Last season, Georgia’s defense on average only gave up 12.6 points per game as they were ranked the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense. That was the fewest allowed by any UGA defense since 1981 when the Bulldogs held opponents to a daunting 10.16 points per game. That 2019 unit also finished second in run defense (yards per carry), second in pass defense (yards per attempt) and second in total defense (yards per play).
During the offseason, the Bulldogs lost Tyler Clark, J.R. Reed and Tae Crowder. Although, Georgia does return veterans like Malik Herring, Richard LeCounte and Eric Stokes, who will all play a huge role in determining the outcome of the unit this upcoming season. But, the Bulldogs do have a ton a talent across the board that could help make an impact as well.
A couple of names that come to mind happen to be apart of Georgia’s 2019 recruiting class, which finished ranked No. 2 nationally. Even though the defense is filled with depth, a lot of those stars happen to be second years, who will carry the unit for the next couple of years.
Here are a few of the names:
Travon Walker (Sophomore)
Walker had quite the freshman campaign finishing with 15 total stops, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and one fumble recovery. He was named to the Freshman All-SEC Team and was a co-winner of the Defensive Newcomer of the Year award. He played in 12 of 14 games and added eight quarterback pressures on the year. His biggest stop of the season was a five yard sack on Auburn’s final offensive play to seal the Georgia win.
Walker is touted to have an even bigger year and be a more dangerous threat to opposing quarterbacks in 2020. After showing so much promise last year, the former five-star prospect will be battling with Malik Herring for playing time at defensive end. He is an excellent pass rusher and can get off the line quickly to get into the backfield. His stats should be more solid in 2020 after a stellar freshman performance.
Lewis Cine (Sophomore)
The Cedar Hill, Tx. native played in all fourteen games last year and started the last two games against LSU and Baylor. He finished the season with 20 total stops, one interception and three pass breakups. His first career interception and pass breakup came against Arkansas State earlier on in the season.
Cine has some big shoes to fill but those two career starts help him tremendously. He’s big, fast, and a heavy hitter who can cover. He’s also a little bit more versatile than Reed and can be relied upon to cover the deep middle of the field, which allows LeCounte to play closer to the line of scrimmage.
Nakobe Dean (Sophomore)
Dean burst onto the scene his freshman year by totaling 25 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, two pass breakups and one forced fumble. He played in all fourteen games last season and was named co-winner of the Defensive Newcomer of the Year award, which is given at the team’s post-season awards gala. The 6-foot-0, 220-pound inside linebacker was one of four Bulldogs to have a team-high six tackles in the shutout against Kentucky He also had a forced a fumble in that game as well.
Dean will more than likely be the starting WILL linebacker this upcoming season. He has the raw talent to be special at the position and that allows the defense to match up in the passing game because of his coverage ability. He’s probably going to the be guy that stays on the field in the DIME defense, as well.
Nolan Smith (Sophomore)
The IMG product played in all fourteen games recording 18 total stops, 2.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and one pass deflection. He also had fifteen quarterback pressures, which was fourth-best on the team. Out of high school, he was regarded as one of the nation’s top players, and he didn’t disappoint.
Smith will be competing with Azeez Ojulari for starting snaps at the JACK linebacker position in 2020. Smith is more of the 3-4 outside backer, but is a very effective player against the run. More than likely, both guys will be splitting snaps and be on the field at the same time. It’s possible that he could lead the team in sacks and quarterback pressures in 2020, as well.
Tyrique Stevenson (Sophomore)
Stevenson had a great freshman season finishing with 13 total tackles, 1.0 tackles for loss, and five pass breakups. He played in all fourteen games and also had four quarterback pressures. Stevenson recorded a late third quarter sack on third down against Auburn, which deeply impacted the game and ruined some Tigers momentum.
It’s rare that a younger player will flat out overtake an older one, but we think that he will be out Mark Webb for the starting job at the STAR/NICKEL position. He brings a ton of athleticism to the table and should excel in 2020. Stevenson’s big, fast, athletic, and a dynamic blitzer off the edge and he can also matchup with tight ends or slot receivers.
There are also some other members of the 2019 recruiting class on defense that could contribute this year. All are redshirt freshman, they include Bill Norton, Trezmen Marshall, Zion Logue, Tymon Mitchell and Rian Davis.