though there were only about 60,000 fans here when I went in, it was still unbelievable."

In fact, Dantzler's first action couldn't have ended in a better result. On his and Andrews' very first play, Georgia scored on a 33-yard touchdown pass to Orson Charles.

Their opportunity came as the result of exponential improvement since they arrived on campus, according to quarterback Aaron Murray.

"They looked awesome in practice. Their progress from day one until now has been unbelievable," Murray said of the two freshman linemen. "Even [backup quarterback Hutson Mason] the past few weeks in practice has been like, 'They're giving me a lot more time. They're looking great out there.' And they have. I think the coaches are gaining trust in them, and it's nice to see them get the opportunity to go out there and play and compete against another team."

Crowell and receiver Malcolm Mitchell have made the biggest impact thus far, but clearly Georgia's coaches plan to make use of the talented class they hoped would revitalize their program.

Now that Drew -- next to Crowell, the other headliner in the class -- has recovered from some preseason injuries, he should see more playing time as the season progresses.

"I knew that my time was going to come eventually," said Drew, who finished with two tackles. "It's just a building process. Just like high school, I didn't get the starting job right away. I had to build up to it, and it's just starting over."

That's to be expected with freshmen. The first three games were only the beginning, but the Bulldogs believe they'll make a difference down the stretch.

"We've got so many athletes, so many players that can contribute right away," senior cornerback Brandon Boykin said. "A lot of them are playing right now, starting, playing special teams. They're a really talented group of guys, and they're gonna do a lot for our program."

David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at davidchingespn@gmail.com.