Here is what I expect this season from the Linebackers:
Key Losses:A few major contributors and a Butkus award winner won’t be back this year for Georgia. It will feel weird for Bulldog fans not seeing Roquan Smith, Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, and Reggie Carter. All of these players impacted the team heavily last year. The obvious question mark though for this group is who is going to replace Roquan Smith? Arguably the best linebacker in the history of Georgia football, it will be no easy task to fill his shoes. I don’t think anyone needs to replicate his production as it was freakish, but the Bulldogs will need someone who it can lean on to provide consistent play.
Key Returners:Specifically, D’Andre Walker and Walter Grant returning at the OLB position are two guys to look out for. D’Andre Walker is returning for his senior season and although he played significantly fewer snaps than Davin Bellamy and Lorenzo Carter, he finished second on the team in sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (13.5). After waiting a long time for his moment, expect his final season in Athens to be special. Walter Grant should be expected to build off his freshman year and is expected to take over the other OLB spot. He played in all 15 games as a freshman and had a nice solo tackle for loss against Notre Dame early in the season showing glimpses of his abilities.
At the inside linebacker positions Natrez Patrick, Monty Rice, and Juwon Taylor are the returning players who had a healthy amount of snaps in 2017. Natrez Patrick is the most experience of the bunch and can provide some leadership and guidance for this unit. Its looking like Monty Rice will have to deal with the task of succeeding Roquan Smith. The sophomore linebacker is definitely capable and showed flashes of his potential in the 14 games he played in last year.
New Faces:Remember, Georgia signed the #1 recruiting class in 2018 and it did more than satisfy its needs at the linebacker positions. There are ample amount of guys who will see the field that are true freshmen. Names that will probably be known by the end of the year are guys like Brenton Cox, Quay Walker, Adam Anderson, and Channing Tindall. It is ridiculous how talented those list of names are. Based off what we have seen from camp Cox seems to have the earliest route to the field, but all of these guys will get a chance to showcase its skillset this year.
Roquan Smith will be missed for sure and I think it is unrealistic at least this year to ask for the same level of production at his position. However, Monty Rice is capable of handling his position respectively. It may be a little bit of a bold prediction, but I think the OLB’s will actually be better. The depth now for the OLB’s is beyond a luxury and Georgia is going to start to see the benefits of Kirby Smarts elite recruiting.
In review, there isn’t a talent drop off at any position besides maybe replacing Roquan Smith. Experience will be this groups one downfall if there is any. Kirby has pretty much built the model he did at Alabama where you don’t rebuild you reload. The talent is on par with any team in the country and by the end of the year when everyone is comfortable the linebackers will be a force to be reckoned with.