ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said Saturday that while many of the names will change, the standard will not .
“We talk to our guys yesterday about, what’s going to be the identify of this year’s defense,” Tucker said. “Every year there are different challenges.
“We’ve worked really hard to develop all of our guys and get them ready to go, so I’m excited about what we’ll be able to do.”
The Georgia defense, most notably, has to replace five starters in its front seven from a unit that ranked sixth last season in fewest yards and points allowed
“We have to develop more guys that can play winning football for us inside,” Tucker said. “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.”
Tucker says Notre Dame defensive line transfer Jay Hayes has provided a lift, and while he can play noseguard, Georgia has other candidates to play there.
“He’s played a lot of football, he’s a mature guy, he’s a high character guy, a high motor guy, he’s a leader,” Tucker said, asked about Hays. “When you can add a guy like that to your roster, that’s like gold. I think he’s fit in well with our group.
“I’m not sure how much nose he’ll play, but he has the ability to play all those spots up front. He’s a team guy, he’ll do whatever we ask him to do.”
Tucker said it’s a “next man up” and “all hands on deck” mentality.
Tucker went over the candidates who will attempt Atkins’ shoes.
“We have Julian Rochester, we have Tyler Clark that can play there , we have (Daquan) Hawkins-Muckle that can play there, we have Devonte Wyatt,” Tucker said. “We have guys that can play there, most of our guys can play multiple positions, a lot of the techniques carry over.”
The last time Georgia lost this many starters off its defense — between the 2012 and 2013 season — the defense dropped from 18th in the nation in scoring defense to 79th.
The Bulldogs have a great deal more talent now than then, and one could argue a better coordinator with an established professional like Tucker.