An early projection of Georgia football’s 2023 defensive depth chart
Last offseason, the Georgia defense heard all about how it would have to replace a generational unit. The members of the 2022 defense proved more than capable as they helped Georgia win a second-straight national championship.
The Bulldogs will not see nearly as much turnover in 2023, but there are some key players that must be replaced. Gone are All-Americans Chris Smith and Jalen Carter. Nolan Smith and Kelee Ringo are off to the NFL as well.
Still, as the national championship game showed there is real reason for optimism for this group next season. Three freshmen came up with sacks in the game in the 65-7 win over TCU.
Related: An early projection of Georgia football’s 2023 offensive depth chart
Georgia also brings in perhaps the top crop of defensive players in the 2023 recruiting cycle. Many are already on campus and going through winter workouts. The Bulldogs signed eight defensive players who rank among the top-100 overall players in the 2023 recruiting class.
The Bulldogs also have a big change to make on special teams, with Jack Podlesny now off to the NFL.
Below is our first crack at what we think Georgia’s 2023 depth chart will look like on the defensive side of the ball for Georgia.
- Naz Stackhouse and Zion Logue
- Bear Alexander
- Shone Washington and Jamaal Jarrett
- Bear Alexander and Warren Brinson
- Christen Miller
- Jordan Hall
- Mykel Williams and Tramel Walthour
- Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins
- Gabe Harris
Analysis: Much like the wide receiver position on the offensive side of the ball, don’t get too focused on who is listed where on the defensive line. The Bulldogs rotate heavily across the front, moving players around depending on the look and game flow.
Alexander had a strong performance in the national championship game and will look to fill Carter’s massive shoes as an interior disruptor. Williams led the team in sacks last season, as he finished with a sack in both of Georgia’s playoff games. Those two players give Georgia an incredibly high ceiling at this position.
The Bulldogs also bring back plenty of experience in Stackhouse, Brinson, Logue and Walthour.
We’ll be interested in seeing what strides Miller makes this offseason, while Hall and Jarrett both arrived as early enrollees. Jarrett did suffer an injury in bowl practices and will need to lose some weight, while Hall has a chance to carve out an early role for Georgia.
Related: Chris Smith issues a warning about Georgia football: ‘This team is going to be a problem for years to come’
- Chaz Chambliss
- Marvin Jones Jr. and Jalon Walker
- Damon Wilson and Darris Smith
- Samuel M’Pemba and Gabe Harris
Analysis: For as much as Georgia brings back on the defensive line, it loses at outside linebacker. Gone are veterans Nolan Smith and Robert Beal.
Chambliss took on a huge role following Smith’s midseason injury, putting Georgia in a decent spot with experience. It will be a key offseason for Jones, though he is expected to miss time as he recovers from a shoulder injury.
Walker might be the most interesting player on the defense, as he’s got the ability and athleticism to play multiple positions for Georgia. With a log jam at inside linebacker, this might be his best spot from him to get on the field.
Georgia brings in a ton of talent from the recruiting trail, as Wilson, M’Pemba and Harris were all top-100 players. Wilson seems like the best bet to push for early playing time.
- Smael Mondon
- Xavian Sorey and Jalon Walker
- EJ Lightsey and Raylen Wilson
- Jamon Dumas-Johnson
- Rian Davis
- CJ Allen
Analysis: Mondon and Dumas-Johnson led the team in tackles last season and return in 2023. It will be interesting to see if the inside linebackers can reach the same highs that the trio of Nakobe Dean, Quay Walker and Channing Tindall did in 2021.
With Trezmen Marshall headed to Alabama, there are reps to be had behind the two starters. Davis returns for his senior season, while Sorey and Walker will look to crack the lineup.
Wilson and Allen are two of the top linebacker prospects in the 2023 recruiting cycle and are already on campus for Georgia. They’ll be joined this summer by 4-star linebacker Troy Bowles.
Related: ESPN names 4 Georgia football standouts to ‘Way-Too-Early’ 2023 All-American Team
- Daylen Everette
- Nyland Green
- AJ Harris
- Kamari Lassiter
- Julian Humphrey
- AJ Harris
- Javon Bullard
- Tykee Smith and Smoke Bouie
- Marcus Washington Jr.
- Justyn Rhett
- Malaki Starks
- Dan Jackson and Smoke Bouie
- Joenel Aguero and Justyn Rhett
- Dan Jackson and David Daniel-Sisavanh
- JaCorey Thomas
- Joenel Aguero and Justyn Rhett
Analysis: Lassiter, Starks and Bullard all return as starters for the Bulldogs. Expect them to be key pieces for Georgia, with all three filling big leadership roles as well. Bullard was the defensive MVP of both playoff games for Georgia.
At the cornerback spot opposite Lassiter, Everette enters the offseason as the favorite to replace Ringo. But do not overlook any of the other competitors, as Green, Humphrey and Harris are all more than capable of winning that job. Harris is Georgia’s top defensive back signee.
Related: Javon Bullard demonstrates the importance of in-state recruiting for Georgia: ‘I couldn’t dream this big’
Georgia does have to replace Chris Smith at the other safety spot, which will be no easy task. Jackson returns for Georgia after missing most of the season with a foot injury. The Bulldogs also dipped into the transfer portal to add Bouie, who has the athleticism to help out across the secondary.
The Bulldogs don’t rotate as heavily in the secondary as they do in the defensive front. This offseason will be key for those aiming to grab a starting spot.
- Brett Thorson
- Jared Zirkel and Peyton Woodring
- William Mote
- Will Snellings
- Ladd McConkey
- Arian Smith
- Daijun Edwards
- Dillon Bell
Analysis: Georgia normally has one of the top special teams units in the country. But this will be a sizable question mark entering the offseason. Georgia has to replace All-SEC kicker Podlesny, Kearis Jackson as the team’s kick returner and holder Stetson Bennett.
Thorson only had 36 punts this past season and while he had some bright moments, such as a 75-yard punt against Tennessee, he’s far from a sure thing at this point. He’s also expected to take up the holding responsibilities.
Zirkel and Woodring will battle for the kicking job. Zirkel is entering his fourth year in the program but lost the kicking job to Podlesny earlier in his career. Woodring does not arrive until the summer, though he has a monster leg after nailing a 60-yarder in high school.
It will be worth watching how much Georgia uses McConkey on special teams going forward, given his expected usage on the offensive side of the ball.
More Georgia football stories from around DawgNation
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- Return of Sedrick Van Pran is a championship-making difference for Georgia football
- Sedrick Van Pran announces he is returning to Georgia football for another season
- Trezmen Marshall decision adds more spice to Georgia football-Alabama rivalry
- Georgia football podcast: Mark Richt explains why UGA can win the national championship again
- Arik Gilbert, former Georgia football tight end, commits to Nebraska
- ESPN gives Georgia football high praise for how it handled the transfer portal