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Nakobe Dean is expected to be a big-time player for Georgia this season.

ESPN analyst tabs linebacker Nakobe Dean as one of the conference’s breakout defensive players

Add ESPN analyst Cole Cubelic to the list of people expecting big things from sophomore linebacker Nakobe Dean this year.

Cubelic released his list of five defensive players he expects to become breakout players in the SEC this season. And Dean was on the list, along with Florida linebacker Mohamoud Diabate, Alabama defensive lineman Chrisitan Barmore, LSU linebacker Damone Clark and Auburn defensive back Christian Tutt.

Dean arrived at Georgia as a 5-star member of the Bulldogs 2019 signing class. He impressed early last August, but an ankle injury slowed the start of his freshman season.

But Dean still emerged as a valuable contributor for the Bulldogs, especially on third down. His intelligence and athleticism allowed him to become a versatile piece of the Georgia defense as a freshman. He finished with 25 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss.

Since the Horn Lake, Miss., product arrived on campus, he’s frequently drawn comparisons to former Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith. Part of that is due to Dean’s recruiting background, as he was the No. 2 ranked linebacker prospect in the 2019 recruiting cycle and the No. 19 player overall in the 247Sports Composite rankings.

And while those comparisons to the former Butkus Award winner haven’t exactly been fair, it’s worth pointing out that Dean did have a superior freshman season to that of Smith. The latter had 20 total tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss during the 2015 season.

That next season, Smith earned a starting role and racked up 95 tackles and 5.0 tackles for loss for Georgia in 2016. Dean will likewise have a chance to earn a starting role as a sophomore, as the Bulldogs must replace linebacker Tae Crowder, who the New York Giants selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Dean will also have fellow linebackers like Monty Rice and Quay Walker also returning and pushing for playing time. Those are just some of the talented defenders Georgia brings back for the 2020 season, as the Bulldogs bring back eight of 11 starters from last year’s defense, which had the nation’s top rushing defense and scoring defense.

Dean is also one of the many talented sophomores on the Georgia defense that will be looking to take on an expanded role in the team this year. Kirby Smart is very excited to see how those sophomores, including Dean, develop now that they’ve had a second year in Athens under their belt.

“The biggest leap you make is from year one to year two, and I’m expecting those guys, the Nakobe Deans, the Travon Walkers, the Tyrique Stevensons, Lewis Cines, there’s some talented young freshman on that defense that I think are going to step up and be good players,” Smart told David Pollack and Kevin Neghandi on an ESPN podcast.

Georgia and Dean are still tentatively planning to open the 2020 season on sept. 7 against Virginia. Georgia is set to start practice on Aug. 9.

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