Kirby Smart wants Jalen Carter to follow example set by Devonte Wyatt
ATHENS — Tight end Brett Seither has the unfortunate pleasure of knowing what it is like to try and block Jalen Carter. It is not a fun experience, as one can imagine.
“Sadly I have,” Seither said. “I don’t think I’ve won one of those matchups, but that’s another freak athlete that is not fun to go against. He’s a hell of a player.”
Seither is no slouch, as he stands at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds. But Carter’s combination of strength and quickness make him a tough assignment for anybody. He finished second on the team last year in quarterback pressures, despite not playing in an every-down role.
Carter’s credentials to this point of his Georgia career are well-established. He arrived as a 5-star signee in the 2020 signing class and has been mauling opposing blockers ever since. He also moonlights as a goalline fullback and blocked a key field goal in the 33-18 win over Alabama to win the National Championship.
Related: Jalen Carter does it all for Georgia football in National Championship victory: ‘The guy is a stud’
But like all players, Georgia coach Kirby Smart wants to see more from the talented junior defensive tackle. Though it would be nice for him to notch a few more sacks and tackles for loss, Smart is actually looking at an intangible area for Carter to improve upon.
“I think he has taken a role in Tray’s (Scott) room of trying to set an example for others,” Smart said. “Devonte (Wyatt) and Jordan (Davis), and really Travon (Walker) in that same room, did as fine of a job, along with Julian (Rochester). They set a standard of work ethic, and you want whoever, Jalen, Zion (Logue), to control that.”
After the win over Alabama, Smart mentioned in his post-game press conference that Carter is good enough to set his own ceiling. He has the athletic gifts to do so. It’s why many in the NFL draft community mentioned that Carter was actually the best NFL draft prospect on Georgia’s 2021 defensive team.
That he returns in 2022 should allow him to take on an even larger role in the Georgia defense. And though Smart often hates giving comparisons, he did throw out Wyatt’s name as to someone who Carter could try and emulate.
“You have to be willing to push yourself and give great effort in practice because that is what set Devonte Wyatt apart,” Smart said. “He was not that player when he got here. He was not that talented of a player when he got here. He worked himself and lost weight. He got stronger and quicker.
“Jalen started off as a very talented player as a freshman and sophomore, but we would like to get more out of him.”
Wyatt is now likely to hear his name called in the first round of the upcoming NFL draft. In the event that Carter takes up the mantle vacated by Wyatt, there is a chance that Carter could go at the top of the first round.
Smart has spoken frequently this spring about how he is looking for greater leadership, especially on the defensive side of the ball. While the early returns were mixed, Smart did recently highlight some players who have begun to fill the leadership void. And the Georgia coach would love it if Carter emerged as one of them.
“I think Pop (Jamon Dumas-Johnson) Is doing a great job stepping up,” Smart said. “Nolan (Smith Jr.) has been tremendous at being vocal when things aren’t going right, Kelee (Ringo) has done a good job with that. Really a lot of guys you can just see them trying to assert themselves and encourage more than discouraging.”
Carter is not vocal in the same manner that Davis or Wyatt was last season. But Georgia doesn’t need every leader to be as loud as say, Smith. If Carter is able to lead with his work ethic, he’ll certainly get the job done for Smart, Scott and the 2022 Georgia football team.
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