ATHENS – For all the kvetching about the Georgia football team’s talent base, that doesn’t mean there aren’t areas of strengths. And Chauncey Manac could perhaps mournfully tell you all about it.
Manac was a four-star recruit last year, just on the periphery of the top 100. And yet he redshirted, stuck behind not only two established starters at outside linebacker but both of their backups. Then Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy decided to return for their senior years, and Manac’s predicted ascent up the depth chart was again put off … perhaps.
This spring Manac at least was getting a good deal of second team snaps, where he and rising junior D’Andre Walker are the main backups. After the departure of Chuks Amaechi, last year’s top backup OLB, Manac seemed to take an advantage and made an impression this spring.
“He’s been good. He has a high motor, and he also plays quick. He has great hands too,” left tackle Isaiah Wynn said. “So this season I can definitely see him making an impact when needed.”
That last sentence is the key: Manac’s ability to play snaps and make an impact aren’t doubted. Neither are Walker’s, for that matter. They’re good enough to be solid SEC starters. The level of their impact is what remains to be seen, but apparently that will take longer with Carter and Bellamy back.
Still, the coaches are at least intrigued enough with Manac that they practiced him with the defensive line this year as well, exploring his versatility.
“We’re trying to find (Manac) a role to help get us some more speed on the field,” head coach Kirby Smart said. “The guy’s disruptive, active, hard to block, does not know what to do all the time. But he causes problems for the other team.”
Manac, who was among the many players not available for interviews this spring, hopes he also causes problems for coaches trying to disperse playing time.
The post-spring depth chart series began with the secondary.
Then came the inside linebackers.
And now …
- Returning starter: Lorenzo Carter, Sr.
- Notable reserves: D’Andre Walker, Jr., Chauncey Manac, R-Fr.; Keyon Brown, Jr.
- On the way: Jaden Hunter, Fr.; Robert Beal, Fr.; Walter Grant, Fr.
- Analysis: Carter’s overall stats may be disappointing the last two years, given the expectations, but coaches say he’s been more disruptive than pure sack numbers would indicate. His spot is safe, but he could get more rest this season if Walker and/or Manac will allow it. Walker, who’s long and athletic like Carter, will tend to be the top backup here, and will push for more snaps as well. Walker shows flashes of being a real playmaker when he has a chance. But his game isn’t completely refined yet.
- Bottom line: Carter is the starter, Walker is the main backup, and the incoming freshmen will fight to show they should play this year, even if it’s just on special teams … or like Manac they could very well be redshirted.
- Returning starter: Davin Bellamy, Sr.
- Notable reserves: Manac, Bellamy, Brown.
- On the way: Hunter, Beal, Grant.
- Analysis: If it feels like Carter and Bellamy are the same person, that’s because they almost are. They both had five sacks last year and had a similar amount of tackles (49 for Bellamy and 44 for Carter.) Bellamy tends to get more tackles because he’ll play on the line a few more plays, which is what Manac may do this year. But again it’s a matter of when those snaps are available.
- Bottom line: Bellamy is the starter and Manac is the main backup, but the coaches may get creative in how they use both. Much like last year, there’s a definite three-tiered pecking order here, with two defined starters and two top backups, and other players trying to force their way into the mix.
Next: Defensive line.