“We have so many guys back.”

Explain to me why Georgia shouldn’t have a great defense this season.

No other SEC team can boast what Georgia can about its defense.

That would be the fact that Georgia is returning 10 starters.

The Bulldogs certainly hope their defensive experience plays a vital role in competing for an SEC championship this coming season.

Adding to Georgia returning 10 starters is that most players in its front-seven two-deep got game experience a year ago. And for the two-deep defenders who weren’t with the program last season, linebacker Monty Rice, defensive back Deangelo Gibbs and safety Richard LeCounte all enrolled early for spring practice.

Georgia’s unit ended the 2016 season fourth in the SEC in total defense at 327.5 yards per game. With head coach Kirby Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker in their second season at Georgia, the combination of returning players and scheme familiarity should bode well.

An abundance of riches, talentwise, tons of returning experience in the front seven and the second year in a scheme directed by an experienced Nick Saban disciple all point to what should be significant improvement over what was a decent effort in 2016.

Georgia, however, has more than experience working in its favor:

  • Defensive tackle Trenton Thompson posted five sacks as a sophomore, including three in a Liberty Bowl win over TCU. While shoulder surgery and a related medical issue held Thompson out of the spring, he is expected to be full-go with his teammates in preseason practice. Among those joining Thompson up front will be Julian Rochester, David Marshall, Jonathan Ledbetter and Tyler Clark. Those four players combined for six sacks in 2016.
  • The pass-rushing duo of Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy combined for 10 sacks and 15 tackles for loss. While it took three games for the two to get going with some sacks, their totals suffered down the stretch due to run-heavy teams Kentucky, Auburn, Louisiana-Monroe and Georgia Tech. But Bellamy, especially, was disruptive in coverage with a team-high 17 pass deflections. Carter finished second on the team with 13. With every 2016 defensive line contributor coming back, running the ball should be difficult for opponents. That should create more passing plays for Carter and Bellamy to capitalize on.
  • Georgia’s top two tacklers in 2016, juniors Roquan Smith and Natrez Patrick, have cemented themselves as key defensive leaders. Smith totaled 95 tackles and fits the new-age mold of a sideline-to-sideleine inside linebacker. Smart has repeatedly praised Smith’s work ethic and brought him to Hoover, Alabama for SEC Media Days. Patrick is also a swift-footed linebacker who added seven pass breakups a year ago.
  • Losing defensive back Maurice Smith will certainly hurt. Having safety Dominick Sanders back, and healthy, should more than help soften the blow. Sanders played through multiple injuries and still totaled three interceptions. Depending on safety J.R. Reed’s emergence, Aaron Davis, a senior defensive back, could slide into the nickel spot Smith vacated. If this turns out to be the case, one of the most important positions in Smart’s defense will be occupied by one of the smartest players on the entire roster.

There’s a lot to work with there, in other words, and that’s before you factor what some of the talented incoming freshmen might bring to the mix.

This is the opposite situation from what Georgia faces with the offensive line.  All the pieces on the defensive side of the ball are there to put together a dominating result.  It’s one area where Smart shouldn’t be given any slack.

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25 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

25 responses to ““We have so many guys back.”

  1. Uglydawg

    That’s some erotic reading, right there.
    You win first with defense. A great defense can cover a multitude of offensive shortcomings.
    Will we be bringing back “Junkyard Dawgs”? “Hunker Down”? “Hunker’em down one more time you guys”?

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    • doofusdawg

      Yep. And I’m still convinced that Davis was promised the nickel spot in order to get him to come back.

      Hope that Tucker turns the kids loose and lets them get after it.

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      • Where would Davis have gone? Are you suggesting he would have transferred?

        Also – It seems he’s been here forever doesn’t it? From walk-on to manning the star position – Nice work kid.

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        • doofusdawg

          He had business opportunities is my understanding. I think Kirby convinced him that with year at nickel and as a team leader he might get a shot at the next level.

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  2. Russ

    We just need to figure out how to lock down the red zone, and I think we will. Like Seth said last week (or so), a stout defense will give the offense room to open up a little, and not worry about having to outscore the other team. Should help the offense play more relaxed.

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  3. Dave

    The key is we have what appear to be a lot of really, really good players coming back. That’s the important aspect of the returning starters thing.

