Georgia Preview 2006 - Defense
Preview 2006 - UGA Bulldog Defense
What you need to know ...
Georgia's run defense wasn't a rock last year allowing 144 yards
per game, and there could be more problems early on after losing
its top three defensive tackles and needing the injury-riddled
linebacking corps to get healthy. The secondary is also an issue
losing three All-SEC performers, but the safeties should be
solid led by speedy Tra Battle. Cornerback will be a problem if
Paul Oliver doesn't shine, and depth needs developing just
about everywhere. On the plus side, few teams will be better at
getting to the quarterback with ends Quentin Moses and Charles
Johnson certain to be in opposing backfields all season long.
Even with all the concerns, Georgia has athletes to burn and, if
nothing else, its D should be able to simply outrun most teams.
Quentin Moses, 11.5
Interceptions: Tra Battle, Paul Oliver, 3
Star of the defense: Senior DE Quentin Moses
Cornerback, overall developed depth
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior CB
Unsung star on the rise: Junior CB Paul Oliver
Best pro prospect: Moses
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Moses, 2)
DE Charles Johnson, 3) SS Tra Battle
Strength of the defense: Pass rushing, overall speed
Weakness of the defense:
Don't expect much drop in production even after
losing tackles Kendric Golston, Gerald Anderson and Darrius Swain. The
concern isn't talent on the inside; it's bulk. The 277-pound Ray Gant
and 280-pound Jeff Owens are tremendous prospects with enough experience
to have huge years, but they're not all that big compared to former
Bulldog tackles. The backups are bigger, but have no experience
whatsoever. Getting to the quarterback won't be an issue thanks to the
return of Quentin Moses for what should be an All-America season to go
along with the
likely emergence of Charles Johnson on the other side. There's speed to
burn among the backup ends.
The key to the unit: Quickly developing the backup
tackles to create a productive rotation.
Defensive Line Rating: 8
- DE Charles Johnson, Jr. - 23 tackles, 4 sacks, 8.5 TFL,
28 quarterback hurries
It'll be up to Johnson to take over for Will Thompson after spending the
last two years as a key reserve. Bulking up to 275 pounds, he can more
than hold his own against the run. The big question going into last year
was whether or not he could be a top pass rusher, and he came through in
a big way showing a great knack for generating pressure. He'll thrive
with everyone worrying about Quentin Groves on the other side.
- DT Ray Gant, Sr. - 19 tackles, 2 sacks, 2.5 TFL, 16 quarterback
Gant hasn't been able to recapture the magic of a great freshman year
when he made 39 tackles. He's an undersized tackle at only 277 pounds
and needs to be part of a rotation. Even so, he's experienced with 11
starts and 34 career appearances. At his size, he has to use his
quickness to make more plays in the backfield and be more of an interior
- DT Jeff Owens, Soph. - 17 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 3 TFL, 16 quarterback hurries
It's Owens' time to shine. The 280-pound sophomore made a nice impact as
a true freshman seeing time from game one and showed flashes of becoming
a good interior pass rusher. He's not a space-eater at 280 pounds, but
he's athletic and should grow into a top all-around defender over the
next three years.
- DE Quentin Moses, Sr. - 44 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 20.5 TFL, 38
The hope was for Moses to go from being a solid situational pass rusher
to an All-SEC terror. 11.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss later, he's
going to be on the short list of All-America ends and the leader of the
potentially great Dawg line. He's not huge at 250 pounds and he's not
the best run stopper, but there are few better at consistently getting
to the quarterback. He's also smart being named to the SEC Academic
Honor Roll over the last few years.
- DE Marcus Howard, Jr. - 24 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 6 quarterback
At 220 pounds, Howard is purely a pass rusher playing this year behind
Quentin Moses. While size might be a problem, speed won't be as an
all-star high school sprinter in South Carolina. He started out his
career at linebacker before moving to the line.
- DE Roderick Battle, RFr.
Battle will spend the year playing behind Charles Johnson using his
speed as a situational pass rusher. He's a tremendous athlete with room
to grow into his 6-4 frame.
