Isaiah Wilson was a five-star member of Georgia's signing class in February and ranked among the top five offensive tackles in the country.
Wilson was not, however, among the best five offensive linemen for the Bulldogs this season and has redshirted just several months after arriving from Poly Prep Country Day in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"At first, it's always hard, because any freshman can tell you how much they're dying to get on the field and help the team," Wilson said minutes after Georgia's 28-7 victory over Auburn in Saturday's Southeastern Conference championship game. "I've been on the scout team helping the team like that and giving those guys the best looks that I can. It's easy to be patient when you know when you're helping guys who are going out there and winning, and you're getting developed by the best coaching staff.
"By about the second week of knowing I was going to redshirt I was OK with it, because I knew what it was for. I was getting better."
Wilson was the most heralded member of Georgia's touted lineman class that included three from the Peach State: Pace Academy's Andrew Thomas and the Cedar Grove duo of Netori Johnson and Justin Shaffer. Thomas had the biggest impact in preseason camp and has started all 13 games at right tackle for the Bulldogs (12-1), who next play on New Year's Day against Oklahoma (12-1) in a national semifinal at the Rose Bowl.
As the only freshman lineman who wasn't accustomed to Georgia's sweltering August days, Wilson had his share of persevering practices.
"I was wearing shorts and no shirt, and I was still gasping for air at times," he said, "but I feel like I've adjusted to it well."
Although he hasn't played this season, Wilson knows he has improved simply by looking at his frame. Listed at 6-foot-7 and 354 pounds during the recruiting process, he was pegged at 345 pounds before the start of the season and said Saturday that he is now at 327.
Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart mentioned in August how rapidly the weight was coming off.
"All I can tell you is that it's been coming down," Smart said in a preseason news conference. "It's almost like, 'When does it stop?'"
Wilson credits Georgia's strength and nutrition staff for his altered physique, and he appreciates working under Smart, offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and line coach Sam Pittman the last several months. Although Georgia is about to play its biggest football game since the Sugar Bowl after the 1982 season, when the Bulldogs lost to Penn State in a 1-2 matchup for the national championship, Wilson already is eager about the months and years ahead.
"Most people see a redshirt as being on the sideline and not doing anything, but I personally embraced it," Wilson said. "Once you do that, it's pretty easy. I have a lot of patience now. I have patience in my set. My hands are better. My weight is better. I'm stronger and I'm faster. I've improved in every facet in my game.
"I think I have a lot of energy, and I think my teammates can attest to that. I think I'm going to bring a lot of passion to the game, and a will to win."
Wilson also hopes there is a day when he can take a snap in the wildcat formation. He did that at Poly Prep Country Day and once scored three touchdowns in a game.
"I've been pitching it to Coach Chaney," Wilson said. "I've been pitching it here and there. He said that we may see what he can do my senior year.
"We'll have to wait on that one."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.