Georgia depth chart analysis: Outside linebackers

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Lorenzo Carter only had five sacks in 2016, but was close to the quarterback a lot more.

ATHENS – It was a celebratory moment when Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy announced they’d each be back for their senior years. Two veteran pass-rushers, bolstering a defense with their talent and experience. A great thing for the defense, yes.

But there was something else that figured into it. Carter and Bellamy are coming back because, in part, they still a lot to prove.

That may sound a bit harsh, but statistically Carter and Bellamy have had underwhelming junior seasons. They each had five sacks, tying with defensive lineman Trent Thompson for the team lead. Stats don’t tell the full story, and Carter and Bellamy did “affect the quarterback” a bunch, as coaches like to say. But this wasn’t like Leonard Floyd unexpectedly passing on the draft two years ago. Carter and Bellamy clearly have more to show the scouts.

Both players, to their credit, acknowledged this. So it’s only fair to point out that Georgia’s defense was altogether pretty good last year – 16tth nationally in least yards allowed, fourth in the SEC – and Carter and Bellamy were a big part of that. The defense did have some shortcomings, particularly in the red zone, and that falls mainly on the front seven, of which obviously the outside linebackers are a part. But if Carter and Bellamy can “affect the quarterback” even more in 2017, and add significantly to that sack total, then other teams won’t reach the red zone as much.

This depth chart series began this week with the safeties.

Then we broke down the cornerbacks.

Now, as you can guess by the headline, the picture and first five paragraphs, we come to ….

SAM LINEBACKER

  • Returning starter: Lorenzo Carter, Sr.
  • Others returning: D’Andre Walker, Jr.; Chauncey Manac, R-Fr.; Keyon Brown, Jr.
  • Early enrollees: None.
  • On the way: Jaden Hunter, Fr.; Robert Beal, Fr.; Walter Grant, Fr.
  • Analysis: It’s when you look at the rest of those here that you realize how lucky Georgia is that Carter and Bellamy are coming back. That sounds harsh, but that’s in terms of playing experience. Walker has a bit, but otherwise the Bulldogs would be throwing guys that are basically rookies in there to play significant time. Don’t forget, Chuks Amaechi, who got a lot of playing time on the edge last year, was a senior. So that leaves Walker, who is long and athletic, a la Floyd, and could see more time this year. Manac, who’s more comparable to Jordan Jenkins, only redshirted last year because of the depth chart. He’s got the attributes to help this year. The incoming freshmen will get another long look this spring, with Hunter a possibility to get reps at inside linebacker, and Nate McBride (listed at ILB) having the skills to play outside.
  • Bottom line: Carter is the starter, and a good bet to increase his sack total from last year. The question is by how much.

JACK LINEBACKER

  • Returning starter: Davin Bellamy, Sr.
  • Others returning: Walker, Manac, Brown.
  • Early enrollees: None.
  • On the way: Hunter, Grant.
  • Analysis: There’s a chance that someone joins the outside linebacker group, especially in the spring to help with numbers. Amaechi is gone and Shaun McGee transferred. Maybe Jaleel Laguins, who came in as an inside linebacker, gets a look as a possible edge rusher, with his long and lean body. In the long run, however, what Georgia coaches will be most curious about this spring is the guys behind their starters. Are Walker and Manac ready for bigger roles? Could Brown surprise? They need to be ready in case of injury.
  • Bottom line: Bellamy is the starter, so again the most intrigue is how the second and third teams shake out. Walker and Manac are the best bets, but a freshman or two could also emerge in the preseason.

Next: Inside linebackers.

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