Those who discount Georgia’s chances to win the SEC East this season tend to focus on the inexperience of the offense, particularly its quarterback and coordinator aspects.
That’s only one part of the team, though, and the other part is anything but inexperienced.
Georgia led the nation in scoring defense last season, yielding just 12.57 points per game, and is overrun with defensive talent and experience entering Kirby Smart’s fifth season.
Talent and experience are always welcome traits on any college roster, but especially amid a COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think experience is probably magnified in this season and in this setting more so than ever before,” Smart said this past week. “Experience is so valuable when you don’t get to practice. We have obviously been shortened in terms of spring practice and in terms of meetings, and in terms of summer conditioning we are already being shortened, so a lot of those things have shortened us.
“We will have to be wise in the decisions we make. We have to be smart, and that is no different than any other year.”
Decisions by Smart and his staff will be aided by the return of LeCounte, who earned his first career start at Notre Dame in 2017, Rice, who had a team-leading 89 tackles last season, and Herring, who had five tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss during Georgia’s 26-14 thumping of Baylor in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s evening. DJ Daniel, Eric Stokes and Mark Webb are accompanying LeCounte as veteran defensive backs, while Jermaine Johnson, Azeez Ojulari and Nolan Smith are imposing edge-rushing threats back for more.
Ojulari tallied 39 quarterback hurries and 5.5 sacks on a unit that led the nation in fewest rushing yards per game (74.6) and fewest yards per carry (2.62) while ranking second to Ohio State in fewest passing yards per attempt (5.62). Georgia’s most impressive defensive stat was not allowing a rushing touchdown until the 40th quarter of the season, when Auburn quarterback Bo Nix ran into the end zone from 2 yards out in the fourth quarter of a 21-14 loss to the Bulldogs.
Georgia returns 80% of its defensive production from last year, according to metrics developed by ESPN…
Sure gives that inexperienced offense more margin for error in the early going, doesn’t it?