Here is what I expect this season from the defensive line.
Key Losses:The Bulldogs lose two players in the defensive line rotation. Trenton Thompson and John Atkins. Both contributed significantly and played an integral role last year. I think the biggest loss by far will be John Atkins who plugged up the middle and did a lot of the dirty work. It was his job to take on double teams and free the linebackers up like Roquan Smith to make the tackles. Finding a guy who can fill his shoes is the biggest concern heading into the season. Losing Trenton Thompson who was the only 5-star defensive lineman on the roster isn’t as fatal as it may sound, but its a guy that I’m sure we can agree would have benefited staying another year at UGA. The raw athleticism he brought was what made him truly versatile and he did win the Liberty Bowl MVP in 2016 against TCU, but this is a loss I think the Bulldogs can recover from.
Key Returners:Jonathan Ledbetter, Tyler Clark, Julian Rochester, David Marshall are some veteran guys returning that will play a huge role this season. Julian Rochester is going to need to be that guy in the middle replacing Atkins. Tyler Clark had freakish moments all last season and is going to have a dominant year. You could argue he was the best defensive lineman on Georgia last year. Jonathan Ledbetter is the leader of this group and now going into his senior season he will be leaned on heavily.
New Faces:There were a few new additions to the defensive line with this past signing class. Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, and grad transfer Jay Hayes. I don’t know how much of a role Jordan Davis will play this year, but I do think Devonte Wyatt and Jay Hayes will both get an opportunity to play. Devonte Wyatt has the size speed and strength to play fast but needs to get his technique down before he can get significant playing time. Jay Hayes will have the fastest route to the field and I think will be another nice addition to an interior defensive line that needs some much-needed depth.
This is actually a pretty experienced group and the expectation should for there to be no drop-off. Losing Atkins and Thompson isn’t too big of a hit and it’s certainly recoverable. As long as someone can fill Atkins role as the nose in the interior I believe the defensive line may have slightly better play. There is more than enough talent and depth this season for Georgia to have a year similar to lasts.