Georgia's Spring Game is right around the corner on April 16th. We already previewed Georgia's Offensive Depth Chart. Now it's time to take a look at the defensive side of the football in Todd Grantham's 2nd year at the helm of the 3-4 in Athens. Gone are the leading sack artist Justin Houston and the leading tackler Akeem Dent. Daryl Gamble, Marcus Dowtin, Vance Cuff and Demarcus Dobbs have also moved on. Who steps up in their places? Despite losing those guys (some will be missed a lot more than others) Georgia returns players with starting experience at 8 of the 11 positions. Let's take a look at where I see the depth chart playing out. I will add in some in-coming freshmen that will not compete in spring practice just for the fun of it (they will be notated in italics).
NT1- John Jenkins, Junior
NT2- Kwame Geathers, Soph
This is one of the positions that the Bulldog faithful is most excited about. Last year, Georgia got pushed around on the DL by the likes of South Carolina, Mississippi State and Colorado. If Georgia would have had a stronger DL they could have had a much different season last year. This year they landed the big fish, John Jenkins. He's a 6'4, 340 lb grown man who will step in and contribute immediately. Scout.com calls him a "mammoth" who is athletic enough to get in on tackles sideline to sideline and downfield. He will be backed up by Kwame Geathers, who despite limited action was good enough to be voted onto the coaches All-SEC Freshman team last year. Geathers should have an opportunity to grow under Jenkins and continue to develop. Justin Anderson has moved back to the OL after a failed one year experiment at DL that was ended after an injury.
RDE1- DeAngelo Tyson, Senior
RDE2- Garrison Smith, Soph
RDE3- Sterling Bailey, Freshman
LDE1- Abry Jones, Junior
RDE2- Derrick Lott, Soph
RDE3- Michael Thornton, RS Freshman
The ends are interchangeable so don't read into me placing one on the right and one on the left. That was really done just to differentiate the starters. The happiest guy on campus right now might be DeAngelo Tyson. He has Jenkins coming in and taking his starting NT spot so he can slide over to DE where I think he will be much more successful. Tyson increased his tackle total from 12 in 2009 to 35 in 2010 but only had 3.5 tackles for loss. Look for that number to improve with Jenkins able to clog up the middle. Abry Jones will also benefit from Jenkins presence and Tyson's increased productivity. One of the reasons that the secondary struggled so much last year was the lack of a pass rush at times. If Georgia can generate consistent pressure then the DL will make the secondary look a lot better this year. I am much more confident in this groups ability to match-up with opposing offenses and not get pushed around the field. I really don't have a feel for any of the back-ups but maybe one of them can step up and become a contributor along with the starters. Sterling Bailey is a guy to watch in the fall but I'm not sure he's ready to contribute right away.
WOLB1- Cornelius Washington, Junior
WOLB2- Ray Drew, Freshman
WOLB3- Reuben Faloughi, RS Sophomore
SOLB1- Jarvis Jones, RS Sophomore
SOLB2- T.J. Stripling, Sophomore
SOLB3- Dexter Morant, RS Freshman
The potential star of this group, this year, is Jarvis Jones. Jones is a big hitter with closing speed. He's better attacking the play rather than having the play come to him so that's why he's at OLB. I think he can be a playmaker and will be more versatile than Justin Houston at this spot although not as adept at rushing the passer. Cornelius Washington really seemed to be silent last year. He didn't really do anything to stand out but then again he didn't do anything to make me think that he needed to be off the field. He needs to make some significant strides this year or a guy like Ray Drew or T.J. Stripling will be getting a lot of looks in his place. Stripling will miss spring practice as he continues to rehab from last years injury. Before his injury he looked like he was really coming on and was starting to get more looks on the field. He's a guy to watch out for in the coming years. Come fall I see Drew hitting the ground running and I think he will be in on passing downs very early in the season.
