David Ching is back with five SEC defensive unit groups with something to prove. We’re familiar with one of them:
2. Georgia’s defensive front: Georgia boasted one of the nation’s better defenses last year – particularly when it came to defending the pass – but the Bulldogs were surprisingly average at times along the front line. Especially when it came to rushing the quarterback. The Bulldogs posted just 24 sacks in 14 games, ranking 13th in the SEC with an average of 1.71 sacks per game. Their average of 4.64 tackles for loss per game was dead last in the league.
And now the Bulldogs move into 2019 without their only player to post more than two sacks, D’Andre Walker (7.5 sacks, 11 tackles for loss in 2018), as well as All-SEC defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter. But fear not, Georgia fans. Kirby Smart’s defensive line will return numerous candidates to wreak havoc in opposing backfields and add significantly to last year’s paltry sack total. That group includes 6-foot-6, 330-pound nose tackle Jordan Davis, tackles Tyler Clark and Devonte Wyatt, and end Malik Herring. In addition, Smart’s vaunted 2019 recruiting class added players who could instantly upgrade the defensive front up the middle – five-star defensive tackle Travon Walker – and off the edge – Nolan Smith, the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in the 247Sports Composite Rankings, and Jermaine Johnson, 247’s No. 1 overall junior college prospect.
This seems like a situation that is bound to improve this fall, simply because of the way Smart’s staff has stacked ridiculously talented recruiting classes in the last few years. There are too many future NFL players on Georgia’s roster for the Bulldogs to be average against the run and fail to frequently penetrate opposing backfields. It will be a surprise if the Bulldogs fail to have at least one or two players match or surpass Walker’s totals from a season ago.
This is one I’m not as worried about as I was yesterday’s group, provided Jordan Davis remains healthy and a factor all season. The talent is there to upgrade the upfield pressure and Kirby seems determined to make that happen.