Georgia football outside linebackers must turn potential into production for 2023 season

Georgia football-outside linebackers-2023 season
Georgia's linebacker Marvin Jones Jr. (7) runs a drill during their practice session ahead of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl against Ohio State at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin /

The one position on Georgia’s defense where it suffered significant losses comes at the outside linebacker position. Yes, Jalen Carter, Chris Smith and Kelee Ringo are all off to the NFL, but Georgia is well positioned to absorb those departures given what we know about Georgia’s defensive line and secondary.

The outside linebacker position however is a much greater unknown. Even with Chaz Chambliss getting a bunch of snaps after Nolan Smith’s season-ending injury, the departures of Smith and Beal leave Chidera Uzo-Diribe with a lot of work to do entering this second season.

Madden was with the team last spring but he himself was recovering from shoulder surgery. He’ll have a leg up on the three newcomers at the position for Georgia.

In the 2023 signing class, Uzo-Diribe landed 5-star prospect Damon Wilson and 4-stars Samuel M’Pemba and Gabe Harris. Those three are all also already on campus for the Bulldogs, participating in offseason workouts and learning the ropes of being a college football player. Madden was the only 2022 outside linebacker signee that enrolled early.

“It’s going to be great to get those guys early,” Uzo-Diribe told DawgNation prior to the national championship game. “To come out there and see what they’re going to be able to do this spring and obviously this offseason. It’s gonna be awesome to see what those guys can do.”

Related: Chidera Uzo-Diribe gushes about 2023 UGA outside linebacker signees

Georgia asks its outside linebackers to do a lot. Rarely does Kirby Smart let them truly pin their ears back, rush upfield and try and take down the quarterback. Last season the outside linebacker position accounted for just 9.5 of the team’s 35.0 sacks. The team’s top pass rusher was actually defensive end Mykel Williams who finished with 4.5 sacks.

So in that statistical sense, Georgia doesn’t have a ton of production to replace. Sacks also account for the smallest portion of Bill Connelly’s returning production on the defensive side of the ball. The Bulldogs ranked 43rd in the country for the 2023 season in terms of returning defensive production.

Related: Where Georgia football ranks in terms of returning production for the 2023 season

But as injuries mounted between Smith, Chambliss and Robert Beal late in the season, we saw Ohio State and LSU both put up big numbers on a normally sound defense. Having a few more freaky edge rushers, such as Madden, Smith or one of the three freshmen available would’ve likely helped in that regard.

Perhaps the biggest indictment of the outside linebacker position in 2023 was that a freshman inside linebacker became such a key piece of the group. Injuries dictated much of that and to be clear Walker is a phenomenal player who it too good to be kept off the field.

Entering 2023, Georgia has a few new faces, as well as some more established players, who should be able to bring what Walker brought to the table on a more frequent basis.

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