    Not to call anyone out, but if we had a bunch of guys who were getting torched last year at Ole Miss and eventually lost the starting job and eventually transferred (although, that would preclude him from starting at Geogia), then returning starters wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing.

    In our case, though, it seems to be.

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  4. 81Dog

    We do have lots of questions on the OL (and in the offensive coaching staff, perhaps), but we have a lot of skill position talent, too. Experienced returning QB, as good a 1-2 punch at RB as anyone, plus depth, skill and depth at TE, possibly some talent (if not as much as we’d prefer) at WR. The offense doesn’t really have to carry the team, it just has to be solid, IF the defense is as good as it should be.

    Really, this team should win the East, as things stand today. Who knows what injuries, bad breaks, Gurley-esque screw-ups may happen, but why would anyone be poor mouthing in July? Expectations SHOULD be high. Not “this is the year we beat Alabama like a Salvation Army drum” high, but “we should win the East” high. Winning the East is not the be all and end all, but it’s a step forward towards where we want to be. We should be taking that step this year if this staff can “get it done” as promised when they were hired.

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    • Of course, defense doesn’t exist independently of the offense. It’s an obvious statement but, an improved offense keeps the defense off the field. With fewer plays to defend, automatically the numbers get better. Let us pray for an improved offense.

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    • Macallanlover

      Exactly 81, as you and Russ have summed op, if you cannot be confident with this team you will forever be an overly pessimistic Energy Vampire. This team can not only be expected to win the East, but hold their own against the best in the West in Atlanta. You can paint disaster scenarios but this should be a strong UGA team, no excuses.

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  5. ApalachDawg

    As long as we improve the red zone D, they could become worthy of the name “Junkyard Dawgs”
    GATA

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  6. Skeptic Dawg

    I hope that we see an improved defense this season, I really hope that we do indeed. However, hope does not make for a great plan. The deficeincies that plagued the defense last year must be corrected (poor red zone D, an inability to sack/disrupt the QB). The basic problem that I see is that the same players that led to those issues, and were unable to correct those very same issues over the course of 2016, return for the 2017 season. In summary, I do not see reason to be optimistic about this unit.

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    • leaking coffee cup

      Damn, Eeyore….so when your dick falls out you don’t put it back in because you think it will fall out again?
      All anyone is saying is the D will not need to be risk-taking, but the O will……Consequently, the O will look choppy and the D will look smooth. Difference between MJ and a paraplegic break-dancing.

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  7. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    I said it last week, and it bears repeating: 15-0!!! 😉

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  8. Southernlawyer11

    One of these years, our units won’t be ships passing in the night. Georgia has had a national championship offense AND defense about 5 times in the last 15 years.

    It’s just too bad those 5s are mutually exclusive.

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  9. Our problem is never with the starting 22, but always with the next 44 guys up. And sure, we may be returning 10 starters, but those guys got torched last year.

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    • I think the optimism comes from guys who may have been torched on occasion having another year under their belt (experience, familiarity with scheme etc). It’s not a guarantee of success, but certainly can understand the optimism.

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    • Mayor

      Our problem isn’t with the players, it’s with the coaches and B-M.

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  10. 69Dawg

    I just hope that once a team gets inside our 20 we actually look like we have a goal line defense. Hell just holding them to 3 points instead of 7 will be a major improvement. So tried of seeing the other team just run it into the endzone.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. S

    A reminder about the defense. For the people who keep on harping on the Ole Miss game as if it was the only game the defense played last year: Auburn, assholes. Auburn. Maybe we’ll have THAT defense all year.

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  12. W Cobb Dawg

    With 300+/- DLs Rochester, Atkins, Hawkins-Muckle, Thompson, Clark, etc, we really do have the beef to keep from being overpowered. Plus great speed and impressive depth all over. This D should be formidable.

    Might be the best talent we’ve had since Donnan had stars like Seymour, Stroud, Bell, Bailey, et al.

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  13. Mayor

    IMHO the D will be fine.

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  14. Bulldog Joe

    No need to overcoach and swap these guys in and out from the sideline each play like we did last season. This practice unnecessarily fatigued our defense and resulted in the worst red zone performance in the league.

    Trust your talent and experience advantage and let them dominate.

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    • Mayor

      ^This. You don’t need to alternate players every play. There is a time to substitute and a time not to substitute.

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