2011 Georgia Preview – Defense
Georgia CB Brandon Boykin
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Georgia Bulldog Defense
Preview 2011 - Defense
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What You Need To Know: The defense might have gone bye-bye in key moments against Arkansas, Florida, and Auburn, but for the most part the team's problems were on the other side of the ball. The star power might not be there going into the season, especially after losing pass rusher Justin Houston to the NFL, but there's a ton of very good, very promising players about to make the nation's 23rd best D shine. Linebacker Jarvis Jones comes in from USC and should be one of the team's top playmakers, while the addition of top JUCO transfer John Jenkins should anchor the 3-4 as a rock of a nose tackle. Kwame Geathers is good enough to also dominate on the inside, while the huge ends should be rocks against the run. The secondary should be a major strength with corner Brandon Boykin and safety Bacarri Rambo leading a veteran group won't allow too many big plays.
Star of the defense: Junior DT John Jenkins
Tackles: Baccari Rambo, 82
Sacks: DeAngelo Tyson, 1.5
Interceptions: Brandon Boykin; Sanders Commings, 3
Player who has to step up and be a star: Junior LB Christian Robinson
Unsung star on the rise: Sophomore DT Kwame Geathers
Best pro prospect: Jenkins
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Jenkins, 2) LB Jarvis Jones, 3) CB Brandon Boykin
Strength of the defense: Defensive Line Size, Secondary
Weakness of the defense: Linebacker, Sure-Thing Pass Rush
State of the Unit: 2010 proved that a true nose guard is a must for the 43-4 defense, and the Bulldogs appear to have two of them. The line will rotate players in and out of the three spots with size at the ends and tremendous bulk in the middle, and while the tackles for loss and sacks might not be there, the big three linemen should be a rock against the run.
The strength of the line should be on the inside, where 6-6, 350-pound sophomore Kwame Geathers
appears to be on the verge of doing something special. Massive, he'll engulf everything on the inside while he has just enough quickness to be more than a block of granite. He saw a little time as a redshirt freshman making seven tackles, and now the line is his to work around. 6-1, 287-pound redshirt freshman
Michael Thornton appears ready to play a big role as a quicker option. Ideal as a 4-3 defensive tackle, he has the strength and the toughness to handle himself as a run stopper on the nose.
Geathers and Thornton might be good and they might be ready to become major factors on the inside, but the star of the show is coming JUCO transfer
John Jenkins is an NFL-ready defensive tackle who'll hang out in Athens for a year or so. At 6-4 and 350 pounds, he's a huge run-stuffer who was targeted by the Georgia staff to be the main man for the defensive front, and while Geathers might have been great this offseason, this could be Jenkins' job as soon as he's ready.
Working at one end again is Abry Jones , who made 34 stops and 3.5 tackles for loss with six quarterback hurries on the year, and now he'll be asked to do far more to get into the backfield. At 6-3 and 309 pounds he's a tackle more than an end, but he can move. He has prototype size and strength for a tackle with excellent interior pass rushing skills. If the rest of the line does what it's supposed to and he's left in one-on-one blocking, he should dominate at times. Sophomore Garrison Smith
is also built like a tackle at 6-3 and 294 pounds, but he's considered a pass rusher despite coming to Georgia to play in the interior. Extremely quick for his size, he showed off his athleticism a little bit with three tackles with a tackle for loss.
6-4, 306-pound senior DeAngelo Tyson destroyed Georgia Tech with 16 tackles and made 36 tackles with 1.5 sacks and four tackles for loss on the year. Playing out of position on the nose, he'll now work at a far more natural and 3-4 end spot where he can use his quickness and toughness to be a terrific run stopper. It's not like he's a stick in the mud; he's quick off the ball and he can move well as a two-gap penetrator, and he's still improving. Still young and emerging, he hasn't hit his peak yet. Eventually, backup
Derrick Lott will be back in the mix, but he suffered a leg injury in a scooter accident and isn't likely to be back until just before the start of the season. At 6-4 and 303 pounds, he has great size for the position and a little bit of experience with seven tackles and a tackle for loss in three games.
Watch Out For … Jenkins. Geathers was fantastic this offseason and isn't just going to give away the starting job on the nose. However, Jenkins is a special tackle. He's the type of player who makes a good team great the second he sets foot on campus.
Strength: Tackle and size. In Jenkins and Geathers, Georgia would have one of the most exciting defensive tackle pairs in America, and now they're going to have to rotate. The size on the front three is tremendous; it'll be hard to run on this group.
