ATHENS — Georgia’s dominance up front — or lack thereof compared with the historic seasons of 2021 and 2022 — has been a topic of conversation this season.
UGA gave up 132 yards to FCS UT-Martin and yielded 77 yards to Mid-American Conference foe Ball State last Saturday, neither effort as dominant as UGA fans have seen against lower-level competition.
Many of the former stars are gone. The Bulldogs have produced five first-round picks off their past two defensive fronts, including No. 1 overall pick Travon Walker off the 2021 team and generational talent Jalen Carter off last year’s Georgia defensive line.
Indeed, Carter and former UGA Outland Trophy winner Jordan Davis flashed in dominant form in their Thursday night NFL game with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Meanwhile, none of this year’s Georgia defensive tackles are ranked in Mel Kiper Jr.’s early positional rankings, or being discussed as potential first-round draft picks or national award winners.
This season’s No. 1-ranked Bulldogs are just 49th in the nation in run defense after leading the nation in rush defense last season and ranking No. 2 the season before.
Coach Kirby Smart said it’s too soon to judge because the level of talent UGA has faced in 2023 do not measure up size-wise.
That will change Saturday when Georgia plays host to fellow SEC member South Carolina at 3:30 p.m. (TV: CBS).
“We always have physical defensive and offensive lies, we’re not going to not have physical offensive and defensive lines,” Smart said on his coaches’ show on the Georgia Bulldogs Radio Network on Thursday night.
“How physical, how strong, how tough, how dominant? We don’t know that yet.”
The Gamecocks gave up nine sacks in their opening game lost to North Carolina, but Smart believes they will still pose a test.
“I think when you match up with someone the size and speed like yourself, like we’ll have this weekend, you’re going to find out more,” Smart said. “I don’t know that we can measure it based on what we’ve seen so far.”
Smart has used the first two games to help develop depth up front, playing freshman Jordan Hall more snaps than any of the other interior defensive linemen, per PFF snap counts:
• Fr. Jordan Hall 48 snaps
• Sr. Warren Brinson 38
• Sr. Zion Logue 36
• R.Fr. Christen Miller 32
• Sr. Nazir Stackhouse 32
• Fr. Jamal Jarrett 29
• R. So. Jonathan Jefferson 29
Smart said the Georgia players also develop by playing against elite talent in competition.
“I will say they get a lot more work against a really good offensive line in practices and they’ve hit that head on,” Smart said. “They’ve gone out and practiced hard, practiced physical.”