Experience returns everywhere on Georgia’s defense.
It’s a major reason why big things could be in store for the Bulldogs in 2017. The lone starter lost on defense was nickel defender Maurice Smith. Otherwise, everyone else returns. The lone position battle for a starting spot that could take place this spring is for Smith’s job, and that’s about it.
Otherwise, it should be business as usual for a defense that improved over the course of the 2016 season.
Here is a pre-spring look at what the depth chart could look like once practice begins in March.
(Note: Only freshman early enrollees are included in this since it is a pre-spring projected depth chart.)
Trenton Thompson (Jr.)
Julian Rochester (Soph.)
Michail Carter (Soph.)
John Atkins (Sr.)
DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle (Jr.)
Tyler Clark (Soph.)
Jonathan Ledbetter (Jr.)
David Marshall (Soph.)
Justin Young (Soph.)
The skinny (on all defensive linemen): One word to describe this group is deep. Another spring should do wonders for this group that improved as the 2016 season got along. In the summer, Malik Herring (Mary Persons) and Devonte Wyatt (Towers) will join the program, further bolstering the depth. While each player is positioned on the depth chart, they can all play each spot. This year’s rotation should once again go eight or nine deep.
Sam outside linebacker
Lorenzo Carter (Sr.)
D’Andre Walker (Jr.)
The skinny: Getting Carter back for a senior season is huge for not only himself but for Walker. Walker won’t have to rush into being an every-down pass-rusher and can once again play a valuable situational role. These two should make for a great pass-rushing tandem at the Sam linebacker spot in 2017.
Jack outside linebacker
Davin Bellamy (Sr.)
Chauncey Manac (Fr.)
The skinny: Manac was someone who came along strong last preseason but ended up redshirting thanks to Georgia’s depth. Georgia’s defensive scout-team player of the year, Manac could make a huge push for playing time now that Chuks Amaechi is graduating. A solid spring will certainly be huge for his development. But Bellamy, of course, will be the man at this position once again.
Will inside linebacker
Roquan Smith (Jr.)
Juwan Taylor (Jr.)
The skinny: Smith will once again own the top spot as Georgia’s Will linebacker and should further become one of Georgia’s team leaders. Taylor will hope to see some more playing time this season in a rotational role. Georgia freshman Monty Rice will have a great group to learn under during spring practice. And this doesn’t include the valuable reps Tae Crowder and Jaleel Laguins will receive at inside linebacker.
Mike inside linebacker
Natrez Patrick (Jr.)
Reggie Carter (Sr.)
The skinny: Patrick and Carter, along with Smith, will serve as the top three inside linebackers once again. It’s a veteran unit that can run sideline to sideline and make plays in the open field. They are also interchangeable, meaning the Bulldogs will have flexibility to mix and match pairings. Georgia should be in for a big year with its inside linebacking corps.
Malkom Parrish (Sr.)
J.R. Reed (Jr.)
The skinny: Parrish is yet another veteran returning. While his starting spot would seem solidified, this spring will provide an opportunity to see what Reed can do. Reed, a Texas native, transferred from Tulsa and was forced to sit out the 2016 season. Sophomore Tyrique McGhee should also see some spring snaps at this position too.
Deandre Baker (Jr.)
Mecole Hardman (Soph.)
The skinny: Baker should have his starting job locked up throughout the spring. But the big thing to watch is how Hardman looks at the position. Hardman figures to play the spring at cornerback due to numbers. But when the Bulldogs bring in five freshman cornerbacks in during the summer, things could change depending on how Hardman progressed at the position during the 15 practices.
Deangelo Gibbs (Fr.)
The skinny: Publicly and privately, McGhee has stirred quite the buzz around the Georgia program. Smart has commended McGhee on more than one occasion for his development as a defensive back as well as his special teams skills. McGhee will have a golden opportunity to earn a starting spot with Maurice Smith exhausting his eligibility and Rico McGraw transferring. Gibbs figures to get a look here and at safety during his first spring on campus.
Aaron Davis (Sr.)
Rashad Roundtree (Jr.)
The skinny: Davis adds another veteran presence to this defense after starting at this position in 2016. Roundtree moved back to safety from linebacker during bowl practices and figures to be set in the secondary from now on.
Dominick Sanders (Sr.)
Richard LeCounte (Fr.)
The skinny: LeCounte will have a great mentor to learn from in Sanders, one of Georgia’s best overall players on the roster. LeCounte will certainly see some time during games this season as he’s too talented not to. Being able to learn under the coaching staff and Sanders as an early enrollee should be huge for his development.