Not so worried

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.

18 Comments

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18 responses to “Not so worried

  1. They don’t have to be that great for Felipe Franks to fumble deep in his own territory. 🙂

    Seriously, we are going to need some guys on the edge to emerge to make Ian Book’s life miserable on the night of September 21. The development of depth at nose tackle and a consistently good replacement for Lamont Gailliard are the two things I worry about entering this season.

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    • Greg

      Good point, it is definitely noticeable when he is not in there….I.E. the Texas game. Wyatt got better as the year went on, but he didn’t always play at nose.

      Would love to see Rochester go out with a bang this year. Maybe it being the last year for him will light a fire under his azz.

      Otherwise, we are going to have to depend on some freshman. Netori seems to be an experiment, maybe he will come through.

      Liked by 1 person

      • John Atkins was an unsung hero of the 2017 defense. The guy could keep interior OLs off Roquan in particular. Davis emerged as that kind of guy last year but needs to get (and stay) healthy and deal with the conditioning issues.

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  2. Athens Dog

    “Smart’s staff has stacked ridiculously talented recruiting classes in the last few years”

    Yet all you have to do is look at Phil Steeles top 4 line ups to know we’ve still got a ways to go.

    But I’m bullish on this team

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  3. Texas Dawg

    As loaded as this defense is with studs, their POTENTIAL is off the charts. IF that translates to on the field results commensurate with the potential, then we will be just fine (can’t say the same for opposing offenses)

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  4. Greg

    “depth and talent on the back end is what will allow Coach Kirby Smart to get into the sort of defensive of fronts that create havoc”.

    “We have big, tall and athletic guys that can cover.”

    Eric Zeier

    Zeier may be on to something, too much talent on ‘D. Even though we lost Baker, the DB’s will be more seasoned. Could be even better than last year as a unit. If true, the front 4 (or 3) will be allowed to do much more….fingers crossed.

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  5. rugbydawg79

    Netori could be a factor no one is talking about.

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    • Trbodawg

      I’d like to think so, but we’ll know soon after Fall camp starts. If he’s not getting first/second team reps by then, he won’t be a factor during the season (barring injuries)

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  6. Tony Barnfart

    I still feel like our paltry numbers were more a product of conscious, risk-averse choice rather than a failure of talent or scheme design. It does seem Kirby has been reading some of the stats gurus (havoc rate anyone) and is changing his approach. Last year we were so focused on gap / running lane integrity and knew we had 1DB who could literally cover the field side of a defense by himself.

    I bet you there are quite a few teams with high sack numbers who also give up the big play at a high rate. In other words, i’m not worried.

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    • Dylan Dreyer's Booty

      I completely agree; I believe the play of the D-line last year was by design with the intention being to contain the run and prevent big plays, and they got both done. Just watch some of last year’s games. Guys trying to get to the corner and turn up field very seldom were able to.

      Of course, that isn’t to say that we couldn’t be better and in we may have some new pieces in place to do better. Let’s hope so.

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  7. GruvenDawg

    I think to this point it has been a defensive philosophy issue while Kirby and Mel covered up for deficiencies in the DB’s and LB’s. I don’t think either of those units are going to be issues this year. If Kirby focuses on increasing Havoc this year the DL unit could be special. We had issues with some of the younger guys containing the edge last year and I haven’t seen another NT on Davis’s level. Figure out those two things to go along with improved DB and LB play and they should move from a top 15 defense to a top 5 defense.

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  8. Reverend Whitewall

    Personnel certainly matters, but scheme gonna make a big difference too. I’ve never seen blitzing in a spring game to the extent that we did at this year’s GDay. Tucker seemed to focus on not giving up the big play at the expense of aggressiveness that could create big plays the other way. I think Lanning is gonna be willing to be burned occasionally as long as we are getting enough positive plays the other way.

    Note that I’m not criticizing Tucker or saying one way is better than the other. I liked Tucker a lot. The proof will be in the results.

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  9. RG

    Don’t forget about Marshall. Hopefully he’s healthy this year!

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  10. Brandon

    We’ve got a lot of experience on the DL this year, a lot of guys who have played a lot of snaps. That usually bodes well, whether you are talking about the Georgia or the Kentucky’s of the world.

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  11. Macallanlover

    Disagree, this unit is much more of a concern than receiver, and for the reason you stated. Davis is the key to the interior DL and ILB success, and we only have one of him. We could lose any 2 of the WRs and the offense would be fine, including the passing game. We have 7-8 talented, and capable, speedsters who can catch the ball from the wide outs to the slot positions. But Davis, who was injured last season and this spring, will not be replaceable at a comparable level if he goes down. Hope I am wrong and someone is closing the gap but I don’t hear much about who that would be. Big men with back issues is a scary thing to depend on. Save your worries for the front group on defense, we are a little thin there.

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  12. W Cobb Dawg

    “Georgia boasted one of the nation’s better defenses last year.”

    And that was after losing Atkins, Thompson, Roquan, Carter, Sanders, Bellamy, etc. The 2019 D is going to be better than the 2018 D – take that to the bank.

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