Up the middle

Seth Emerson may have changed employers, but he still gives us his preseason series of Georgia’s most important (as opposed to best) players.  Number four is Trent Thompson, who is yet to take a snap in anger dressed in red and black. Before you raise an eyebrow over that choice, let Seth explain.

Georgia’s defensive line has been solid the last few years, but just that. There hasn’t been a star there sinceJohn Jenkins, and even he didn’t end up an All-SEC type performer. Enter Thompson, who 247Sports tabbed as the nation’s best overall prospect. He joins a line that has several solid veterans (Sterling Bailey, Chris Mayes, James DeLoach, Josh Dawson) and other promising newcomers (Jonathan Ledbetter, Michael Barnett). The top departures from last year are Mike Thornton and Ray Drew, who were … yes, solid.

That’s the recurring theme with Georgia’s line. It’s lacked the difference-maker who other teams had to scheme around, the kind of guy who could get into the backfield a half-dozen times a game.

As a team last year Georgia averaged 5.46 tackles-for-loss, ranking 78th nationally. The year before, Georgia averaged 6.23, ranking 45th. But look at the numbers in 2012 and 2011, when Jenkins, Kwame Geathers and company were around: 6.5 TFLs-per-game in 2012 (ranked 19th in the nation), and 7.14 per game in 2011 (ranked ninth nationally.) Yes, Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree accounted for a lot of those. But some of that was the defensive line swallowing blocks and forcing the play outside. Thompson could do that, and rack up some big plays of his own.

For once, stats back up perception.

Seth goes on to describe a best case scenario for Thompson this season, where he finishes with somewhere between 7-10 sacks and 15-20 TFLs.  If Pruitt gets that kind of production out of him, look out world.  I’ll just say I’d be satisfied if Thompson can fill the lesser bill of stuffing the middle of the line and forcing plays into the hands of Georgia’s outside linebackers.  I know the secondary is still a work in progress, but Georgia’s got to find a way of defending the run that’s an improvement over what we saw in the second half of 2014 if it’s going to excel this season.


Filed under Georgia Football

23 responses to “Up the middle

  1. I don’t see 7 sacks for a defensive tackle. It’s not their job to sack the QB. If he’s able to command double or triple teams and allow the linebackers to run to the ball, he will have done his job. If he gets 2-3 sacks and is a constant disruptor of the run game, he’ll be just what the doctor ordered on the interior.


    • Eh, it’s not totally outside the realm of possibility. Ray Drew, for example, had six sacks in 2013.


      • Senator, I’m assuming Thompson will play on the inside of the 4-2-5 covered by either Jenkins, Carter or Floyd. I thought Drew mainly played on the end with his hand in the dirt.

        I would rather see Thompson plugging the middle in the run and pushing the pocket to prevent the QB from stepping up. Also, if he gets a reputation for getting to the QB, he’s going to demand double-teams, which should free the outside guys.

        If he gets 7-10 sacks, I’ll be happy because that probably means the outside guys are making life miserable for QBs. That can’t be anything but good for our secondary. That would be some good crow to eat after the season.


        • If you’ll think back to that infamous targeting penalty in the Vandy game, Drew was lined up on that play inside Jenkins. He played that way a lot in 2013.


          • That’s right but did you have to show that disaster as your evidence? 🙂

            I remember now that Drew moved inside especially on passing downs to get 3 pass rushers on the field at the same time. Drew was having a breakout year until that game. I believe he got a big sack on Mettenberger and Connor Shaw. That targeting penalty seemed to slow him down the rest of the year.


  2. Macallanlover

    Agree with Seth on this. Thompson, along with Ledbetter and Barnett, will have to contribute this fall for us to reach our goals. No disrespect to those returning players along the front but none of them have separated themselves in their time at UGA to the extent we need to be disruptive in the opposing backfields. I hope for a breakout year from one of them, but at the very least they need some support from the young guys. Thompson is certainly the one getting the most ink, and he could be a monster for us in time, but it will take more than one true freshman.

    We will get tested on the ground by 4-5 of the teams on our schedule as the defense against the run has been our major defensive weakness the past few years. It played the major role in all three losses last season and you can bet our 2015 opponents that are capable of attacking us there will run it often to see if we have fixed the glaring hole.


