ATHENS — Georgia players make it clear they aren’t overly concerned about stats. When Mykel Williams was asked if his goal was to register a sack a game, he chuckled at the question.
“I have high expectations for myself — like, way higher than any of those. It’s really for me,” Williams said. “I do this for me.”
Williams had Georgia’s lone sack on Saturday in the team’s win over UT-Martin. He was the team’s leading pass rusher last season, finishing with only 4.5 sacks.
The defensive line isn’t the only position that forgoes statistical glory. Georgia has never had a 1,000-yard receiver under Smart. D’Andre Swift was Georgia’s last 1,000-yard rusher, back in 2019.
But Kirby Smart rests easy when it comes to assuaging any concerns from potential recruits about the ability to put up big numbers.
“Well, we usually fix that when we show them how many have been drafted. Then it’s silenced,” Smart said. “We put Travon (Walker)’s sacks up there and say he went 1-1 overall. We put Devonte’s up there and say he went first round. We put Quay’s up there, we put Nolan’s up there, we put Jordan Davis’ up there and then they don’t say anything.”
To Smart’s point, Georgia has had 34 players taken in the last three NFL draft cycles, the most in the country. A record 15 players went in the 2022 NFL Draft and Georgia put forth another 10 in 2023. Three of them went in the first round of last year’s draft.
That constant draft exodus allows players to see the field early. Williams drew comparisons to Walker from the moment he stepped on campus. In part because he was replacing the star defensive end, who is now entering his second season with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“it feels great with how he went and how he projected and how’s doing in the NFL,” Williams said on that comparison. “That’s a great comparison, but, you know, I’m me and he’s him. We’re two different players and we’re going down two different paths.”
This time around on the defensive line, it’s freshman Jordan Hall. He’s quickly carved out a role for himself as a part of Georgia’s pass-rushing package. He’s a different player than Jalen Carter, but with Carter now a member of the Eagles, Hall is going to partially be tasked with replacing Carter.
“His work ethic. He comes in each day to learn more and more that he can,” senior defensive lineman Tramel Walthour said. “He’s going to go out on the field and give it everything he can. You can just put him out there and he’ll give you 100 percent effort every play.”
Smart’s recruiting style and methods certainly seem to work. Georgia currently has the No. 1 ranked recruiting class in the 2024 recruiting cycle. Georgia has signed a top 4 recruiting class in each of the last seven recruiting cycles under Smart, including the No. 2 overall class last cycle.
Williams was Georgia’s highest-rated signee in the 2022 recruiting cycle. Hall was a 5-star prospect in Georgia’s most recent cycle.
Georgia is once again expected to send a strong number of prospects into the NFL. Tight end Brock Bowers, offensive tackle Amarius Mims and defensive back Javon Bullard have all been tabbed as players who are likely to be high draft picks come the 2024 NFL Draft.
For now, the Bulldogs are focused on winning another national championship. Georgia has won back-to-back titles and knows the road ahead for a thrid-straight one will be difficult. Even if it is made easier by having talents like Williams and Hall who are able to play early.