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Tony Walsh/UGAAA
Dan Lanning is Georgia's defensive coordinator.

What we’ve learned about UGA’s defensive players in preseason camp

Georgia had the No. 1 scoring and rushing defense in the country in 2019. And the Bulldogs bring back a number of contributors from that unit, with some looking to take big leaps this year.

But the defense is also aware that it still has a lot to accomplish this year.

“The 2020 defense hasn’t done anything, we haven’t even stepped on the field yet in pads,” Georgia linebacker Nakobe Dean said earlier in August. “That’s all we need to say: We haven’t done anything on the field.”

While much of the attention this fall has been on the Georgia offense, there have been some tips and tidbits we’ve learned about Georgia’s defense this season and what they’re looking to do.

Below we’ve compiled everything that coaches and players have said this preseason about some of the defensive players and what their plans are for the 2020 season.

Related: What we’ve learned about UGA’s offensive players in preseason camp

Defensive back Richard LeCounte: “Yeah obviously Richard’s a player that plays with instincts. That shows up in what he’s learned over the years, to play with those same instincts within the framework of our defense and our system. I think every single one of our players still need to be coached. But Richard’s production, a lot of it comes from those instincts. And he’s done a good job of honing that in to fit within the system where he’s able to make plays and every play he’s supposed to make. And that’s what we’ve really focused on with him. He’s done a good job with that.” — defensive coordinator Dan Lanning on LeCounte

“The minicamp was definitely very helpful. A lot of the young guys who were coming in they were able to get a jump start on a lot. Learning the defense, being able to get hands-on coaching and also able to get a lot of coaching from the older players; me, [Eric] Stokes, Tyson Campbell. A lot of the defensive backs came in not really knowing too much about the defense, and during that minicamp, coaches were able to dumb it down a little bit, slow it down —  let guys know that they have time to learn the defense and time for them to adjust also.” — LeCounte on how the offseason practices benefited the defensive backs

“I didn’t think my time here was done and my mission wasn’t completed so I came back to be able to lead the team and go for a National Championship.” — LeCounte on why he came back to Georgia for his senior season.

I think in the past you had a guy like J.R. Reed that Richard very comfortable in the back end with J.R. Now you look to the right and the left and J.R. is not out there. Richard’s really embraced the opportunity to learn more, communicate more, be more vocal on the defense and that’s certainly what we’re looking for from him this year.” — Lanning on LeCounte’s growth.

“Richard’s been here for three years. He’s been a beast. He’s just taking that role and doing what he’s supposed to do. — Azeez Ojulari on LeCounte taking on a bigger leadership role.

“Having a guy like that is great. Somebody that knows the defense and can teach everybody on the back end definitely (helps). It’s just great for our leadership and other things like that. I feel like I got to pick up my leadership also, so he helps me.” — Nakobe Dean on how LeCounte’s leadership has helped him.

Defensive back Kelee Ringo:  “He had an old injury from high school that we were trying to see if he could go with. The injury did not occur here, but he’s had a shoulder repair, and he is going to be out for a while.” — Smart on Ringo’s status for this season.

Related: Kelee Ringo injury another setback for talented Georgia football freshman class

Defensive back DJ Daniel: “He has missed some time due to an ankle injury. He is almost back, but this small summer access window we have had where we were able to have a little more time than we normally do — he was not able to do much during that time. So, I would not say he is behind, because he is a kid who played a lot of snaps last year, but he will be back with us kind of full time starting tomorrow.” — Smart on Daniel’s status at the start of fall camp.

Defensive back Eric Stokes: “There’s a lot of confidence and we’re trying to be the best that we can be. We’re going to compete everyday, because we are a deep unit. I know that any of us could go and start any game and be the superstar. So we’re all out here competing trying to be the best that we can be.”

