ATHENS — Georgia football knew it would be losing a big hunk of its defense following the 2020 season, but the Bulldogs still managed to return the biggest player of all, literally and figuratively.
ESPN listed UGA among the “losers” in its recent piece on teams that benefitted from NFL draft eligibleplayers returning and teams that lost the most.
But many Bulldogs’ insiders might disagree.
The decisions made by junior nose tackle Jordan Davis and senior defensive tackle Devone Wyatt to return likely solidified a front that could lead the nation in run defense for what would be a third consecutive season.
Here’s a look at Georgia’s biggest losses and biggest returners among the NFL draft-eligible players.
(Note: Players ranked in terms of importance, which takes into consideration others return at the position, not necessarily talent or projected 2021 stats)
1. Azeez Ojulari — led the team in sacks and provided game-changing plays
2. Richard LeCounte — team leader, eraser and turnover machine in the secondary
3. Eric Stokes — lockdown cornerback was playing as well as anyone in the country
4. Monty Rice — team captain and middle linebacker, run stuffer kept alignments tight
5. Ben Cleveland — Anchored offensive line with power, experience and leadership
6. Malik Herring — Underrated contain main did the dirty work in the trenches
7. Jermaine Johnson — Strong pass rusher and run stop, curious transfer out
8. Tyson Campbell — Great talent that provided solid coverage, sensational upside and potential
9. Mark Webb — Fundamental player was assignment sound and provided leadership
10. D.J. Daniel — 2019 starting CB was injured in 2020, projected 2021 starter
1. JT Daniels — Perfect fit for Todd Monken offense, provides title hopes
2. Jordan Davis — Jumbo dominator shuts down the middle and pushes pockets
3. James Cook — Explosive playmaker who home run speed and pass-catch skills
4. Adam Anderson — Pass rush extraordinaire, will polish contain run skills
5. Jake Camarda — Changes field position and shows high upside
6. Jamaree Salyer — Huge ceiling, former top-rated OL recruit on verge of a breakthrough
7. Zamir White — Popular team leader sets positive tone, special teams warrior
8. Kearis Jackson — Leader in WR room, reliable return man, possession receiver
9. Justin Shaffer — Veteran in trenches finally healthy and poised for a breakout season
10. Stetson Bennett IV — Proved capable without much prep, experienced bullpen reliever can win games.
Note: Seniors Julian Rochester and Demetris Robertson have yet to make their intentions for the 2021 season public.