ATLANTA — Georgia inside linebackers Jamon Dumas-Johnson and Smael Mondon had massive shoes to step into for the 2022 season. Gone at the inside linebacker position was 2021 Butkus Award winner Nakobe Dean, first-round pick Quay Walker and third-round pick Channing Tindall.

Making matters more difficult was that neither had much experience, as they were both sophomores. Mondon also missed spring practice with a labrum injury limiting his reps.

Yet per the Georgia co-defensive coordinators, the pair did a great job this season. Dumas-Johnson finished tied for the team lead in tackles and was a Butkus Award finalist, while Mondon also picked up 64 tackles. He did so in two fewer games as he dealt with an ankle injury.

So how did the pair uphold the Georgia standard? It starts by throwing the stats and numbers in the garbage.

“We don’t look at stats,” Dumas-Johnson said. “If he had a good game, he had a good game because he did something for him. We all play together. We don’t leave no one out. Everyone has someone else’s back. We play together as a family. We play for the brother next to you. If you have to do something for him to make a play, you have to do something to make a play. Some type of way, you have to play for each other.

“This is not selfish ball over here, this is family ball.”

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If that sounds harsh, it’s probably because Dumas-Johnson is accustomed to hard coaching. Georgia coaches make it very clear to recruits that Georgia is not for everyone’s liking. If you’re looking to put up massive numbers, you best look elsewhere.

Consider that Georgia finished fourth in the country in sacks last season, yet no one had more than 6.5. This year’s top sack artist for the Bulldogs is Jalen Carter, who has only 3.0 sacks.

But while the statistical production might not be there on an individual level, the team-wide results are. Georgia is 35-3 in the last three seasons. The defense has been a huge reason for that success, even with six players being taken in the first round over the previous two NFL drafts.

“We coach our guys hard and they receive hard coaching,” co-defensive coordinator Will Muschamp said. “I think you can do that if there’s a certain connection and that’s a word we talk about in our organization a lot. I think there’s a huge connection because you can be very honest with somebody when you have connection, probably not so much when there’s not a connection.

“At the end of the day they know we have their best interest and that’s to help them be the best football player they can be which helps be the best team we can be at the University of Georgia.”

Dumas-Johnson and Mondon are just two examples of players who fit the mold of what Georgia coaches look for.

Mondon was a 5-star recruit in the 2021 cycle, while Dumas-Johnson received much less fanfare while being recruited out of Maryland. The two bonded upon arrival at Georgia and have grown together.

Co-defensive coordinator Glenn Schumann, who doubles as the position coach for Mondon and Dumas-Johnson, is most impressed not with the physical gains made by the pair but the mental side.

“I think those two guys specifically and the rest of the room have an extremely high standard and expectations for themselves,” Schumann said. “They did not place any limitations on themselves because of their experience or age. I think that’s reflected in how they’ve matured. They’ve put pressure on themselves, they’ve matured throughout the year. When it hasn’t been up to the standard they’ve been hard on themselves.”

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Throughout the year, Georgia players have made it known that playing at Georgia is hard. If it were easy, everyone would be doing what the Bulldogs have done this season: replace an elite crop of linebackers and experience almost no drop-off. The Georgia defense once again ranked first in the country in run defense and are one of just two unbeaten teams left in the sport.

Dumas-Johnson and Mondon aren’t the only reason for Georgia’s success, but their development over the season illustrates why the Bulldogs are back in a position to win another national championship.

But the job is not done yet and Dumas-Johnson embraces that there is more work to be done.

Jamon Dumas-Johnson: We don’t play selfish football

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