On the day Georgia landed its new defensive line coach, the Bulldogs lost their most important defensive lineman.
Kwame Geathers, a 6-foot-6, 355-pound rising senior and four-game starter at noseguard, informed UGA coaches on Wednesday he intends to enter the NFL draft this year.
“That was the speculation since the bowl game, obviously, but nothing was in writing,” said Chris Wilson, who was officially announced as the Bulldogs’ defensive line coach Wednesday afternoon. “I didn’t get a chance to meet the young man but I know he was one heck of a player watching him from afar. I had yet to get a chance to sit down with him. But it’s one of those deals where you want what’s best for the young man. If him and his family feels that’s the best thing, you wish them the best of luck.”
Wilson had to deal with similar decisions while serving as Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator the past three years and while working at his alma mater, Oklahoma. The Maroon Bulldogs lost Fletcher Cox a year early to the NFL draft last year. Cox went to the Philadelphia Eagles with the 12th pick overall.
“It’s part of college football nowadays,” Wilson said. “If you get kids more than three or four years is rare and especially five years now.”
Geathers was redshirted, so he has already been at UGA four years. His departure is not unexpected as he comes from a football-playing family that rarely completed its college eligibility.
Geathers could not immediately be reached for comment. But but he first told the subscription-based website Dawgs247.com of his decision.
“I’m going to go ahead and leave,” Geathers told reporter Gentry Estes. “I felt like I was ready to go. I think I did everything at Georgia that I wanted to do. I felt like it was time to get a jump on the next step in my career.”
Geathers played in all 14 games for the Bulldogs (12-2) this past season. His primary role was to back up second-team, All-SEC starter John Jenkins. But after defensive end Abry Jones was lost to a season-ending ankle injury midseason, Geathers played primarily at noseguard while Jenkins moved outside to end. Geathers started in the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska and had three tackles. He finished the season with 40 tackles, five tackles for loss and one sack and closes his career with 98 tackles, two sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
Geathers’ departure is not a surprise, especially considering his family’s history regarding the NFL. On Wednesday, Georgia announced it had hired Mississippi State defensive coordinator Chris White to replace Rodney Garner as the Bulldogs’ defensive line coach. Garner was extremely close to Kwame and the entire Geathers family, and his decision to leave UGA for Auburn was thought to galvanize Kwame’s decision to move on.
Georgia is hopeful that promising redshirt freshman John Taylor will be able to fill Geathers’ shoes next season. The Bulldogs also moved Garrison Smith inside to noseguard in the bowl game when Geathers had to leave the game due to fatigue. Rising junior Mike Thornton is also waiting in the wings and Georgia is hot on the recruiting trail for several other impact defensive line recruits, including junior college all-star Toby Johnson and high school blue-chipper Montravius Adams.
The Bulldogs had already lost star linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree to NFL early declarations.