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Chamberlain Smith/UGAAA
Jalen Carter is a sophomore defensive lineman for Georgia.

Jalen Carter continues to show why he could be the next Travon Walker

When Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt both announced they would return for another season, it did have the unintended consequence of eating into some potential snaps for sophomore defensive lineman Jalen Carter.

Carter arrived at Georgia in 2020 as a 5-star signee out of Apopka, Fla. In an age where transfers are more prevalent than ever, the lack of potential playing time could be an easy reason to look elsewhere to better your college career.

But that hasn’t been the case for Carter so far this spring. If anything, he’s raised his own ability as a way to push for more snaps. Not just at nose tackle or defensive tackle, but even some defensive end according to teammate Travon Walker.

“Jalen has been out there with me a lot and has grown tremendously as a player and learning the scheme of the defense,” Walker said. “Just growing up, you can tell he’s really learning how to play the game at the collegiate level.”

Related Travon Walker knows Georgia needs a big year from him and he’s ready for it

Walker knows better than anyone what Carter is going through this spring. As a high school player at Upson Lee High School in Thomaston, Ga., he sat behind future Bulldog David Marshall. Then when Walker arrived at Georgia as a 5-star signee in the 2019 signing class, he had to compete with Marshall and the established Malik Herring for playing time once again.

Heading into this third season in the program, Walker reflected on how playing behind those veterans helped prepare him for what should be a big year. A year from now, Carter could find himself in a similar situation to that of Walker.

“It is just something for me to look forward to,” Walker said on being the No. 1 player at his position. “I want to go be great.”

As a freshman, Carter made a number of impressive plays, whether it be a blocked kick against South Carolina or his goal-line touchdown catch in the win over Tennessee.

In his day job on the defensive line, Carter finished the season with 14 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss and five quarterback hurries. Freshmen rarely make a huge impact on the defensive line but the fact that Carter was a key piece of the nation’s No. 1 rush defense in the country last season is an encouraging sign.

Related: Why ‘freak’ Jalen Carter is ‘a threat for the next 3 or 4 years’ for UGA

“Jalen Carter is a really good player,” offensive tackle Warren McClendon said. “It’s a battle going against him every day.”

Carter’s athleticism and strength are what allow him to both stand out and be a uniquely versatile piece on Georgia’s defensive line. The defensive tackle spot will likely be his long-term home but he’s can play some nose tackle and as Walker hinted, maybe even some defensive end for Georgia at 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds.

“He has the ability to play everywhere on the d-line because he’s so athletic and strong,” Justin Shaffer said. “He can get off the ball really good.”

The defensive line is the clear strength of the Georgia team at the start of the 2021 season. With Davis and Wyatt returning and Walker poised for a bigger role, the unit has some serious star power.

Related: Georgia football: What unit is now the strongest position group for the 2021 team?

So much so that an obvious talent like Carter must fight to see playing time he could probably get at most other schools in the country.

That’s not a bad thing though for Carter, as it has forced him to develop into a more unique player. And if Walker goes on to have the year everyone thinks he is going to have, it should be a very encouraging sign for Carter’s development and future.

Jalen Carter earns high praise from Travon Walker

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