ATHENS — The middle of the Georgia football defense needs to get better up front, according to Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart.
Smart, while praising the progress of projected starting nose guard Julian Rochester, also said the players on the interior defensive line need to improve.
“For us to be a great defense, the likes of Julian, Tyler Clark, DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle and Michael Barnett, they have to play better,” Smart said. “They got to play more physical, we got to knock people back to be a dominant defensive team.”
Smart’s comments came after Saturday’s 150-play scrimmage at Sanford Stadium.
The coach of the No 4-ranked Georgia football program declared the scrimmage a tie, but the team’s official Twitter account released a video showing Elijah Holyfield running up the gut on the first-team defense.
The Bulldogs are having to replace John Atkins, a 6-foot-4, 322-pound departed senior who Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker indicated was very underrated.
A week ago, Tucker called attention to the Georgia interior defensive line in much the same fashion as the head coach.
“We have to develop more guys that can play winning football for us inside,” Tucker said in the coordinators’ Aug. 4 press conference. “John Atkins was a heckuva player, maybe somewhat unsung. He did a lot for us, he was an anchor. The standard has been set inside.”
Rochester has said he is setting his goals high, and he plans to play with more “aggression and anger” this season.
Smart said Saturday he has seen the improvement in Rochester, but there’s more work to do.
“Julian was dependable last year, I’m looking for him to be a difference maker,” Smart said. “ I’m looking for him to be a force to be reckoned with.”
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