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Georgia Preview 2006 - Defense
Georgia Bulldogs
Posted Aug 8, 2006

Georgia Bulldogs 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.

Returning Leaders
Tackles: Jarvis Jackson, 84
Sacks: Quentin Moses, 11.5
Interceptions: Tra Battle, Paul Oliver, 3

Star of the defense: Senior DE Quentin Moses
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior CB Thomas Flowers
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:
Cornerback, overall developed depth

Defensive Line
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

Projected Starters
- 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 hurries
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 pass rusher.

- 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 quarterback hurries
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.

Top Backups
- DE Marcus Howard, Jr. - 24 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 6 quarterback hurries
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

Projected Starters
- 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, 11 quarterback hurries
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

Top Backups
- 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 an accident.

Defensive Backs
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

Projected Starters
- 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 passes
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.

Top Backups
- 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.

Special Teams
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 Coutu.
Special Team Rating: 10

Projected Starters
- 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 Arkansas.
- KR Ramarcus Brown, Soph. - The backup corner will spend most of his time returning kickoffs after averaging 21.2 yards on his four attempts.
- 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.

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