ATHENS — Georgia football has plenty of reloading to do on defense with as many as eight players off last season’s defense on the verge of being selected in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The reload begins with five defensive backs moving on from the secondary, but it also includes one of the most pivotal chess pieces on the football field, with three-year starter Monty Rice vacating the middle linebacker position.
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Georgia has recruited as well on defense as one might assume it would with a defensive-oriented head football coach.
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Here are the five most intriguing players on defense this spring:
1.Cornerback Kelee Ringo
It’s hard to know how close to 100 percent Ringo is, but Smart said he has been working diligently dating back to last season when he was sidelined by a torn labrum. Ringo’s recruiting rank as the No. 1 cornerback in the country and No. 4 player in the 2020 class overall, makes him an irresistible storyline. At 6-foot-2 and 205 pounds, Ringo ranks among the fastest players on the UGA team, too.
2. Outside linebacker Nolan Smith ll
Another 5-star, and in Smith’s case the No. 1 overall prospect in the country in the 2019 Class. Georgia’s depth at outside linebacker, and the talents of pending first-round NFL Draft pick Azeez Ojulari and Florida State transfer Jermaine Johnson, have limited Smith’s opportunities. Now, it appears, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Smith will get his shot to show what all the hype was (is?) all about.
3. STAR Adam Anderson
That’s right, Smart says the 6-5, 230-pound Anderson is being used at the STAR position, which was played by Mark Webb and Tyrique Stevenson last season. If you think he’s a little bit for the hybrid linebacker position, you wouldn’t be alone. Smart, however, has challenged the wonderfully athletic Anderson to show he can play in pass coverage. Anderson has already proven one of the most elite pass rushers in the league.
4. Middle linebacker Channing Tindall
Ok, so Tindall was “only” a 4-star prospect that ranked 103rd in the 2018 signing class. But that means he has had three years of experience and should be more than ready to take over for Rice at the middle linebacker position. Quay Walker seemed to get the majority of reps last season, but Smart sent Tindall out to talk to the media recently, so could that mean something? Intriguing, no doubt.
5. Defensive lineman Jalen Carter
Back on the former 5-star bandwagon here, but how can we not be intrigued by a 6-3, 301-pound defensive lineman who can also line up at fullback to block or catch touchdown passes? Carter is an athlete and a future high NFL draft pick provided he stays on his current path. Players typically make a big jump between their first and second year, and that should be particularly true for those going through their first spring. It won’t be hard to keep an eye on Carter — he’ll continue to jump out at you — but when and where? Carter is capable of playing all of the positions on the defensive front.