Jason Butt puts together one of those “five things we know” lists and while some of what’s there we’ve hashed out a bit here, there are a couple of things he mentions that are worth noting.
Summer crucial for defensive line: At least for Georgia’s season-opener against North Carolina, the defensive line will be down two key contributors. Chauncey Rivers (second marijuana arrest) and Jonathan Ledbetter (underage possession of alcohol) are suspended for it, with Rivers missing Georgia’s first three games.
It’ll be imperative for Georgia’s other young defensive linemen to make strides this summer during voluntary workouts. Michael Barnett and DaQuan Hawkins are coming off of minor knee injuries and will look to heal back to 100 percent before preseason practice begins in August. Georgia lost four linemen up front, including Chris Mayes and Sterling Bailey. Sophomore Trent Thompson will be counted on to provide more of a leadership role on the defensive line in 2016.
More pass rushers needed: Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter will have big shoes to fill this season but have the talent and physical ability to get it done. Bellamy emerged last year as a productive player and Carter has been commended for his work ethic this spring, evidenced by being a recipient of the team’s Coffee County Hustle Award. Behind those two, however, are some unproven outside linebackers. D’Andre Walker had 4 sacks at G-Day and could be primed for a bigger role in 2016. Chuks Amaechi played well in spots last season and should be good to go once he’s healed up from labrum surgery.
Freshman pass-rushers Chauncey Manac and David Marshall will also have plenty of opportunities to get on the field early. It also remains to be seen how much cross-training Georgia does with Natrez Patrick, who could move from inside to outside linebacker in certain substitution packages.
Ordinarily I’d say the idea that you’re going to get a major contribution right out of the gate from of a true freshman defensive lineman showing up for fall camp is farfetched (admittedly, not impossible, though), but the opener against North Carolina is one of those situations where necessity appears to be the the mother of invention. Is Mel Tucker on the mother, so to speak? You’d have to think he, Smart and Rocker will be doing a lot of brainstorming in August trying to find pieces to fit around Thompson. And more than anything, Lorenzo Carter needs to make himself into the real deal this season.
The more I look at Georgia’s front seven, especially the line, the more I think it may hold the key to Georgia’s chances more than any other area on the team for 2016. That includes you know whom.