GATA – ET’s Defensive Preview

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GATA – ET’s Defensive Preview

Lorenzo Carter (7) looks on as Davin Bellamy (17) is stood up during a drill
Lorenzo Carter (7) looks on as Davin Bellamy (17) is stood up during a drill
[su_spacer size=”20″] Year 2 under the leadership of Jeremy Pruitt appears to be encouraging for the Georgia defense as the Junkyard Dawgs look to build on some solid performances in the latter half of the season.  With a lot of experience sprinkled in with some highly talented newcomers as well as guys who have waited for their turn, this defense has the opportunity to be athletic and fierce.  Let’s discuss a few questions about the Bulldog defense before Saturday’s opener between the hedges:
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Can the front 3 (or 4) hold up against power running offenses?
[su_spacer size=”20″] In the 3 losses last year, the rushing defense between the tackles got exposed early and often.  USCe exploited the middle in the 2nd half with their big running backs, UF hurt us inside and outside throughout the game, and tech pounded the A back between the tackles consistently.  I have to assume most teams are going to try to run right at our defensive tackles.  Chris Mayes needs to be the guy to step up as an athletic nose tackle against the power running game. John Atkins has had flashes of brilliance over the last couple of years but now will be an every down type of player. Of course, everyone is looking forward to seeing the #1 prospect from last year, the man-child defensive tackle, Trent Thompson.  As important as these men will be up front, the law firm of Jenkins, Floyd & Carter need to be more consistent in their ability to set the edge against the running game.  We won’t know much about our rushing defense until USCe comes calling on September 19.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Could this be the most athletic set of linebackers in the SEC this year?
[su_spacer size=”20″] I don’t think there’s any doubt that this set of outside linebackers is one of the best, if not the best, group of pass rushers in the country with senior Jordan Jenkins as the leader of the group. Zo Carter is probably the best NFL prospect on the team including Nick Chubb as a consensus All-American and Heisman candidate. Leonard Floyd will be Jeremy Pruitt’s Swiss Army knife this season as he’ll move from inside linebacker to outside linebacker to star. Davin Bellamy would probably start for many SEC schools. Special teams standout Tim Kimbrough and solid Reggie Carter have waited for their turns behind 2 NFL quality linebackers in Herrera and Wilson, but the human interest story of the year is Jake Ganus in his one year at Georgia after UAB disbanded its football program. The two-deep depth chart for Saturday doesn’t even include super-recruits Natrez Patrick and Roquan Smith on the inside. This set of linebackers has the potential to wreak havoc this season with a number of guys who are likely to get shots at an NFL payday in the near future.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Will the secondary take the next step under the tutelage of Pruitt?
[su_spacer size=”20″] At the end of last season, the Georgia secondary dramatically improved its play and consistently showed the tendency to make big, game-changing type of plays. Aaron Davis has gone from walk-on to potential NFL prospect according to some in his one year under the development of Jeremy Pruitt.  He makes a lot of plays and rarely got caught out of position as the physical corner on the boundary (short) side of the field. Malkom Parrish developed throughout his freshman season and appears to be a cover corner with a quarterback’s sense of the game. Quincy Mauger has become the quarterback of the secondary, and Dominick Sanders is the big play safety out of the mold of Sean Jones and Bacarri Rambo.  A lot of athletic freshmen are going to play early and often to provide depth to what appears to be another strength of the defense.
[su_spacer size=”40″] Can the ball bounce Georgia’s way again in the turnover department?
[su_spacer size=”20″] The defense created a lot of opportunities for the offense last year. The Dawgs’ offense especially the quarterbacks could use some field position advantages created by the defense and special teams.  Last year, the defense scored four touchdowns with 3 fumble returns for scores and 1 pick-6. The defensive staff appears to preach turnovers.  There’s no better way to produce turnovers than to create chaos with the pass rush, and, clearly, the Dawgs have the ability to force opposing QBs into mistakes that can lead to game-changing plays for the defense. As the Senator so eloquently puts it, how much will turnovers “regress to the mean”?
[su_spacer size=”40″] Championships come from playing rugged defense, and this defense has the potential to be as nasty as the Alabama and LSU defenses have traditionally been.  I’ll admit that I haven’t been as excited about the defense since the Brian Van Gorder era as I am now. The level of talent and the quality of the coaching have this defense poised to do big things. Unless the injury bug strikes the defense, this group could be as good as the 2002 SEC champions or the 2003 division champions.  If the rushing defense improves, there’s no reason this team can’t compete for an SEC championship.
[su_spacer size=”40″] That’s what I think … Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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The University of Georgia 1991-1994. Lanier Tech 2009-2012. Writer and graphic artist covering UGA athletics, college football, and recruiting. Peach cobbler fears me!