On National Signing Day, Georgia only added two defensive linemen to its roster.
Then again, the defensive line is one of the position groups set to rely on a lot of returning players. Nine defensive linemen saw playing time last season, with only one being a junior in John Atkins. With mostly freshmen and sophomores contributing up front, it gave Georgia head coach Kirby Smart the flexibility to focus on other positions in recruiting.
“Would I like to have had more? Yes. Was I pleased with what we had last year? Yes. But ultimately there’s a limit for what you can have,” Smart said. “There’s a target area for what you can have at each position. We’re kind of on our target area in that position.”
Georgia's lone two signees on the defensive line are Malik Herring (Mary Persons) and Devonte Wyatt (Towers). Smart said the goal was to recruit faster and more athletic defensive linemen, which he thinks Herring and Wyatt can be at the collegiate level.
But how much playing time either of them will see remains to be seen. Georgia will have arguably the best returning defensive lineman in the SEC in Trenton Thompson. Atkins, Julian Rochester, DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, David Marshall and Jonathan Ledbetter all saw major minutes in the rotation, with Tyler Clark and Michail Carter logging their fair share of snaps too. Justin Young was also a rotational player who saw some snaps.
The depth will certainly be bolstered with Herring and Wyatt's additions.
“We’ve got a really good rotation on the d-line,” defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said on Georgia's signing day webcast. “We have a lot of young guys who played. We played a lot of freshmen. We got a really good rotation. We’re stout inside. We have massive, massive bodies inside. And we have speed on the edge. I don’t have any worries about our defensive line.”
This group will undergo at least one transition, however, as Georgia replaced former defensive line coach Tracy Rocker with Tray Scott. Scott spent only 39 days at Mississippi, which followed two seasons at North Carolina, before taking the Georgia job.
Since Georgia only signed two players up front, Smart noted there is a need for the returning defensive linemen to get even bigger this offseason. Dating back to when Smart took the Georgia head coaching job, he mentioned the need for the Bulldogs to add size on both lines of scrimmage.
“We hope some guys we signed last year can grow into those guys, some of the smaller guys,” Smart said. “Some of the guys in this class might end up growing into that. I don’t ever think you can sign enough defensive linemen.”