1. Azeez Ojulari (RSoph.)
2. Adam Anderson (Jr.)
Ojulari has 24 tackles and a team-high 7.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, two fumbles forced, a fumble recovery, two pass breakups, and a team-high 24 quarterback hurries. Anderson has eight tackles, 3.5 sacks, 15 quarterback hurries, and one pass breakup.
Being No. 1 or No. 2 on the depth chart doesn’t mean a ton at this spot because Ojulari. Smith snd Johnson are key pieces to UGA’s defense. Ojulari is a more advanced run defender but he also led the team in sacks a year ago. At 6-foot-3 250 pounds, he’s built more like a traditional 4-3 defensive end and played a ton with his hand on the ground a year ago. Smith is more of the 3-4 outside linebacker type but he, too, is effective against the run. Johnson becomes a big-time possibility here because he added strength and mass during the off-season. He has the best frame of the bunch and might be ready to contribute on every down.
1. Jermaine Johnson (Sr.)
Nolan Smith (Soph.)
Johnson has 14 tackles, four sacks, a pass breakup, and seven quarterback hurries. Smith has 17 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and 14 quarterback hurries.
As we’ve said many times before, the SAM position is really only relevant in the base defense and because of all the three-receiver sets, the Bulldogs are only in base about 15 to 20 percent of the time. Still, the SAM has a role on early downs when Georgia will ask that guy to slide out and play over the slot. Grant is probably Georgia’s best option when it comes to that but Johnson is going to be on the field more because he gives the Bulldogs some versatility when they want to run a 2-4-5 nickel set. Anderson basically plays his own position on passing downs where he is asked to rush, stunt, spy, and drop into coverage.
1. Monty Rice (Sr.)
2. Quay Walker (Jr.)
Rice is second on the team with 42 tackles along with three tackles for loss, one sack, a pass breakup, five quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. Walker has 26 tackles and five quarterback hurries.
Rice has experience playing MIKE linebacker but he has primarily played WILL over the past two seasons. This year we think he moves over to the strong side of the formation where he’ll keep calling the defense and have a chance to be more of a play-side factor. He’s the leader of the linebacker unit and in addition to having a nose for the football, he’s a sure tackler with underrated athleticism. Walker will spell him and his arrow is starting to point upward toward the end of preseason practice. Davis has been dinged up to most of preseason camp and is having a really tough time staying healthy in Athens. If he can get some good injury luck, he should be able to compete for a role.
1. Nakobe Dean (Soph.)
2. Channing Tindall (Jr.)
Dean leads the team with 61 tackles and has 1.5 sacks, with eight quarterback hurries. Tindall has 11 tackles, two sacks, and three quarterback hurries.
The reason we have Rice at MIKE is because it gets Dean on the field at WILL and that’s something Georgia wants to do. Dean has the raw talent to be special at the position and he allows the defense to match up in the passing game because of his coverage ability. He’s probably going to be the guy who stays on the field in the Dime defense, too. He has generated all sorts of positive buzz this preseason. Tindall has showed promise over his first two years, primarily as a blitzer, but he’s at a bit of a crossroads when it comes to getting on the field consistently. He has a chance to be more than a role player. McBride is entering his final season and is likely bound for more special teams work. Marshall will compete with McBride and Davis for a fifth spot.