WATCH: Returning Georgia senior DL Julian Rochester ready to provide Sugar Bowl lift
ATHENS — Georgia football added three 300-pound plus defensive line prospects on early signing day on Wednesday.
But the biggest full-time addition to next year’s Bulldogs’ defense is already on the team.
It’s Julian Rochester, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound, 22-year-old grown man coming back to help anchor the Georgia defensive line after redshirting this season.
“I’m blessed to get an opportunity to come back in this prestigious program and get another shot next year,” Rochester said after playing some 15-20 snaps in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 7.
“Hard work comes in the offseason. I got my brothers coming back, so I’m real excited about next year.”
Rochester suffered a torn ACL in the 2018 postseason and underwent offseason surgery. Though he was cleared for the start of fall camp, he wasn’t 100 percent.
Besides, the Bulldogs had plenty of depth ahead of him.
“We progressed into the season to see how things would go,” Rochester said, explaining how Coach Kirby Smart worked with him to maximize his opportunity. “The decision (to redshirt) ultimately got made.”
Rochester has played in games against Tennessee, Florida and LSU. By NCAA rule, he can play in a fourth game — the Jan. 1 Sugar Bowl against Baylor — and maintain his year of eligibility.
The Bulldogs lose senior defensive linemen David Marshall, Tyler Clark, Michael Barnett, Antonio Poole, Justin Young and Michail Carter.
Rochester returns with defensive linemen Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, Malik Herring and Travon Walker. Outside linebackers Azeez Ojulari, Nolan Smith and Jermaine Johnson are coming back, too.
UGA, which leads the SEC in total defense, scoring defense and rushing defense, should once again have a formidable defensive front.
Rochester said he believes the Bulldogs will be back in Atlanta in the SEC Championship Game next season following Smart’s direction.
“You’ve got to respect Coach Smart, he’s done it three years back to back to back, I’ve been a part of it three times,” said Rochester, once ranked a 5-star prospect by PrepStar Magazine coming out of McEachern High School.
“All we have to do is stay down, work hard in the offseason like we’ve been doing. I feel like we’ll be successful again.”
Rochester started 12 of 14 games as a junior and played in 15 games as a sophomore. He played in all 13 as a freshman (2016), starting six.