Outside linebackers, under the tutelage of Coach Dan Lanning, were my target for Thursday. I was interested in Lanning’s group because of the number of highly rated newcomers vying for playing time in what should be one of the nation’s most talented units. Brenton Cox (1), Azeez Ojulari (13) and Adam Anderson (19) are joined by true freshman Nolan Smith (4) and JUCO transfer Jermaine Johnson (11) to give Lanning plenty of weapons to work with as his molds a position group that will see tons of pressure from modern offenses in the SEC.
Spring practice is the time for teaching fundamentals, and that is precisely what Lanning’s group worked on while I watched. The drill period started with an emphasis on the recognition of spread option type plays and maintaining assignment discipline based on the defensive call and exactly how the offense executed the play. Outside linebackers are the guardians of the corners and must be disciplined to prevent big plays down the sidelines.
Recognition and gap protection was the order of the day and as the drills continued, footwork and eye-discipline got Lanning’s attention, eliciting both praise and constructive criticism. Coach Lanning is intense but unlike some coaches, he corrects mistakes without high-volume histrionics.
Going back to Nolan Smith (4) and Jermaine Johnson (11), if they are not regular contributors from day one, I will be shocked. Johnson (the number one JUCO recruit in the nation according to 247Sports) is a bit taller (6-5/240) and seems thicker, but Smith (6-3/235) has all of the tools. Smith, by the way, was the top high school recruit in the 2019 class, coming from IMG Academy in Florida by way of Savannah. Get ready for UGA to lock down the edges in 2019.