ATHENS, Ga., — Georgia’s returning sack leader hasn’t been talked about all that much this fall. No, it wasn’t Brenton Cox or Adam Anderson. And it wasn’t one of the many veteran defensive linemen on the 2019 roster.
It’s sophomore linebacker Channing Tindall, who picked up 2.0 sacks a season ago — pressuring the quarterback was a major issue for the Bulldogs and a chief concern heading into the 2019 season.
But due to the strong early impressions from freshman linebacker Nakobe Dean, Tindall and fellow linebacker Quay Walker seem to have gotten lost in the shuffle.
Related: Georgia football practice report: Nakobe Dean returns, running back not spotted
You could say the same thing about senior defensive back Tyrqiue McGhee. Last season, McGhee was Georgia’s starting STAR. He finished with 23 tackles and snarred an interception in the Florida win. But this offseason, it seems like McGhee has been jumped in the pecking order by the likes of Mark Webb and Divaad Wilson.
Both of these players have shown promise and flashes in the past. But past performance isn’t going to be enough to justify being a starter on this Georgia football team.
Neither Tindall or McGhee have done anything wrong. In fact, Georgia coach Kirby Smart praised both when speaking on Wednesday.
“Channing’s doing really well, he’s explosive, he’s valuable for us on third down, he’s one of our top special teams players on the whole team,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart.
Tindall’s two sacks came in two of the biggest games of the season in 2018. His first came against Kentucky — a defacto SEC East championship game — and the second was against Alabama. Both sacks also occurred on third down, further showing that the sophomore from Columbia, S.C., can play a key role on third down in the past.
As for McGhee, while STAR may no longer be his home — Smart says he wants to get bigger at the position — the senior’s versatility will allow him to contribute at a number of different positions this fall.
“Tyrique is a very dominant special teams player who can play strong safety, free safety, STAR, MONEY, and corner, very unique player. A utility guy who can play a little bit of everything and we expect him to do that and he’s in competition to get playing time at, really, all positions.
McGhee was compared to former Georgia defensive back Aaron Davis. On the 2017 team, Davis played all across the defensive secondary as the Bulldogs mixed and matched their way to an appearance in the national championship game.
Davis isn’t a big name to most Georgia fans, but that comparison meant a lot to McGhee, who considered Davis to be a ‘big brother.’
It is telling that Smart mentioned both players as guys who will contribute on special teams. Players like Tyler Simmons and Richard LeCounte have used special teams as a springboard to more playing time in the past. McGhee and Tindall both do that this season.
McGhee was asked about what it takes to be a “dominant” special teams player on Friday. And his answer gave a window into how Georgia players can use special teams as an avenue to future playing time.
“I think it’s a mindset. I feel like if you want to be useful and help your team, special teams is the best teams to do it,” McGhee said. “Since high school, I’ve put pride in special teams. I just want to show the young guys that’s how you make your name. That’s how I kind of made my name here at Georgia, and then just took it on from there.”
So next year, when people wonder why a former highly-rated recruit isn’t playing more, think of guys like Tindall and McGhee. There’s plenty of room — and talent — on the Georgia roster to have guys specialize in certain aspects of the defense or offense while also making significant reps on special teams.
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