David Marshall (51) returns along the defensive line, along with Jonathan Ledbetter (13).

What are concerns about Georgia defensive line depth?

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Matthew McKinney, who resides in Brisbane, Australia, checks in with two queries related to the defensive line:
  1. Back around the February signing day, I remember reading about how there should be no rush to get Tramel Walthour and Jordan Davis on the field, and that was because of depth on the D-line. What’s changed so that now Georgia has no depth at D-line?
  2. I know recruiting isn’t your beat, so I apologize, but what are the chances Walthour and Davis contribute heavily this season?

There’s a difference between depth problems in the spring — when you don’t have your complete team and you don’t have a real game to prepare for — and depth problems during the season. So when Kirby Smart expressed concern about the defensive line last week, my inclination was to attribute it to the more immediate, less concerning issue. Georgia had only seven healthy scholarship defensive linemen at practice Thursday, but that number will increase by August.

But then I had someone else who watches the program closely (not a media member) tell me that, essentially, no really, the D-line has emerged as a point of concern. This person went as far as to say it was the “biggest question mark of the program” right now.

That is a good statement on where Georgia is right now, as Georgia is set to have 11 scholarship defensive linemen this season, a few of them All-SEC candidates.

But Georgia, like many teams, likes to rotate six or seven good defensive linemen per game. They could do that last season. But with John Atkins and Trenton Thompson having moved on, the question is whether they have the amount of guys they want.

Tyler Clark and Jonathan Ledbetter are very good. David Marshall and Julian Rochester are good. From there you have largely unproven commodities: DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle, once a starter, has looked better this spring. Malik Herring and Michail Carter flashed some last season. Devonte Wyatt just enrolled after a year at junior college. Michael Barnett and Justin Young were out injured this week. Davis and Walthour arrive this summer.

The recruiting on the defensive line hasn’t been as elite as at other positions. It’s one of the reasons, if not the main reason, Tracy Rocker was let go after Signing Day in February 2017. Georgia would really like to have Aubrey Solomon as a sophomore this season, for instance.

That doesn’t mean the unit it does have will struggle. That top group — led by Clark, Ledbetter and Rochester — can be elite. The question is how much they’ll have to play, or if enough other guys emerge to allow Georgia to sub as often as it did last season, allowing everyone to be as fresh as possible. It’s a situation worth watching.

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