Kirby Smart has a formula for success and, as expected, it starts in the trenches–on both sides of the ball.
The off-season conditioning program called for some of Georgia’s defensive linemen to get bigger, Davin Bellamy (LB), Lorenzo Carter (LB) were asked to gain weight, while Julian Rochester (DL), as well as a few others were asked to drop weight.
If you’re trying to get faster, build conditioning, and (perhaps) keep the injuries at bay, it doesn’t hurt to increase the overall fitness and flexibility of the guys tasked with playing in your front seven.
For example, Rochester plays as a 3 technique, His job is to control one gap, versus the run, and attempt to get to the passer. He’ll be better able to do that–via shooting the gap and getting beyond the guard or tackle–if he gets a bit smaller and picks up a step in the process.
Rochester played at 315+ last season. He’ll need to stay closer to 300 if he hopes to be more effective this season.
Georgia will definitely be without Trenton Thompson this spring, but the defensive line is deep and talented. Hopefully the competition proves to be fortuitous in finding a solid player to fill-in for Thompson until his return–assuming he does so.
The injury to Roquan Smith means we’ll hear more about Tae Crowder or Monty Rice as well. I’ll admit I’m intrigued by Crowder, since he signed as a running back, but I’m also excited about Rice.
Then there was this tidbit about Mecole Hardman.
Mecole Hardman will “absolutely” be a candidate to return kickoffs, Smart said, also indicating that punt returns aren’t as likely for Hardman. He didn’t mention Hardman moving to offense, but some kind of role has apparently been discussed: “It’s been a big offseason project to figure out ways to get him the ball,” Smart said of Hardman. “The easiest way is the kickoff return.” (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
I interpreted that as the following: Smart isn’t ready to say Hardman is going to take on a more significant role on the defense, but he knows he can only keep a potential playmaker off the field for so long.
Here’s the thing, Smart already made it clear Hardman’s greatest value–both on this level and the next–is at corner. Hardman feels that way too.
However, with Isaiah McKenzie gone, it will take multiple players to fill his shoes, and Hardman offers a viable option to return kickoffs.
I still contend Hardman does not need to be moved back and forth, so I don’t expect to see him take many (if any) offensive snaps. If anything, I hope to see him making progress at his chosen position–cornerback.
In his few appearances last year, it was clear he still had work to do–naturally as a true freshman, he should have–but this spring will tell us a lot about how much he has left.