Georgia football-Jalen Carter-Jordan Davis
During the Bulldogs’ game against Vanderbilt at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. (Photo by Tony Walsh)
Tony Walsh

What Jalen Carter has to do to become the next Jordan Davis for Georgia football

Jordan Davis was perhaps the most impactful defensive lineman in the country last season. While he didn’t stuff the stat sheet, opposing teams took notice of his impact. Davis clogged up opposing offenses, winning the Bednarik and Outland Trophies and ultimately being taken with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Now Georgia has to replace Davis, along with Devonte Wyatt and Travon Walker, who also went in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. It’s a tall task for Georgia, Kirby Smart and defensive line coach Tray Scott.

Related: Jordan Davis: How the 2022 NFL Draft hopeful who ‘wasn’t supposed to be here’ became a Georgia football icon

It’s a difficult task. But it’s made easier by the fact that Georgia might once again have the most impactful defensive lineman in the country. This time, that honor would belong to one Jalen Cater.

“More than one opposing coach told ESPN last year that the 6-foot-3, 310-pound Carter was the Dawgs’ most disruptive defender on their 2021 national championship team,” ESPN’s Chris Low wrote of Carter. “Carter finished second on the team with 33 quarterback pressures, and his production will only increase in 2022.”

While Carter is a physical specimen in his own right, he is not a carbon copy of Davis. The latter would often set up in the middle of Georgia’s defense, directly over the center. While Carter can do that, he was often more effective when playing in between the guard and tackle.

“Jalen is definitely talented, and you have to push,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “You have to be willing to push yourself and give great effort in practice because that is what set Devonte Wyatt apart. He was not that player when he got here. He was not that talented of a player when he got here. He worked himself and lost weight. He got stronger and quicker. He wasn’t the player in year one or two that he was in year three, four, or five.

“Jalen started off as a very talented player as a freshman and sophomore, but we would like to get more out of him.”

Related: Jalen Carter ready for new Georgia football defensive line challenge: ‘Whatever they need me to do I’ll do it’

For Georgia to get more out of Carter, it will likely lean on him to make more plays and create more havoc. Carter will see more of the field in 2022, as he’s now a veteran and the most talented player in the defensive line room. But he’s not alone. Zion Logue and Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins both emerged this spring, while Warren Brinson and Nazir Stackhouse have also shown promise.

Logue will likely be asked to play a role similar to that of Davis a season ago, freeing up Carter to be a playmaker for the Georgia defense.

Under Smart, Georgia’s linebackers have almost always been the most disruptive players, due in part to his scheme. But Georgia is also essentially starting over at linebacker with Nakobe Dean, Quay Walker and Channing Tindall all off to the NFL as well. There’s promising talent between Jamon Dumas-Johnson, Trezmen Marshall and others, but linebacker doesn’t figure to be the strength that the defensive line does for Georgia in this coming season.

That is why if Carter is going to be this year’s Jordan Davis, it will need to look different. No Georgia defensive lineman has notched more than 6.0 sacks in a season or 9.5 tackles for loss since Smart took over prior to the 2016 season.

Carter is going to need to try and top those numbers in 2022. If he does so, it should be pretty obvious — as was the case with Davis — of Carter’s impact on the 2022 Georgia team and the entire sport of college football.

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