- DT Dale Dixson, Sr. - 3 tackles, 1 TFL
Dixson will combine with Marquis Elmore as the backups behind Ray Gant.
At 300 pounds, Dixson provides more bulk than Gant, but doesn't have a
lot of experience with only one start and 16 games played. He'll be used
mostly in running situations.
- DT Kade Weston, RFr.
The team's biggest defensive lineman has to make an immediate impact in
the rotation behind Jeff Owens. At 6-5 and 310 pounds, he has a world of
potential not just as a run-clogger, but has a pass rusher with good
quickness and a nose for getting into the backfield.
Georgia survived last year despite a flurry of injury
problems and inconsistent play from its linebackers, but the production of the run defense
dropped. There's no question about the talent with Brandon
Miller, Tony Taylor and Jarvis Jackson forming a tremendous starting
trio, and Danny Verdun Wheeler more than just a superior reserve, but
they can't stay healthy. The hope is for some big-time recruits to
immediately upgrade the depth with Darius Dewberry, Akeem Dent, Akeem
Hebron and Darryl Gamble all good enough to see time right away.
The key to the unit: Staying healthy and making more
plays in the backfield.
Linebacker Rating: 7.5
- Brandon Miller, Jr. - 41 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1
broken up pass
Miller started ten games despite having injury problems all season long.
He's extremely fast and defensive end strong on the strongside, but he
has to prove he can hold up for a full season. At 6-4 he has the height
to be a factor batting down balls, or at least forcing quarterbacks to
alter their throws. He's a tall, rangy player who could handle another
few pounds of muscle without losing his quickness.
- Jarvis Jackson, Sr. - 84 tackles, 1 sack, 4 tackles for loss,
With the linebacking corps being pieced together all season thanks to
injuries and inexperience, Jackson was one of the few rocks finishing
second on the team in tackles starting in ten games on the weakside. He
has had injury problems of his own missing preseason practice last year
with a shoulder injury and missing time during the season with a thumb
problem, but he's a tough player at 218 pounds who always finds his way
around the ball. He hasn't been used much as a pass rusher despite his
quickness on the outside or in the middle.
- Tony Taylor, Sr. - 56 tackles, 1 sack, 5.5 tackles for loss
Taylor has all the talent to be an All-American, but he can't stay
healthy. He returned from a torn ACL that cost him all of 2004 only to
have more knee problems late last year allowing him to only play in nine
games. He made 82 tackles on the weakside in 2003 and should approach
that again either in the middle or back at his old spot
- Danny Verdun Wheeler, Sr. - 62 tackles, 3 tackles for loss
Back for what seems like his ninth year in the program, Verdun Wheeler
has played in 36 games with 20 starts finishing fourth on the team in
tackles last year. For all his experience, he's mainly a very, very good
reserve who fills in when needed on the strongside. He's a strong run defender, but he
isn't as athletic or as quick to the ball as Brandon Miller.
Unfortunately he wasn't able to do anything this spring after having an
injured wrist operated on.
- Marcus Washington, Soph. - 11 tackles
A bowling ball of a player in the middle at 6-0 and 245 pounds, he has
running back quickness and athleticism who could be a great fullback if
moved to the other side of the ball. He had a good first season as a
true freshman and will now play a more prominent role behind Tony Taylor
as a bigger option in the middle.
- Dannell Ellerbe, Soph. - 15 tackles
One of the best athletes in the linebacking corps, Ellerbe hasn't been
able to stay healthy missing spring ball after undergoing shoulder
surgery. He also has problems off the field getting suspended
indefinitely after getting arrested for a DUI and leaving the scene of
The nation's seventh best pass defense is sure to take a
hit losing three starters including a trio of All-SEC starts in Greg
Blue, DeMario Minter and Tim Jennings. Safety should be fine with the
return of start Tra Battle at Rover and Kelin Johnson heading an
interesting group of prospects at free safety, but cornerback is a big,
big concern. Paul Oliver has to grow into the number one coverman and
Thomas Flowers has to do more than just be a top punt returner. As far
as cornerback depth, forget about it until Ramarcus Brown, Asher Allen
and Bryan Evans, all highly touted prospects, are ready. Expect this to
be an area of strength in 2007.
