ATHENS — Georgia knows who is going to replace Devonte Wyatt in the starting lineup. That would be Jalen Carter. Replacing Jordan Davis is a tougher task, though Zion Logue has long been tapped as his replacement. Logue is one of the key leaders on this year’s defense and has had solid spring and summer sessions.
Replacing the No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft was less clear entering the offseason. Travon Walker played a vital role for the Bulldogs last season and his athletic gifts cannot be replicated. There’s a reason he went No. 1 overall to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
To this point in fall camp, the Bulldogs are still looking at multiple options on the defensive line to replicate what Walker gave them last season. The Bulldogs always rotate heavily on the defensive line, in order to keep the group as fresh as possible.
“The young guys are coming on in flashes and showing some plays, but they don’t have the physical or mental toughness to sustain it, like do it over and over,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “If I can do it one play, and the next play is off the charts bad, the first play is off the charts good. Tray (Scott) trying to get enough consistency out of that room, that we can play those guys.”
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The young guy, to use Smart’s words, best positioned right now is redshirt freshman Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins. A name not many were considering at the beginning of the offseason.
Most probably didn’t envision Ingram-Dawkins as a defensive end, thinking he might be more of an interior player for the Bulldogs. Most had senior Tramel Walthour as the favorite, with highly-touted signee Mykel Williams as the two names to know at the position.
The biggest change for the second-year Bulldog from Gaffney, S.C., wasn’t a change in effort or greater knowledge of the Georgia defensive scheme. It was the way he resculpted his body.
“When he went into the spring, he really attacked his body and his ability to be a guy around the edge,” co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann said. “That’s a battle you take as a big guy every single day all throughout the summer and into fall camp. The biggest thing is when you’re leaner, you can be quicker and more explosive, it’s beneficial.”
Walthour and Williams will still see snaps in this defense, but it’s hard to ignore the strides Ingram-Dawkins has made in his second season at Georgia. With Walthour limited with a knee injury for G-Day, Ingram-Dawkins took full advantage of the opportunity. He finished the game with a sack and an additional tacke for loss.
The effort validated all the tweaks Ingram-Dawkins had made to his body.
“When they’re out there we want them to be guys that are able to be quick, athletic, lean, guys that can make plays in terms of pursuit but also go inside,” Schumann said. “But his growth, especially in the spring when he leaned himself up, it helped him.”
Walker would bump inside in obvious pass-rushing situations, playing next to Carter and allowing Georgia to get a faster defender on the outside. Ingram-Dawkins could very well have that same role, in addition to playing on the outside on early downs.
The strides made by Ingram-Dawkins are just another positive note for Scott and his ability to develop. While Walker was a 5-star prospect coming out of high school, Davis and Wyatt were unheralded recruits by comparison. Ingram-Dawkins was the top player in the state of South Carolina in his recruiting cycle, but came as the No. 148 overall prospect in the 2021 class. Georgia signed three defensive linemen who were higher-ranked than that in the 2022 class, landing Williams, Bear Alexander and Christen Miller.
Scott received a big raise this offseason, in part because of the job he had done prior to this year. But his biggest task will be in getting players like Ingram-Dawkins ready to go for the season-opener against Oregon.
Much like Ingram-Dawkins though, Scott has earned a lot of confidence from the Georgia football coaching staff.
“Some of those guys weren’t really high-ranked recruits when they came in here, and they got developed by Tray, who I think is as good of a defensive line coach as I’ve ever worked with,” Co-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said of Scott. “I’d put Tyrion and Nazir (Stackhouse) and our entire room in Tray’s hands and let him develop those guys as we continue to move forward. I’ve seen improvements, drastically, in my time with Nazir and obviously Tyrion last fall a little bit, and he made huge strides in the spring.”
Georgia football head coach Kirby Smart on the Georgia football defensive line
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