ATHENS — Georgia will need a lot of growth on its defensive line this offseason to win a third-straight title.
Freshman 5-star D-Tackle Jordan “Big Baby” Hall has been one of the players most targeted by Kirby Smart in that respect.
The Georgia head coach said during spring drills the Bulldogs might not have any “train wreckers or havoc makers” up front.
NFL first-round picks Jalen Carter and Nolan Smith have moved on to the NFL, and then rising star Bear Alexander transferred off the UGA defensive line to USC.
The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Hall, who hails from Westside High School in Jacksonville, is one of the players being counted on to step up and potentially step in.
Loud and clear
Hall recently shared how Smart wore him out over the practice field speakers in spring practices, encouraging him to develop championship practice habits that will enable him to live up to his vast potential.
“Not loafing” was one of the biggest takeaways from the spring practice session Hall shared with Aaron Murray during a Player’s Lounge interview.
“Loafing is a killer, I can say that, (and) just being around the ball all the time is a great thing,” Hall said. “You don’t have to hear Kirby on the mic, so that’s one of the biggest things I took away from the spring, is always find a way to be around the ball and … how to take coaching.”
Hall may or may not realize that Smart typically uses his microphone to push the players with the highest potential.
“That’s the biggest learning curve, as far as straight-on coaching, hearing Kirby on the mic every day it’s kind of irritating sometimes,” Hall said with a smile.
“He yells at you, and you don’t even know where he’s at sometimes … so one of the bigger things is how to take coaching.”
Hall, who chose UGA over Florida in the final days of the early signing period and enrolled early, said Georgia’s player development strategies are effective.
“Honestly, I’ve felt I grasped a lot of things faster than I thought I would’ve,” Hall said, “and I really feel I picked up things faster, so the spring was a big improvement for me.”
George’s experienced and star-studded offensive line, however, reminded Hall each day there’s much work ahead.
“I can’t even say I’ve gained confidence yet, (I’m) going against the best offensive line in the country every day,” Hall said.
“… even winning (one) rep against them makes me feel like I’m not too bad. But some days you go into practice you might not even win a rep, and that’s how you have to learn, going against the best every day.”
Hall said he reminded himself during spring drills that he was still supposed to be in high school, as he dealt with getting handled on the field by some of Georgia’s grown men.
The Bulldogs’ defensive line room has helped Hall make the transition, including Alexander, who helped the incoming freshman along before transferring to USC.
“I took a lot of bits and pieces from Bear, from what he told me and what he talked to me about,” Hall said. “He would have played a very big piece of our defense and played a big, prominent role as a pass rusher, and that’s something I’m coming in and doing.
“Coming in as a pass rusher and disrupting plays on third down I think is where Im probably going to start to make my waves on a defense.”
Hall said veteran Georgia defensive linemen Zion Logue, Warren Brinson and Nazir Stackhouse have also helped in their own way.
“He doesn’t speak too much, but Naz is probably the best overall defensive tackle we have in the room,” Hall said. " He’s a beast, he can strike a block and fall asleep and still hold it. That’s who he is.”
Georgia has enjoyed having the strongest defensive line in the nation the past two seasons with no less than five first-round picks anchoring the front.
Jordan Davis won an Outland Trophy and established himself as the face of the 2021 national championship team and first-ballot College Football Hall of Famer, while Travon Walker was a No. 1 overall draft pick and Devonte Wyatt played himself into a first-rounder by staying through his senior year.
Time will tell if the 2023 unit can hold up to the challenge, or of Hall can make the sort of freshman impact that Mykell Williams, Carter and Davis enjoyed.