Determining Georgia’s defensive MVP for the 2018 season
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Determining Georgia’s 2018 Defensive MVP
This week, we’re going to use Good Day, UGA to hand out some awards for the 2018 season. Today, we’re going to hand out the team’s defensive MVP, as well as the second and third place finishers for the award.
3rd place: JR Reed, Georgia safety
The Georgia defense surrendered the second fewest number of plays to go for 20-yards or more all season, as opponents had just 30 plays of 20-yards or more. For comparison sake, the Bulldogs had 80 plays of 20-yards or more on the season.
Reed was a big reason why teams weren’t able to hit big plays on the Georgia defense, as the junior safety always seemed to be in the right position. He finished third on the team in tackles with 58. He also finished with 2 interceptions on the season, including one in the SEC championship game against Alabama.
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Should he decide to return for his senior season, Reed could be Georgia’s most talented defender entering the 2019 season, which is really saying something for a defense full of former 5-star prospects. Reed himself was a 3-star prospect out of high school, and arrived at Georgia only after transferring from Tulsa.
2nd place: Deandre Baker, Georgia cornerback
Yes, you read that correctly. The best defensive back in the country isn’t even the most valuable player on his own defense. Baker was phenomenal in his senior season, as he finished with 2 interceptions and constantly locked down the opposing team’s best player. Baker did not surrender a touchdown while in coverage all season.
For his efforts, Baker won the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive back. He is the first defensive back in Georgia’s history to win the award. Baker was so good this season, that teams just stopped throwing at him, and began to frequently target the cornerback on the other side of the formation, whether that be freshman Tyson Campbell or redshirt freshman Eric Stokes.
Related: Deandre Baker wins Jim Thorpe award
It’s hard for a cornerback to have a better season than Baker had this year. If the award were for Georgia’s best defender, he would’ve won it. However, there was one defender who in our eyes who was more valuable to the Georgia defense in 2018.
Winner: D’Andre Walker, Georgia outside linebacker
Walker doesn’t get the recognition that Baker does. The senior cornerback made both the media and coaches All-SEC First Team, Walker didn’t even make the coaches’ All-SEC team and was voted Second Team All-SEC by the media.
Walker was far and away the team’s best pass rusher, as he led the team with 7.5 sacks. Freshman Channing Tindall had the second highest number of sacks for Georgia and he finished with 2.0. Georgia didn’t create a lot of negative plays in 2018 — its 58 tackles for loss were the second fewest in the SEC — but when it did, Walker was usually a reason why.
The gap between Walker and Georgia’s next best edge rusher was greater than the difference between any Georgia starter and their backup. This was demonstrated in the SEC championship game when Walker had to leave the game for injury at the beginning of the fourth quarter. With Walker out of the game, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts was able to buy time and make plays down field, which was the difference in the game. A great pass rusher is more important than a great corner, and for that reason we’re naming Walker Georgia’s Most Valuable Defensive Player for the 2018 season.
Clay Webb to decide on Monday
On Monday, 5-star center Clay Webb is set to announce his decision at 11 A.M. ET. Webb is the top-rated center prospect for the 2019 cycle and the No. 22 overall player. He is also the top rated player in the state of Alabama, as he hails from Oxford, Ala.
Georgia is still in a very good position to land Webb, as many believe it is between the Bulldogs and the home-state Crimson Tide for his services. Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman has proven that he’s one of the best recruiter and developers of offensive linemen in the country, and that has to be appealing to Webb. He’s also shown that freshman can play early, as Cade Mays and Trey Hill both saw significant time this year.
If history is to tell us anything, this would be a significant win for Kirby Smart and Georgia. Since Saban’s first full recruiting cycle in 2008, the state of Alabama has produced 20 5-star prospects, using the 247Sports Composite rankings. Two prospects picked Auburn and two went to Florida State. The other 16 prospects signed with Alabama.
Only twice in that same time span has the state’s top player not gone to Alabama — Justyn Ross went to Clemson in 2018 and Jameis Winston picked Florida State in 2012. That is the kind of history Georgia would be overcoming were it to land Webb on Monday. DawgNation will have full coverage of Webb’s announcement, starting at 11 A.M. ET on its Facebook, Youtube and Twitter channels.
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