RILB1- Christian Robinson, Junior
RILB2- Kent Turene, Freshman; Amarlo Herrera, Freshman
RILB3- Mike Gillard, Junior
LILB1- Alec Ogletree, Sophomore
LILB2- Richard Samuel, RS Junior
LILB3- Ramik Wilson, Freshman
All of the sudden I feel really good about the LB corps. With Jones, Washington and Ogletree we might have the quickest LB corps in the SEC and that means lots of guys flying around the ball. I like Christian Robinson and I think he got a ton of good experience last year. He's going to be given the keys to the car this year and he will be the captain on the field so it will be interesting to see if he is ready for the challenge. I like him as the steady guy in the middle and Chris Low, of ESPN, noted in his blog this week that Robinson has bulked up in the off-season adding 15 pounds to his frame. His side-kick will be super soph Alec Ogletree, who will be moving from safety. Ogletree will bring speed, athleticism and aggression to the ILB position for Georgia. The biggest question is if he will be strong enough to take on RBs on the second level but I think he will especially with the increased size of the DL. Look for Ogletree to be the break-out star of the defense this year. Ogletree is another guy who has bulked up as he's around 240 lbs right now. The wild-card in this bunch is Richard Samuel. He red-shirted last year due to his move over from offense and due to injuries. He has size and speed and could be a factor rushing the QB which leads me to believe that he might end up on the outside when all is said and done. He's one of the most interesting stories to watch this spring and fall. Injuries will happen during a college football season so he will need to be ready to play this year. Either Turene, Herrera or Wilson will play this year, maybe even all of them. Turene fits in as a run-stopping ILB that would be a good fit to back-up Robinson and take his throne in a couple of years. Herrera is a good fit for the 3-4 as a big physical LB who can pressure the QB and excel at stopping the run. Watch out for Turene and Herrera during the fall. They might not get in much action early but they both have the talent to push for playing time at some point next year.
CB1- Brandon Boykin, Senior
CB2- Derek Owens, Soph
CB3- Nick Marshall, Freshman; Damian Swann, Freshman
CB1- Sanders Commings, Junior
CB2- Branden Smith, Junior
CB3- Jordan Love- Soph
I feel pretty good about Georgia's corners with Boykin and Commings as starters and Branden Smith as the first guy off the bench. This will be their second year in the 3-4 system and in their first the corners combined to pick off five more passes than the previous year so look for continued improvement from this group. Boykin is a fantastic athlete who has been talking this off-season about how the new S&C and Nutrition programs at Georgia have given him more endurance. He made the right decision about coming back to school for his senior year and this could be a break-through year for him as he hasn't quite lived up to expectations (except on kick-off returns). I like Boykin's attitude this off-season and in Chris Low's blog he said that the bowl game loss made him sick and that was one of the reasons that he came back for his senior year (so that he could help right the ship). Commings came on strong last year and was named one of the teams most improved players. The more he plays in this system the better I think he will get. Branden Smith will be the nickel back and he will try to come back from a banged up 2010. He might have the most talent of all the returning corners but he is injury prone, a little under-sized and might be seeing some time with Bobo's offense which will decrease his defensive reps. Derek Owens made a small impact last year playing in all 13 games as a freshman but I'm not sure how much playing time he will get this year with the incoming freshman. Owens clearly is a very good Special Teams player and it will be interesting to watch and see if he can translate that to the defensive side of the football. Nick Marshall and Damian Swann will both get long looks in fall practice to see if they can contribute and to see which position is best suited for them. I think it will be hard to keep these guys off the field but they might just end up getting a lot of ST play.
SS1- Baccari Rambo, Junior
SS2- Jakar Hamilton, Senior
SS3- Marc Deas, RS Freshman
FS1- Shawn Williams, Junior
FS2- Corey Moore, Freshman
FS3- Chris Sanders, Freshman
With Ogletree moving to ILB this might be the biggest question mark on the defense. Rambo had some impressive stats last year (2nd on the team with 82 tackles, 3 INT, 3 Forced Fumbles and 1 TD) but he was very up and down as a starter. In the 2nd year in Grantham's 3-4, Rambo's development could be the key to the defense. It's also worth noting that last year he was coming off of a devastating concussion in the Auburn game and started the year very tenative. He should be able to put that past him this year, especially with Georgia's increased toughness/attitude in the weight room. So you have Rambo at one safety and then you really have 5 guys who will be shooting to be his tag-team partner this fall. Three of those guys (Hamilton, Deas and Williams) have been in the system for a year and will participate in spring practice. Out of those two I am most comfortable with Williams at the safety position but I can honestly say that I think this is a toss up. Hamilton looks like he has a higher upside as a play-maker but I think Williams will be more solid all-around and against the run. I see Williams and/or Hamilton starting the year and then giving way later to one of the young guns, probably Corey Moore out of Griffin. Here is how he's described by scout.com..."He has the size, speed, toughness, and skill set to be a big impact player at safety on the next level." Sanders will probably red-shirt so he can put on some size.
Overall, I feel pretty good about the athleticism on the defensive side of the football and I think that we should be improved this year despite losing our #1 tackler and our #1 sacker. The keys are Jenkins, Jones, Ogletree and Rambo. Can Jenkins come in and immediately provide Georgia with that mammoth DT that they need in the middle? Can Jones re-place Justin Houston by being a more versatile version at the OLB spot? Can Alec Ogletree move up to ILB and be a head-hunting play-maker? Can Rambo play more consistently and anchor the secondary. There is a lot of talent in this years defense and a lot of questions. There is one thing we know for sure, they have to be ready to hit the ground running with Boise State and South Carolina as the first two games right out of the gate.