ATHENS — Georgia defensive tackle Michael Barnett was pushing hard in drill work Thursday afternoon, clearly wanting to expand his role.
It might just be a matter of the redshirt junior staying healthy.
Barnett, with a defined 6-foot-4, 304-pound frame, has the look of a player who could make an impact.
“Throughout the whole defensive line, we have to remain consistent and know our job and do our jobs well,” Barnett said.
It was a far cry from how nose guard Julian Rochester said the week before that his intent was to be “the biggest beast” on the field.
Rochester, considerably more animated than Barnett, said he planned to “play with aggression and anger.”
It’s possible Barnett just doesn’t talk as big of a game as Rochester.
But it’s also possible Barnett lost confidence after an injury plagued career. Barnett has suffered shoulder and knee injuries.
Barnett has proven he’s a team-first player who’s willing to do whatever he’s asked. Barnett moved from the defensive line to the offensive line in 2016, and back to the defensive line and the 2017.
But Georgia coach Kirby Smart wants him to prove more, and says the Bulldogs need Barnett and other defensive linemen to step up.
“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 following Saturday’s scrimmage. “They got to play more physical, we got to knock people back to be a dominant defensive team.”
Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said much of the same at the start of call camp.
“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.”
Barnett said he understands what Georgia needs to replace with nose guard John Atkins moved on to the NFL.
“He was the workhorse of the defense line, he held everything up and made sure that Roquan [Smith[ and the linebackers did not get touched,” Barnett said, “and we’re just trying to find that consistency.”
Georgia football DL Michael Barnett