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Georgia defense ‘Commander in Chief’ Nakobe Dean keys 3 projected first-rounders vs. Florida

ATHENS — Georgia’s “No Name Defense” has certainly made a name for itself this season, and the NFL is noticing with three defensive players recently projected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Jordan Davis, the biggest and most visible player on the Bulldogs’ No. 1-ranked defense, explained how the team concept benefits everyone, and the draft rankings would seem to bear that out.

RELATED: Davis glad he returned for senior season, ‘enjoying the ride’ with No. 1 Georgia

“We embrace that No-Name defense,” Davis said, “because it’s all parts working together, not just an individual thing.”

The No. 1-ranked Bulldogs’ focus, of course, is strictly on Saturday’s game against the Gators in Jacksonville.

There might not be a more important player for Georgia on Saturday than its so-called “Commander in Chief” of defense, Nakobe Dean.

That’s how Bulldogs’ coach Kirby Smart referred to the signal-caller at inside linebacker, who was recently rated as Georgia’s highest 2022 NFL Draft prospect by Mel Kiper Jr., and the second-highest on the bulldogs by Todd McShay.

“Dean is an off-ball linebacker who has good speed, suddenness, range and instincts,” McShay penned in his ESPN-plus paysite article. “He can match up with running backs in coverage, but he can also go sideline to sideline in run defense.”

Part of Dean’s assignment in the 3:30 p.m. game in Jacksonville (TV: CBS) will be to identify, communicate, react and respond to the Gators’ dual-threat quarterbacks, Emory Jones and/or Anthony Richardson.

Florida averages more than 500 yards of offense per game, packing an explosive element that Smart has raised concerns about all week.

RELATED: How Gators’ quarterbacks key attack for Florida against Georgia

“(Dean) is the commander in chief of making our calls,” Smart said on Tuesday night. “He’s very physical. He keys things really well, a very instinctive football player as Roquan (Smith) was as well.”

Dean is one of three Georgia defenders that McShay projected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft:

• No. 13 DT Jordan Davis

• No. 14 ILB Nakobe Dean

• No. 29 OLB Adam Anderson

On Davis, McShay notes that Georgia’s 6-foot-6, 350-pounder “Has power and will bull-rush blockers back into their quarterback.

“But he is more of a disrupter than a finisher -- he has just 1.5 sacks in seven games -- and lacks first-step quickness and redirect ability.”

Smart said on Tuesday that he continues to work with Davis about controlling his weight, surely aware the senior’s NFL draft status will be affected by that first-step quickness McShay discussed.

“I noticeably can tell a difference in him when he’s 350 or less,” Smart said. “I know that seems like a lot but he’s been higher than that.”

As for Anderson, McShay notes “speed off the edge is exceptional; he plays with explosion. He has great first-step quickness and snap in his hands, getting in and out of blocks.

“In run defense, Anderson is at his best when turned loose in pursuit. Anderson will need to continue to get stronger, though. He gets engulfed too often; his speed-to-power moves stall out, and he doesn’t have the lower-body power to make a big impact against the run.”

Smart said on Tuesday night that UGA looks to maximize Anderson’s pass-rush skills more.

“The best thing Adam does is rush, and I think the best thing Coach Lanning (Dan Lanning) has done has allowed him to rush,” Smart said. “There were times early in his career that we asked Adam to spy and run down the quarterback and chase him down and that’s not a lot of sack production when you do that.

“He’s freed Adam up to do what he does best, which is rushing against the other team’s offensive tackle.”