When I first got here it was Dom [Dominick Sanders], A.D. [Aaron Davis] and Malkom [Parrish] just by learning their routines. Even when my sophomore year came, I’m still learning from J.R. [Reed], even from Bake [DeAndre Baker]. I’m just learning different techniques, how they help and to be a pro, so just watching them has been the most help I’ve ever had here.”

Defensive back Lewis Cine“Ultimately one of our goals on defense is to play the game as many times as we can before you actually play a game. Whether that be a walkthrough rep, a practice rep, whatever it is. I think Lewis did a phenomenal job of taking all those reps leading into last year and then, when he hit the field, he was ready for his opportunity and did a great job with it. You can’t put a value on the game reps because that’s completely different but Lewis is a guy who comes up and studies. He does extra and I think that’s paid off for him in creating opportunities moving forward.” — Lanning on the growth of Cine.

Defensive back Jalen Kimber: “Jalen’s done a really good job from an agility standpoint. He’s still got to build some bulk, get in the weight room and work hard. But he is conscientious, he really pays attention to detail. He’s on that list of guys of player improvement.  He did something wrong early in camp, we identified it, coach Warren worked on it in drills and the next day he makes a phenomenal play executing the play in a proper technique. So I’m excited to see what he does moving forward.” — Lanning on how Kimber has looked so far.

Outside linebacker Mekhail Sherman“MJ’s a tremendous person. He’s got a great mindset. He’s hungry. Comes from a really good family, works really, really hard, and is conscientious. So all those things, ultimately and he’s got strength, power, and agility that we think can be a real asset for him moving forward. So excited about his development and to see what he can do.” — Lanning on what Sherman brings to the team.

“He’s a really good player and goes hard every day. Sometimes you have to kind of tell MJ to slow down during the walkthrough, but he goes harder. I kind of like his interviews in high school. He seemed like a really genuine kid, really straight-up kid. That’s one guy I really look forward to seeing compete at that level. I like him as a person, and I like her personality.” — Jamaree Salyer on what Sherman brings to the team.

“MJ is strong, fast, he can do everything you want him to do. He’s just coming in with his head down, doing his part and working hard.” — Azeez Ojulari on his impressions of Sherman.

Related: MJ Sherman’s intensity fuels excitement over his future with Georgia football

Inside linebacker Nakobe Dean: “I for sure feel comfortable— you’ve got to be comfortable. If you’re not and can’t be, [the coaches] will find someone who can. You have to be comfortable in telling everybody what to do. You’ve got to be able to be there vocally on defense.” — Dean on taking on a bigger role at inside linebacker.

“It feels great. I’m definitely way further ahead. After going through last season, getting a whole year behind me, I think I have really learned the playbook and everything like that. It’s a great feeling.” — Dean on not having to overcome an injury.

Defensive lineman Jordan Davis “I have really high expectations for Jordan. Jordan’s worked really hard. Tray Scott does a phenomenal job, (he) and coach Williams, do a great job with his development. But Jordan, I think, is really hungry. There’s just not a lot of people born in this world that look like Jordan Davis, right? So when you look like that there’s an expectation. I expect him to really achieve at the highest level this year, have a phenomenal season, and really help our team and our defense.” — Lanning on his expectations for Davis.

Related: With greater expectations, Dan Lanning say Jordan Davis can ‘achieve at the highest level’

Defensive lineman Jalen Carter: “Jalen Carter has plenty to learn but he’s very strong. He’s an explosive athlete. We definitely think he can make an impact for us and it’s good to see his technique get better day in and day out. He definitely makes the guys across the ball better.” — Lanning on what Carter has brought to the team so far.

Defensive lineman Warren Brinson: “The biggest thing I was looking for early in Warren was effort. He has done a really good job. The other day we were able to point out in practice him finishing twice. The ball is thrown down the field and he’s hauling butt from the line of scrimmage to finish and get in position to make a play on the wide receiver down the field. Now his technique still has some cleaning up to do. We’d love to see him strike with those hands and continue to develop from a target standpoint, but he is working hard to do that.” — Lanning on what Brinson has brought to the team so far.

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