Defensive line: Massive changes give Bulldogs great expectations in trenches
Sixth in a series breaking down Georgia’s 2011 football team by position groups. . . .
Noseguard Kwame Geathers (99) spent a lot of time in the backfield at Georgia's G-Day Game, which earned him Defensive MVP honors. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)
- Returning starters: DE DeAngelo Tyson (Sr., 6-2, 290), DE Abry Jones (Jr., 6-3, 297)
- Others to watch: Sophomore NG Kwame Geathers (6-6, 350) was the most improved defensive player during spring practice. He’ll be joined in the fall by junior college All-American John Jenkins (6-4, 350) which should dramatically improve the Bulldogs’ interior presence so critical to the success of the 3-4 defense. . . . Sophomore defensive ends Garrison Smith and Derrick Lott and freshman noseguard Mike Thornton are ready to take a step up into the playing rotation.
- Key losses: Defensive end Demarcus Dobbs started 42 games in his career and his versatility and big-play capability will be missed. Brandon Wood and Kiante Tripp also graduated and junior Jeremy Longo received a medical disqualification.
- Key fact: This time last year we were asking if the Bulldogs “had a nose” for the new 3-4 defense defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was bringing to Athens. The answer in retrospect was a resounding no. Tyson started every game at the position but, the truth was, it was not not a physical or mental fit for him. It was a perfect fit for Geathers but, for whatever reason, he was slow to master the techniques required until this past spring, when he was the most impressive defensive player in camp. Add Jenkins and Thornton (6-1, 287) to the mix and that gives the Bulldogs an ideal three-player rotation for plugging the middle.
- Key fact II: Abry Jones was probably under-valued as a defensive end last season, though he certainly earned notice after recording 16 tackles in the regular-season finale against Georgia Tech. He ended the season with 34 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss. Meanwhile, Tyson’s move out to end from nose guard is one of the more interesting and potentially beneficial for the Bulldogs this fall. Playing head up over a tackle is a more natural position than nose for this 6-4, 306-pounder from Statesboro. He managed 36 tackles — he also had 16 against the Jackets — and 7 quarterback pressures as it was. Those numbers should increase as he gets more one-on-one matchups. With Georgia’s talent infusion inside, look for Jones and the other players playing this end/tackle position to contribute more big plays.
JUCO transfer John Jenkins has been dominant in strength and conditioning drills this summer.
Key developments: The word out of Georgia’s off-season strength and conditioning program this summer was that Jenkins showed up in shape, motivated and, in fact, has proven to be the fastest lineman the Bulldogs have on campus. His impact is expected to be substantial. . . . Griffin’s Chris Mayes, the only other D-lineman signed in the 2011 class, was unable to meet freshman eligibility requirements and has enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Jenkins’ previous school.
- Key questions: Will Geathers and/or Jenkins prove to be the real deal at nose guard? If so the Bulldogs can expect dramatic improvement on their overall big-play-making capabilities on defense. If not, they will have similar problems as last year.
- Outlook: Encouraging. At the least this would appear to be a drastically improved area for Georgia. But with so many changes in the overall front seven, the Bulldogs will have to go out and prove it on the football field. And lack of depth could be an issue. They will enter camp with just seven scholarship players for three positions. But if the injury bug stays away this area is potentially a team strength.
- Your turn: What say you about Georgia’s defensive line?
PREVIOUS POSITION BREAKDOWNS:
July 7 — Quarterbacks
July 6 — Running backs
July 5 — Tight ends
July 2 — Wide receivers
July 1 — Offensive line