Weakness: Pass rush. The front three might be full of defensive tackles, but they also pass rush like defensive tackles. The speed rush is supposed to be left to the outside linebackers, but it would be nice if the line could help out.
Outlook: It might take a little bit for the front three to come together in terms of getting into the backfield, but there shouldn't be any problems coming up big against most running games. This was a decent group last year, but the addition of Jenkins and the emergence of Geathers allows Tyson to be in the right spot and should help take the blockers away from Jones. The line could be the team's biggest strength.
Unit Rating: 8.5
State of the Unit: Justin Houston might have finished third on the team with 67 tackles with ten sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss, but he disappeared in key stretches and wasn't always consistent. Even so, the stats were still impressive and it'll take something big to replace the lost production on the outside. Only one starter is back for the 3-4, but with a few moves, the potential is there for the corps to be impressive.
The big key to the linebacking corps is Jarvis Jones, a USC transfer who's expected to be the big replacement for Houston as an all-around playmaker. The 6-3, 241-pound sophomore will work on the strongside after sitting out last year because of the transfer, but he's ready to become a terror after seeing a little time for the Trojans two years ago making 13 tackles with 1.5 tackles for loss. He was a big part of the rotation before hurting his neck and missing the second half of the 2009 season, but he's fine now with the speed and range to be the team's next linebacking star. He'll be backed up by
Chase Vasser, a 6-3, 227-pound sophomore who saw time mostly as a special teamer. Smart and quick, he should be fine when he gets his chances, but he's not Jones.
Returning to a starting spot is Christian Robinson, a 6-2, 226-pound junior who got the call 11 times last year finishing with 46 tackles with six tackles for loss and two recovered fumbles. He's not huge, and he's built more for a weakside role, but he's smart, can move, and is tough for his size. He has the speed to be a pass rusher, and he could move outside from time to time to add a burst into the backfield, but he'll be the main man in the middle for now. Junior
Michael Gilliard made eight tackles in his limited work, and while he's not going to add more size to the middle at 6-2 and 220 pounds, the talent is there to be a factor. He was a good recruit, and he's versatile enough to work in a variety of roles.
Sophomore Cornelius Washington started eight times last year and finished with 24 tackles, but more than anything else, he has become a decent-looking pass rusher for his size. At 6-4 and 260 pounds he's built like an end, but he'll work as a weakside linebacker. He didn't show any wow factor last year, but he's a big, tall speedster who's a good enough pass rushing prospect to potentially help ease the loss of Houston. Working in the rotation is 6-5, 255-pound sophomore
Reuben Faloughi, a former walk-on who has busted his tail in the classroom and on the field to be a part of the mix. He'll never be a starter, but he'll see a little time as an end and an outside defender.
Stepping into the fourth outside linebacker spot is sophomore Alex Ogletree, a safety who'll bring his speed to the corps after working mostly as a special teamer with five tackles. At 5-10 and 224 pounds he's not necessarily built like a safety moving to linebacker, but he moves like one and he should be extremely disruptive. With Richard Samuel moving over to running back, sophomore
Jeremy Sulek could get a little bit of work after making four tackles in six appearances. At 6-1 and 209 pounds he's not big, but he's smart and he doesn't miss tackles in practices.
Watch Out For … Jones and Ogletree. Jones is the big addition who's supposed to ease the pain of losing Houston, while Ogletree is looking like a potential star. It's not saying too much to call them, possibly, the two best pure football players on the team.
Strength: Tackling. There wasn't enough activity from this bunch last year when Houston wasn't doing his thing, but everyone at all four spots can hit. This should be a terrific group against the run.
Weakness: Lost production. The linebacking corps didn't just lose Houston, but also gone is Akeem Dent, the team's leading tackler who came up with 126 tackles, and Darryl Gamble, who made 39 tackles in six starts. There's talent ready to roll, but there's still a big question mark about Washington. The light needs to come on.
Outlook: There's a lot of pressure on Jones to be phenomenal right away, and the expectations are sky high for Ogletree to put up huge numbers in his new spot. The Georgia linebackers will always put up numbers and they'll always be athletic, but they need to be consistent.
Unit Rating: 7.5
State of the Unit: The pass rush was good last year, but not phenomenal, and yet the secondary was still terrific allowing just 181 yards per game. There were a few too many key plays allowed, but the Dawgs gave up just 15 touchdown passes with 16 picks. Four of the touchdown passes were given up to Kentucky and three were given away to Arkansas. Georgia allowed one touchdown pass or fewer in ten games, and everyone is back.
