Georgia’s inside linebacker room is brimming with talent. So much so, that the Bulldogs were able to pace one inside linebacker on each Preseason All-SEC Team.

Jamon Dumas-Johnson made it on the first team. Smael Mondon took a spot on the second team and Jalon Walker, who likely won’t start for Georgia this season, ended up on the third team.

Dumas-Johnson and Mondon are both returning starters. So on one hand you could understand if they relaxed or were complacent coming of strong 2022 seasons.

But Georgia coach Kirby Smart was having none of it. He called out his two leaders at the position this spring.

The duo seems to have gotten the message.

“They responded to the criticism and to me calling them in,” Smart said of Dumas-Johnson and Mondon. “They both answered the bell a little bit. I think they were maybe cruising. I don’t know. It certainly looked that way when you looked at their spring practice the previous year and the spring practice last year and we do the same practice format and there’s three practices to look at, and it doesn’t look the same.

“They saw it, and there’s no greater evidence than what you see with your eyes. They responded to it.”

Mondon and Dumas-Johnson finished first and second in tackles for Georgia last season and both enter their junior seasons with a chance to prove they’re NFL-caliber linebackers.

From Roquan Smith to Monty Rice to Nakobe Dean and so many others, if you’re able to start at Georgia at inside linebacker, odds are you’ll find yourself hearing your name called on draft day. Mondon and Dumas-Johnson know this, making this upcoming season so pivotal for both.

Though it must be pointed out that neither has had an ideal offseason. Dumas-Johnson was arrested in February following a reckless driving incident that took place in January. Mondon meanwhile is dealing with a left foot/ankle injury that will limit him to start fall camp and possibly even the season.

Both will have to be in top form not just during fall camp but during the season as well. While they’re both prominent voices on the Georgia defense, Smart is well aware of the talent Georgia has at inside linebacker behind Dumas-Johnson and Mondon.

“They’ve both been great leaders, and I think they acknowledge also that there’s good players behind them,” Smart said. “Xavian Sorey has come along. Had a really good camp. Excited about him. Jalon Walker, EJ Lightsey, the two young kids [Raylen Wilson and CJ Allen] had good spring games.

“If you sit around at linebacker, you’ll be sitting down somewhere if you don’t perform.”

Such is life at Georgia, often referred to as ‘LBU’ because of how many Georgia linebackers have played at the next level. In the event that Mondon isn’t fully ready or Dumas-Johnson is possibly suspended, Georgia has options behind. While they’re unproven, with a little bit of seasoning Georgia will have capable options at the position.

Georgia’s best shot at winning another championship comes with Dumas-Johnson and Mondon being the best versions of themselves. Smart and inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann are going to make sure those two do everything properly to ensure not just their own individual success, but the success of the entire Georgia football team.

Kirby Smart speaks at SEC Media Days