ATHENS —Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, Jalen Carter …. Next?
Kirby Smart indicated Saturday the Bulldogs might not have another superstar to fall into line with previous defensive tackle dominators this season.
“Do we have Havoc Makers and Train Wreckers?” Smart said, referring to interior defensive linemen who can disrupt the passer as well as play lockdown run support. “I don’t know that we’ve got that. We have to try to manufacture that.”
Georgia’s defensive game plan won’t change under Smart, as stopping the run will remain the No. 1 priority.
The Bulldogs led the nation in run defense last season, allowing just 77.1 yards per game on the ground and 7 rushing touchdowns.
For perspective, Tennessee was second in the SEC in run defense allowing 115.8 yards per game and more than twice as many rushing touchdowns (15).
Georgia was only seventh in the SEC with 2.33 sacks per game, however, and the Bulldogs might not have as much bite in that department in 2023.
Smart noted on Saturday the Bulldogs might need to get creative to create sacks with projected first-round NFL Draft picks Nolan Smith and Carter moving on.
The lack of experience at Smith’s edge/outside linebacker position has been well-documented.
But the lack of a dominating defensive tackle has not been talked about so much, though Smart does see a positive at the position.
“I think we’ve lost a really good player at that position, but we gained depth because of the players that were twos and threes last year are more ready to play,” Smart said.
Several players have made progress, Smart said, but he also indicated there is some concern with returning veterans Nazir Stackhouse and Zion Logue perhaps growing complacent.
“Christian Miller has come along, Tyrone Dawkins has come along and is playing well, not really interior, but … Bear (Alexander) is playing better,” Smart said.
“Naz (Stackhouse) and Z-Lo (Logue) have to be careful not to be punching the clock, so we challenge them each day,” he said. “Warren Brinson has done a good job and then the young freshmen are going to be good players, (but) they’re not where they need to be right now.
“Jonathan Jefferson is a kid that given us depth and is playing well inside. I feel good about the depth.”
Stackhouse said earlier this spring he thinks the D-Line is heading in a good direction.
“It is an eye-opener for us guys who aren’t used to the pass rush,” Stackhouse said. “Some of us guys are one-dimensional, so Tray Scott is working hard to help us work both ways, stopping the run and pass rushing, affecting the QB, just being destructive on the field.
“It’s more of a challenge than it is hard for us, because we’ve all been waiting for this opportunity .... maximizing our value to transition from run stoppers to being a pass rushers and helping the team out in that category.”