The key to the unit: Cornerback, cornerback,
cornerback. Paul Oliver looks like the real deal, but things could be
dicey for a while until some depth is developed.
Secondary Rating: 7.5
- CB Thomas Flowers, Jr. - 7 tackles, 1 interception
More known for being one of the SEC's top punt returners than for
anything he has done on defense, Flowers now has the job of being a
shutdown corner. Speed isn't an issue and size shouldn't be a problem at
5-10 and 186 pounds, but experience is a big problem and he'll be tested
right off the bat. He'll have to battle to keep the starting corner job,
but the punt return gig is all his.
- FS Kelin Johnson, Jr. - 14 tackles, 1 tackle for loss
It'll be up to Johnson to replace the team's leading tackler, Greg Blue.
He's a good sized safety who's not afraid to throw his body around, but
it wouldn't been nice if he had seen more time in place of Blue. He has
26 games of experience with 28 tackles in his first two years making
most of his big plays on special teams.
- Rover Tra Battle, Sr. - 71 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 3
interceptions, 4 broken up passes
The only returning starter to the secondary after being the only new
starter last year has to be a rock all season long. He's not all that
big for a strong safety at only 176 pounds, but he can flat out fly as
one of the team's fastest players and isn't afraid to get his nose
dirty against the run finishing third on the team in tackles. He has
excellent range in pass coverage.
- CB Paul Oliver, Jr. - 38 tackles, 3, interceptions, 2 broken up
Watch out for Oliver to be the team's new star defensive back. He was a
key reserve last year and wasn't bad when put into the starting role for
two games, and he appears ready to make a jump up in production and be
the team's top cover-corner. In a limited role he still made 28 tackles
and came up with three interceptions. At 6-0 and 205 pounds, size
against the bigger SEC receivers won't be a problem.
- SS C.J. Byrd, Soph. - 8 tackles
Byrd will one day be one of Georgia's top defenders and he might get a
shot at more playing time at free safety. For now, he'll backup Tra
Battle at Rover bringing more size at 6-2 and 186 pounds. He was a key
special teamer last year.
- FS Antavious Coates, RFr.
He has the measurables. Coats is 6-4 and 200 pounds with room to add at
least another ten pounds, and he's fast, fast, fast with wonderful
all-around athletic ability. He got hurt and had to redshirt last year,
but he'll be expected to play a big role pushing Kelin Johnson for time
at free safety.
- CB Asher Allen, RFr.
Allen will quickly become the team's top backup corner. He's a good punt
returner with the athleticism to grow into a shut-down defender once he
learns what he's doing.
Georgia might have the nation's best special teams with a
pair of All-America caliber kickers in PK Brandon Coutu and P Gordon
Ely-Kelso and talented kick returners Ramarcus Brown and Thomas Flowers.
Brown needs to add more pop to what was an average kickoff return game
last year, but everything else is sound with great coverage units and
highlighted by Coutu's big leg.
The key to the unit: Averaging more than 19.46 yards
per kickoff return and getting a little more consistency from PK Brandon
Special Team Rating: 10
- PK Brandon Coutu, Jr. - 23-28 FGs, 45-45 PATs
Coutu is a big-time weapon, He led the SEC in scoring last year with 114
points and showed off a cannon of a leg hitting ten of his 14 field goal
attempts from beyond 40 yards including a 58-yard bomb against UL
Monroe. He has to be more consistent inside the 40, but he should be one
of the best in the nation.
- P Gordon Ely-Kelso, Sr. - 57 punts, 2,443yards, 42.9 average,
23 inside the 20
Ely-Kelso can do it all with a big leg able to
air it out to get the team out of jams, and has fantastic accuracy
putting a whopping 23 kicks inside the 20. He's a big kicker with a
little bit of speed shown off with a 34-yard fake in the win over
- KR Ramarcus Brown, Soph. - The backup corner will spend most of
his time returning kickoffs after averaging 21.2 yards on his four
- PR Thomas Flowers, Jr. - The new starting corner should once
again be one of the SEC's better punt returners after finishing 14th in
the nation averaging 13.7 yards per kick with a 54-yard return for a
score against Tennessee.