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.