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Juwan Taylor (44) and Monty Rice (32) will help Georgia replace Roquan Smith at inside linebacker.

Georgia reloading at linebacker in 2018; Dawgs sweep rival in baseball — again

Cy Brown

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Depth chart breakdown: Linebacker

I don’t think it’s any stretch to say the Georgia defense’s three most important players last season were all linebackers — Roquan Smith, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy. Aside from generally dominating opposing offenses and sometimes producing game-changing, if not season-defining, plays, they also were some of the teams’ best veteran leaders and the heart and soul of the defense.

It’s almost impossible to replace a group like that.

Almost.

With the talent amassed at linebacker by Kirby Smart, coupled with Georgia’s long tradition of developing outstanding linebackers, there shouldn’t be much issue replacing a seemingly irreplaceable group. As the college football cliché goes, most programs in that situation would have to rebuild, but the Dawgs simply reload.

That’s not to say we won’t see some drop-off from last season, especially early in the season. It’d be naive to think this group can pick up where Smith, Carter and Bellamy — all multi-year starters — left off. Heck, we may never see a Georgia linebacker as good as Smith. But as a group, the crop of linebackers currently in Athens is as talented as any to ever roll through town at this stage in their careers. Give them some time, and it’ll be like Smith, Carter and Bellamy never left.

This post is part of an ongoing series breaking down Georgia’s post-spring depth chart position by position. For links to the other posts in this series, check the bottom of this section.

Sam linebacker

  1. Walter Grant (Sophomore) — It’s been impossible for Grant to escape comparison to former Georgia outside linebacker Leonard Floyd. Both have the same body type, and share the same No. 84 worn in Athens. Grant showed promise as a pass rusher and played well in space last season. Now he’s a starter, giving us a chance to see if he can be as productive as Floyd, too.
  2. Brenton Cox (Freshman) — Cox, a former 5-star recruit, enrolled early and impressed during his first spring at Georgia. He enters college ready-made for the SEC and should compete for snaps immediately. He’s also worked at defensive end and could garner minutes there.
  3. Keyon Richardson (Senior) — Richardson, who changed his surname from Brown this spring, has never gotten much fan attention. But he quietly had a nice spring. He has one more chance to make his mark in Athens.
  4. Adam Anderson (Freshman) — Just to show you how talented Georgia is at linebacker, we’re not even finished with the first position on this list and we’re already on our second 5-star freshman. Anderson doesn’t have the benefit of enrolling early that Cox enjoyed, but he’s just as talented. He’ll be too good not to play.

Mike linebacker

  1. Natrez Patrick (Senior) — The history of Partick’s legal and personal troubles is too long to get into here, but he practiced this spring after missing the final two games of last season. All signs point to Patrick being back, which is great news for the Bulldogs. With 18 career starts under his belt, he’s the old man of a group in  need of veteran leadership.
  2. Tae Crowder (Junior) — Crowder will forever be remembered by Dawg fans for his heads-up special teams play in the Rose Bowl. He’ll have an increased role on the defense and a chance to prove he’s more than a one-hit wonder this season.
  3. Channing Tindall (Freshman) — Tindall is another talented freshman who will likely see limited — if any — snaps. If he doesn’t redshirt, I’d wager he’ll have a chance to make a name for himself on special teams.

Will linebacker

  1. Monty Rice (Sophomore) — We got hints of Rice’s potential down the stretch last season, but it came into full focus with an outstanding showing at G-Day. But the most promising thing about Rice is that he understands the linebackers have a vacuum of leadership and is actively trying to step into that role. That’s rare for a player of his age. Rice could be special.
  2. Juwan Taylor (Senior) — Because of his speed, Taylor brings something different to the field than Georgia’s other inside linebackers. He’s a solid contributor and should earn plenty of minutes as the first inside linebacker off the bench.
  3. Nate McBride (Sophomore) — Like almost every underclassman in the linebacker corps, McBride is talented and has loads of potential. But based on his performance at G-Day, he’ll need to improve considerably to earn serious minutes.
  4. Jaden Hunter (Sophomore) — Hunter avoided a redshirt but only played in one game as a freshman. If he’s unable to crack the rotation again, he could be redshirt as a sophomore.

Jack linebacker

  1. D’Andre Walker (Senior) — Although Walker didn’t start a single game last season, he finished second on the team in sacks (5½) and tackles for loss (13½). He figures to start every game, but may not play considerably more because of the talent behind him. We know he can get after the quarterback, but if he wants to be an every-down player, he’ll need to improve in coverage.
  2. Robert Beal (Redshirt freshman) — It was timing, not talent, that led to Beal redshirting. He was the last freshman to enroll last year, giving him a late start learning the scheme and playbook. With that disadvantage gone, he should be in the thick of the rotation.
  3. Quay Walker (Freshman) — Yet another mega-talented freshman linebacker. (That’s four so far, but who’s counting?) And like most of the aforementioned freshmen, Walker’s talent will make him hard to keep off the field.
  4. Azeez Ojulari (Freshman) — Ojulari suffered an ACL tear his senior year of high school. Although he projects as high as all the other linebackers signed in the class of 2018, Ojulari could redshirt if he isn’t fully recovered by fall.

Depth Chart Breakdown: Running Back | Wide Receiver | Tight End | Quarterback | Offensive Line | Defensive Line

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Tech, Wrecked

For the second consecutive year, Georgia baseball has completed a season sweep of Georgia Tech. The Diamond Dogs (34-14) defeated the Yellow Jackets 3-1 Tuesday night at SunTrust Park in Atlanta, giving the program six consecutive wins over Tech in the last two years.

“It’s obviously a big rival for us and this game means everything to our players, our program, our fans; so to be able to not only win the series but sweep, it means a lot,” Georgia coach Scott Stricklin said.

Next up, Georgia is faced with its toughest test of the season, a weekend trip to Gainesville to face No. 1 Florida, the defending national champion. The first game of the series is slated for 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.

Today in Things That Make You Feel Good

Presented without comment is this quote from an anonymous departing Florida Gator on the state of Florida’s strength and conditioning under Jim McElwain. Via Inside The Gators’ Mark Wheeler:

“That first year [2015] it really wasn’t noticeable because a lot of our players carried over from Coach [Will] Muschamp, but starting in that second year, I was as heavy, but I wasn’t as strong. When we played teams like Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, we just looked small. I’m a pretty good size for my position, but I remember standing next to Lorenzo Carter and Roquan Smith [of Georgia] and saying to myself, ‘Damn, these are some big ass dudes. What are they feeding them over there?’ I remember when Roquan visited us in the summer when he was being recruited and he was skinny, and now he looked sculpted. You shouldn’t be at Florida and feel intimidated by looking at other SEC players.”

If that doesn’t get you through Hump Day smiling, I don’t know what will.

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