Georgia is loaded with talent on the defensive side of the ball heading into next season, and one returning sophomore was named by the SEC Network’s Cole Cubelic as a potential breakout player in 2020.
Cubelic listed five SEC breakout candidates on defense via Twitter on Thursday night, and sophomore linebacker Nakobe Dean was inserted at No. 3 on the list.
Georgia returns 10 experienced linebackers from a year ago who all rotated downs throughout the season. Dean was a part of Georgia’s inside linebackers unit where Monty Rice and Tae Crowder served as the starters. Rice decided to return for his senior season and Crowder was taken as the final pick of the 2020 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. With Crowder gone, Dean has the capability to have a great year as Cubelic is forecasting.
During his freshman campaign, Dean totaled 25 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, two pass breakups, a quarterback hurry, and a forced fumble. He’s listed at 6-foot, 220-pounds but the former five-star prospect is a little undersized for his position. Regardless, Kirby Smart and staff have been complementary on his progress since arriving on campus in 2019.
“He’s been a great fit,” Smart said a year ago. “I’ve never had a kid come in and just naturally understand football as well as he has. He’s probably not as fast as most people think but he is that much more instinctive. He makes a lot of plays.”
Dean chose UGA over Alabama, Ole Miss, LSU and Texas A&M as he was apart of the 2019 recruiting class. He was heavily recruited by outside linebackers coach and defensive coordinator Dan Lanning along with inside linebackers coach and co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann. Out of high school, Dean was the nation’s No. 19 overall prospect and the No. 2 inside linebacker in the class of 2019, according to the 247Sports Composite. He was also the Mississippi’s overall top-rated player.
The Bulldogs extensive program history of churning out NFL-caliber linebackers helped win over Dean’s signature.
“I never would have thought it would happen but as we were very consistent throughout the recruiting process and they understand the opportunity to come in and play and not having a Roquan (Smith) probably helped us with Nakobe,” Smart said. “Because that’s who he patterned his game after. He wanted to be like Roquan.”
Right now, Bulldawg Illustrated has Dean projected as the starter at the WILL spot with Rice in the middle at the MIKE position. He will battle it out with juniors Quay Walker and Channing Tindall for the starting job though. Either way, expect to see a lot of more of Dean’s contributions this upcoming season.