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Travon Walker, Tyson Campbell show why defense is UGA’s strength, and how the offense can catch up

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Why Georgia football defensive backups still make big plays

Look at just about every position on the Georgia football roster and you’re bound to find a 5-star. There’s JT Daniels at quarterback. Zamir White at running back. George Pickens lived up the hype at wide receiver.

It’s even more loaded on the defensive side of the ball, as the Bulldogs have multiple 5-star prospects on the defensive line, at linebacker and in the secondary. In total, Georgia has 16 247Sports composite 5-star prospects on its 2020 roster, the most in the country.

But when you have all those 5-star prospects, especially at the same position, not all will validate that hype right away. Especially when you’re developing the likes of Jordan Davis, Azeez Ojulari and Eric Stokes.

Georgia is at the point now where none of four 2020 5-star signees are expected to start right away for the Bulldogs this year. But that doesn’t mean you won’t see them contribute this fall.

Defensive tackle Jalen Carter turned some heads with his performance in a viral video against center Trey Hill. Fellow former 5-star prospect Travon Walker raved about what he’s already seen from the young defensive lineman.

“He’s showing a lot of great things right now. Like I said, the sky is the limit for him,” Walker said. “He’s a very talented player [who] doesn’t have to be coached a lot because he came in already knowing a lot, so that says a lot about him just alone.”

Related: Travon Walker praises Georgia football DL Jalen Carter: ‘The sky is the limit for him’

Walker is an example of how even if you’re not an instant starter, you can still contribute as a freshman. He started zero games in his freshman season and yet he still ended up making Freshman All-SEC.

Though not every standout freshman has a paved path to stardom or even success like Walker did. Georgia cornerback Tyson Campbell had that instant starting spot, as he started the first 10 games of his college career.

But he had his struggles and ultimately got benched for Stokes. Then during his sophomore season, right as it seemed like he was correcting many of the wrongs he had as a freshman, he suffered a turf toe injury that nagged him for most of the season.

In Campbell’s absence, DJ Daniel emerged, making things tougher for Campbell to re-enter the lineup on a starting basis.

But because Georgia plays so many defenders, especially on defense, he found his way onto the field in the latter half of the season.

And now entering his junior season where he’s once again battling for a starting spot.

“I think I’ve matured so much as a player from coming here being young, not really knowing the defense,” Campbell said. “As the coaches developed us on defense, especially through experience through the game, I’ve been able to mentally — as far as getting my IQ better in football — and also becoming stronger faster, the whole nine yards of becoming a better athlete.”

Georgia figures to have one of the best defensive units in the country this season and it’s in part because it has guys as naturally talented as Walker and Campbell fighting for starting spots. On just about every team in the country, these two would be no-brainer starters.

As much concern as there is over the Georgia offense and how they’re looking during the scrimmages it’s worth keeping in mind how talented the second and first-team defenders they’re matching up with.

“That’s what makes practice so competitive, and everybody is just getting better each and every day,” Campbell said. “You want to have guys behind you, pushing you. That’s the best part about playing at Georgia.”

Georgia having such great depth not only gets more young players on the field; it also helps keep some of those more established stars primed and ready to go come the fourth quarter. Like when you need a big play to end a game against Auburn, which Walker came up with. 

“It really helps with guys being able to stay fresh,” Walker said. “Being able to get fresh rushes in on third down and then being able to push the pocket and get off the field with three-and-outs.”

The depth is clearly evident on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, there are places such as running back and offensive line where you can see it as well. Having key depth at those spots makes the situation at wide receiver and quarterback all the more glaring, especially as it continues to be an issue.

The Bulldogs attempted to fix that issue this offseason, bringing in five 2020 wide receivers and then two transfer quarterbacks in Jamie Newman and JT Daniels. It’s too early to tell on the wide receiver situation working itself out, but the quarterback spot has already shown its fragility with Newman’s departure.

One also only has to look at how the Justin Fields situation played out to see that quarterback is the one spot on the team where having depth and playing multiple talented players isn’t a practical solution.

If Georgia’s ever able to consistently solve the depth issues at those two spots, maybe we can talk about Georgia’s offense in the same way Georgia’s defense is spoken about.

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