Bulldogs Beat

Leonard Floyd’s versatility gives Georgia’s defense options

ATHENS -- There aren’t many teams across the country that have the luxury of possessing three high-end pass-rushers at the outside linebacker position.

Georgia is fortunate to be one of those programs. Senior Jordan Jenkins -- 70 tackles and five sacks -- is the leader of the group and sophomore Lorenzo Carter -- 41 tackles and 4½ sacks -- emerged as a playmaker as the 2014 season progressed.

Leonard Floyd, however, could be the player with perhaps the most potential on this defense based on his versatility. Floyd likely will be slated to start at one of the outside linebacker spots, although Georgia head coach Mark Richt noted Floyd is listed at both outside and inside linebacker positions on the depth chart. Therefore, it won’t be a surprise to see Floyd line up with Jenkins and Carter at the same time.

“You see him in two spots on the depth chart for a reason,” Richt said. “He’s very versatile. He can play inside; he can play outside. He’s played in the nickel, out in space some before. A guy that can run like that, got the length he has, the physical nature of play in the box, there just aren’t many guys like that.”

Moving Floyd in various positions could prove beneficial considering the Bulldogs lost inside linebackers Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson to graduation. Juniors Reggie Carter and Tim Kimbrough are expected to start inside, although Floyd could wind up at either the Mike or Will spots depending on the package.

Given how talented Floyd, Jenkins and Carter are at rushing the passer -- 15½ sacks combined -- Richt and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt will do what they can to maximize the output of all three outside linebackers.

“The sky’s the limit for us if we commit to what we’re doing and not be hesitant as we have been at certain times when we may have gotten pressure or a sack,” Jenkins said. “If we actually spend extra time during camp working on getting rid of that hesitation and getting that straight line to the quarterback, I feel we can do great things. We just have to buy in and work on our craft outside of regular practice.”

Floyd totaled 55 tackles and a team-high six sacks in 2014 and has put his NFL potential on display. If the former Dodge County standout is asked to play multiple positions, he’ll have a chance to further boost his draft stock. A junior, Floyd could have the opportunity to turn pro with a solid season, considering the potential he has as a pass-rusher at the next level.

“I don’t know what (NFL teams) will see in him,” Richt said. “It will be interesting to see what they think. I don’t know team by team. If you had a tremendous need for an edge guy, you might say, ‘I’d like to have that guy.’ If you have a need inside, you might say, ‘I’d like to have that guy.’ Just because he’s a tremendous football player.”

With it being Pruitt’s second year on staff, and with the players having a better understanding of the system, the Bulldogs probably can afford to experiment with personnel groupings. By having three pass-rushing outside linebackers worthy of starting in Floyd, Jenkins and Carter, Georgia will work on getting all involved as opposed to leaving one on the sideline.

“I just think it’s going to be more of a matter getting the right guys in the right places in relation to who we’re playing, what style of offense we will have, what’s their deal,” Richt said. “Who will benefit the most with where we put him? A lot of it will have to do with who we’re playing, what scheme it is and where can he help us the most.”