Georgia post-spring primer: Defensive line

semerson@macon.comMay 8, 2014 

Defensive line coach Tracy Rocker during Georgia's G-Day game on April 12.

JOHN KELLEY — John Kelley / UGA Sports Communi

Our series looking at Georgia position-by-position continues with the defensive line, and it's three spots - though it will be four a lot of times. Either way, here you are:

DEFENSIVE END
Starter:
Sterling Bailey, Jr.
Top backup(s): John Taylor, Soph., and Josh Dawson, Jr.
The skinny: Bailey, who started eight games last year, was the incumbent who seemed to have the most consistent spring under new assistant coach Tracy Rocker. That doesn’t mean he’s guaranteed a starting spot. But spring did go well for him. Meanwhile, Dawson seemed to benefit after moving down from outside linebacker. Then there’s Taylor, a player who has a ton of potential but was one of the four players arrested in March, and is awaiting discipline.
What happens next: Bailey seems to have settled into a role in which he’ll get a lot of snaps. Taylor and Dawson need to have good preseasons in order to cement their spots in the defensive line rotation, which is likely to include between six-to-eight guys.
Coachspeak: “Everybody would like to have a rotation, but right now I think we’re just trying to see where everybody fits in. Because when we started out we gave everyone a clean slate. So we’re trying to see: Where does this guy fit, where does this guy fit?” - Rocker

DEFENSIVE END
Starter(s):
Ray Drew, Sr., or James Deloach, Jr.
Top backup(s): Toby Johnson, Sr.
On the way: Lorenzo Carter, Fr.; Keyon Brown, Fr.
The skinny: Drew’s breakout junior season was followed by a spring stumble, as Rocker demoted him all the way to third team for a couple practices. Deloach, another player awaiting discipline after the March arrests, had a great spring on the field. Johnson, who also played some at nose tackle, hasn’t quite broken through yet into first-team territory, but continues to have his moments.
What happens next: Carter looms large. He might play Will linebacker, or he might be at end, or he might play both. Either way, it’s hard to see him not playing a lot of snaps. And don’t rule out Brown becoming a factor as well, either at end or OLB.
Coachspeak: “Ray’s gonna be fine. Ray’s gonna peak at the right time for us. I don’t worry. Ray’s played in a lot of games, so he will be a factor for us in the fall.” – Rocker

NOSE TACKLE
Starter(s):
Chris Mayes, Jr., and Mike Thornton, Sr.
Top backup(s): Johnson.
Also in the room: John Atkins, R-Fr.
On the way: Lamont Galliard, Fr.
The skinny: Technically there’s just one starting spot at nose, as Georgia will remain a base 3-4 defense under Jeremy Pruitt. But much like under Todd Grantham the Bulldogs will use a lot of four-man fronts, and sometimes that will include two noses. Right now Mayes, who started eight games last year, is first in line for playing time. Thornton, who will be a fifth-year senior, was labeled the most consistent player this spring by Rocker, which isn’t surprising considering his experience. Johnson and Atkins also got looks inside, with Johnson ahead of Atkins.
What happens next: Galliard was highly-recruited by Grantham’s staff, but it’s not clear how much Pruitt and Rocker will want to play him right away. We’ll find out in August. This nose spot still seems fairly wide open, with the exception of Mayes seeming in good shape to get the most snaps.
Coachspeak: “I thought Mike Thornton did well in G-Day. He tried to do some things throughout the scrimmage. … Chris Mayes, that kid hasn’t stopped fighting since Day 1. I moved him around, moved him around, and his last week here has probably been his best day out here.” – Rocker

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