There will be plenty of new faces on Georgia’s defense next season—many of whom will be of the true freshman variety—and, quite naturally, the question being asked is can the defense continue to be a dominant force in the SEC? Bruce Feldman of CBS Sports offered his take during a ‘mailbag’ Q&A session:
From @bc_585: Will Georgia’s defense grow up fast enough to make them a legit national title contender next year?
I’m skeptical they can do all that in 2013. The Dawgs just lost too many talented, experienced players off last year’s D. At the combine, I asked outgoing UGA D-lineman Abry Jones which players he expected to step up and become the defense’s leaders next fall. He mentioned DB Damian Swann and DE Garrison Smith as guys ready to do that.
The other big key is the continued development of DE Jordan Jenkins, the 6-3, 260-pounder coming off a strong freshman debut. He can be a difference maker. Jones talked about how coachable Jenkins is and thinks he’s headed for stardom. If the Dawgs are going to push past the rest of the SEC East and Bama and Texas A&M, Jenkins will need to play like an All-American and open things up for other young defenders.
While I do feel the defense will struggle—particularly at the safety positions where both Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams are now gone—I am intrigued by the level of talent in this year’s recruiting class.
I want to see what Tray Matthews and Shaq Fluker can do; I’m interested in how quickly Shaq Wiggins, Kennar Johnson, and Brendan Langley catch on and contribute; I want to see if John Atkins, Chris Mayes or Jonathan Taylor can successfully step into the roles left vacant by Kwame Geathers and John Jenkins. Each one of these guys has the potential to start in the future, but how ready will they be come summer? They certainly have the physical skills, but can they make that mental jump from high school or JUCO to SEC-level competition?
Georgia has the talent in place to see positive gains early and—on the plus side—every last one of these kids is hungry, ready to play, and want to get on the field early in order to establish themselves as a part of this defense. The opportunity will certainly be there, but we’ll have to wait and what happens as spring and summer practices take hold and position battles begin.