Georgia football needs its biggest strength to outplay Clemson’s biggest question in Week 1
The defensive line for Georgia figures to be one of its biggest strengths in 2021. The Bulldogs will be led by senior Jordan Davis, as he elected to bypass the 2021 NFL Draft to return for his senior season.
— Jord9n D9vis (@jordanxdavis99) January 7, 2021
The Bulldogs also learned seniors Devonte Wyatt and Julian Rochester would be taking advantage of the NCAA’s extra year of eligibility in 2021.
Georgia does have to replace two-year starter Malik Herring. But junior Travon Walker seems poised to step in and maybe even surpass what Herring brought to the team in the past two seasons.
The Bulldogs also saw a number of promising youngsters emerge in 2020, such as Jalen Carter, Zion Logue and Warren Brinson. This position group is loaded with both high-end talent and impressive depth.
And Georgia is going to need this group to dominate from the jump, as the Bulldogs open the season against what should be a top-5 Clemson team to start the 2021 season.
The defensive line should have an advantage every time it takes the field in 2021. Georgia is going to need that to be the case against Clemson when you factor in its biggest position of concern is the offensive line.
“Clemson’s run blocking in 2020 was problematic, and in the Sugar Bowl loss to Ohio State, the Buckeyes dominated the line of scrimmage,” ESPN’s David Hale wrote. “There’s ample talent on the line for the Tigers, and they’re adding five-star tackle Tristan Leigh, but it’s a group that needs to show genuine progress if the offense is to get back to the type of production Clemson fans were used to seeing during the Tigers’ championship seasons.”
In Clemson’s two 2020 losses, the Tigers ran for just 34 yards against Notre Dame and 44 yards in the College Football Playoff loss to Ohio State. And that was with running back Travis Etienne on the field. He finished his college career as the ACC’s all-time leading rusher and figures to be one of the first running backs taken in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Clemson also must replace quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who finished second on the team in rushing yards last season with 203 yards. The Tigers’ leading returning rusher is Lyn-J Dixon, who had 190 rushing yards.
By comparison, Georgia returns five running backs that topped Dixon’s output in 2021.
The Bulldogs also led the nation in rush defense for a second straight season, giving up just an average of 72.3 yards per game. With Davis occupying multiple blockers at almost all-times, it makes things very easy for the rest of the defense to limit opposing rushing attacks.
“I wouldn’t consider myself a star,” Davis said prior to a Peach Bowl performance that saw him pick up a sack and block a field goal. “I just do what I have to do to make sure I’m successful, make my teammates successful: complementary football.”
Georgia though won’t just need its defensive front to be stout against the run. The Bulldogs are going to need more from the defensive line in terms of generating a pass rush. The Bulldogs finished with 32 sacks in 10 games a season ago.
Georgia must replace outside linebackers Azeez Ojulari and Jermaine Johnson, who accounted for 12.5 of those sacks. Georgia’s defensive linemen last season had just 4.0 sacks. The Bulldogs need that number to be higher, regardless of whether it be Davis, Walker or Carter providing that extra pressure.
Georgia also has to replace most of its secondary from the 2020 team. Head coach Kirby Smart stressed the importance of Georgia getting a better pass rush so that the secondary is not asked to do as much.
“The best part of the secondary will be the front four getting some pressure and being able to rush, so that will be just as important as anything else that we do,” Smart said.
Georgia and Clemson meet on Sept. 4 in Charlotte. Much will be made about the two quarterbacks in JT Daniels and DJ Uiagalelei as well as the skill players. But the real winner of this game will likely be decided in the trenches.
Georgia’s defensive line performance will go a very long way in shaping who wins that first game of the 2021 season, which just so happens to have two teams who could be playing in the final game of the 2021 season.
How does UGA take that final championship step?
Michigan State head coach and former UGA DC Mel Tucker offers up his thoughts on the matter: pic.twitter.com/GozZXJIt2M
— DawgNation (@DawgNation) February 23, 2021
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