  3. Scorpio Jones, III

    For a classic example of what a great defensive line can do to a pretty good offense, look no further (sigh) than Georgia vs. LSU in the dome, in what? 2011.?


    • Brent

      Yeah, great UGA defense (allowing no first downs in the first half) but couldnt score and let the Damn honey badger do us in I think with Special Teams!


  4. DawgPhan

    Until you listed the return DL guys I could not have named a single one. They have been largely invisible. Seems like Coach Rocker gets a lot of love when his unit isnt really producing.

    I agree that the incoming freshmen are going to need to have solid years and contribute meaningful minutes for this to be a top 5 defense like it needs to be.


  5. kckd

    The more I hear, the more it seems that the guy that should be on any list like this is Lambert.


    • Interesting… because the whispering I keep hearing is that it’s Ramsey’s job to lose.


      • kckd

        I’m hearing both, but Lambert isn’t there yet. Ramsey only has a very minor step of advancement on him in terms of the “system”. This isn’t Bobo’s system. And Lambert has oodles more playing experience. It think it was BR’s to lose before Bobo went West. But I don’t think that now. As far as that, there is a camp that’s hearing that it’s Bauta’s because BR will make too many crucial mistakes. I’m just hoping they get it settled and at least a couple of weeks before our opener. I don’t want to see a repeat of 2006.


  6. Irwin R. Fletcher

    I’ve been on this train all summer….I can’t remember the last time a guy who was the top recruit in the country came in to a school with as little hype, expectations, etc. I mean…Ray Drew was a DGD, but he even got more preseason hype as an incoming freshman than Thompson has received.

    I pointed this out somewhere else, but if he’s anything like the other #1 prospects over the past 5-7 years, he’ll have an impact and should be starting no later than November.


    • JCDAWG83

      I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve become somewhat leery in getting excited about top recruits. Experience has shown me that quite a few of them never live up to their billing. If you will recall, Gurley as an “also get” when he came in with his friend who was the guy with the big expectations. David Pollack was a three star who was originally recruited as a fullback, it goes both ways. The step up from high school to college is huge, probably the biggest in all of football, it’s not really surprising that some top ranked recruits don’t pan out.

      I really hope Thompson turns out to be the difference maker we need on the DL, but I’ll wait to see it before I get too excited about him.


      • DawgPhan

        It’s pretty early to already play the pollock was a 3 star card isnt it. You have got to pace yourself.


      • Irwin R. Fletcher

        “I’ve become somewhat leery in getting excited about top recruits”

        Not ‘top recruits’….we are talking THE top recruit. DJ Williams, Kevin Jones, Ernie Sims, Adrian Peterson, Eugene Monroe, Andre Smith, Joe McKnight, DQwan Bowers, Matt Barkley, Ronald Powell, Clowney, Dorial Green Beckham, Nkemdiche, Fournette, and Thompson. Those are all the #1 guys going back to 2001.

        Out of the 12 who have been drafted, 7 went in the first round…and it should have been 8 but for DGB’s off-the-field issues….with 2 more going in the 2nd, 2 in the 4th (Mckinght and Barkley) and 1 in the 5th (Powell).

        Most of those guys were starting day 1…all of them were starting by the end of their freshman season…just look at the impact Clowney, DGB, Nkemdiche, and Fournette had their freshman seasons.

        This isn’t an argument about whether all recruits pan out or if there are players underrated in the process…this is a question of what are the expectations for the #1 recruit in the country.


        • Macallanlover

          That is an impressive list, very impressive. While TT appears to have gotten “Dawgraded” for reasons mentioned by Gravidy below, I like that about TT and am pleased to hear he has shown up and is working hard to be able to contribute early. Let’s hope he adds his name to your list in 3-4 years as another top NFL draft choice….and I hope he is wearing at least two rings when he leaves.


    • Gravidy

      I think the lack of hype is largely a product of his early commitment and the resulting lack of drama. I really like that about him, but I’m not going to expect much from a true freshman DT. When I read Emerson’s “7-10 sacks” line, my eyes almost spun out of my head.


    • Cosmic Dawg

      Agree with all of this.

      And not in total agreement with Seth’s choice of the word “solid” – we were #63 in rush defense last year, that should be a bit outside the acceptable range for us.