The star of the veteran group should once again be senior Brandon Boykin, who was the only returning starter last year and came through as needed. At 5-10 and 183 pounds he's not huge, but he's a tremendous tackler for his size and has grown into a terrific No. 1 corner with excellent speed and a 42" vertical. He made 44 tackles with a sack, 6.5 tackles for loss, and three picks. He didn't get any all-star recognition, but that will change. He'll be backed up by junior Branden Smith, a 5-11, 176-pound jack-of-all-trades who'll see plenty of time on offense. One of the team's best athletes, he ended up starting nine times last year finishing with 17 tackles with two picks and four broken up passes.
Back on the other side is junior Sanders Commings, a huge 6-2, 217-pound corner who can play anywhere in the secondary. While he'd be better as a free safety, and he could end up starting the season there, he can handle the bigger receivers without a problem as a corner. A star special teamer as well as a corner, he made 36 tackles with three interceptions. 6-0, 190-pound sophomore
Jordan Love made nine tackles in his limited time, but he's extremely quick and very active with the ability to work as a nickel or dime back when needed. He'll get more chances at corner this year.
6-0, 218-pound junior Bacarri Rambo didn't get any All-SEC recognition, but he deserved a spotlight after finishing second on the team with 82 tackles with three picks and five tackles for loss. The veteran free safety has great range with the versatility to play either safety spot, and he'll be moved around where needed to once again be a statistical star. Now he needs to be more consistent. If Commings starts at free safety, Rambo will work at strong safety.
Depending on what happens with the corner situation, junior Shawn Williams will either be the starting strong safety or he'll be a key backup. At 6-1 and 220 pounds he's a good-sized strong safety with the speed to work at free safety if needed. He started three times making 34 tackles, but he didn't make enough big plays. While he'll see more than his share of time at safety, he'll also work as a key special teamer.
Watch Out For … Commings. Georgia's defensive coaches have stressed that they are interested in having as much size on the field as possible at all times, and that's where Commings comes in. He'll likely move to safety full-time, but when he's at corner and Williams is in at safety, this secondary will be huge.
Strength: Experience. Williams is a backup who might as well be another starter in the secondary, while Rambo, Commings, Boykin, and Smith are veterans who know what they're doing. This group didn't give up a slew of touchdown passes and it should be a wall at times.
Weakness: Good passing teams. The Bulldogs shut down Stephen Garcia and the South Carolina passing game, but Arkansas bombed away for 380 yards and Kentucky's Mike Hartline chucked it for 353 yards and four scores. Cam Newton completed 12-of-16 passes, and Tennessee quarterbacks combined to complete 17-of-25 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown with a pick. It's not like the Dawgs went against a slew of other good passing teams.
Outlook: The secondary was terrific at times last year and it should be among the league's best this year. Boykin is an all-star talent who'll finally get more attention, and Rambo will put up good numbers. There's versatility and a nice blend of size, speed, and options.
Unit Rating: 8.5
State of the Unit: Senior Blair Walsh has been one of the nation's best placekickers over the last two years. After hitting 20-of-22 field goals with one miss coming from beyond 50 yards, he was just as strong last year nailing 20-of-23 kicks including a 53 yarder. With a big leg, three years of experience, and clutch ability, he'll be on the short list for the Lou Groza Award.
Senior Drew Butler won the Ray Guy Award in 2009 with a 48.1-yard average putting 19 inside the 20, and followed it up with another terrific year averaging 44.5 yards per kick with 19 put inside the 20 and with 16 fair catches. Georgia finished fourth in the nation in net punting, and while the coverage teams provided a ton of help, Butler did his job.
Brandon Boykin wasn't just the team's top corner, but he was also terrific on kickoff returns averaging 24.3 yards per try with a score. He's also going to get a long look at punt returner, but he's not going to push out Branden Smith, who averaged 14.3 yards per try on his ten attempts.
Watch Out For … Butler to win his second Ray Guy Award in three years. His average went down a bit last year but he was every bit as good as he was when he won the honor in 2009. He works tremendously well with his coverage team.
Strength: The kicking game. There are kicking tandems out there with as much experience, but Butler and Walsh were the best 1-2 punch last year and they will be again. Georgia has a huge advantage here.
Weakness: Kickoff returns … and this is really, really nitpicking. Boykin was awesome averaging 24.3 yards per try, but teams started to stay away from him and Georgia finished with a 20.7-yard average – tenth in the SEC. When Boykin is getting his chances, though, the return game is a plus.
Outlook: After improving the coverage teams in a big way, the special teams became dominant last year. The kicking game will be phenomenal again and the return game will be explosive. It'll be a shocker if the Dawgs don't have the best special teams in the SEC, if not the country.
Unit Rating: 10
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