Despite some monumental struggles, the Georgia Bulldogs do have some bright spots on defense coming out of the Todd Grantham era (and boy, does that sound nice to say). In particular, the linebackers being fielded by the Dawgs are among the tops in the SEC, and quite possibly in the nation.
While Grantham’s “scheme” (which I’m still convinced was a defensive version of plays being drawn in the dirt with a stick and rocks) may have come under question on more than one occasion, you can’t deny that the man knew how to recruit, and some of his best recruiting may have come at the linebacker position.
Georgia has had some of the best linebackers in the game, many of whom have gone on to the NFL — Akeem Dent, Dannell Ellerbe, Justin Houston, Alec Ogletree and of course, Jarvis Jones, to name a few — but this current crop of LBs may be the best seen at the school yet.
Inside linebackers Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera are sure fire All-SEC candidates this season, who can change the timbre of a game in a big hurry. In 2013, the pair combined for 245 total tackles, 4.5 sacks, 16 TFL, one forced fumble, and one interception. That puts them right near the top of the nation in ILB duos.
Last year’s freshman breakout player at outside linebacker was Leonard Floyd, who posted 55 total tackles, 6.5 sacks, 9.5 TFL, and 2 forced fumbles. Floyd is already being looked at as NFL material and is on some preseason watch lists, with plenty more to come I’m sure.
All-SEC linebacker Jordan Jenkins is another OLB who put up some pretty good numbers, racking up 45 tackles on the season, including a team-high 12 TFL, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.
Those combined stats — 345 tackles, 11 sacks, 37 TFL, and three forced fumbles — are better than any group of linebackers in the nation. But stats don’t always tell the whole story.
The thing that makes this linebacker corps so dangerous isn’t just the great numbers those four guys are able to put up, but the way they play as a unit, and seem to be able to find the ball at any given time. Had it not been for Georgia’s linebackers, the oft-exploited secondary would have been in much deeper trouble last season.
Now if you take players like this, and add a defensive coordinator who actually instills discipline (as opposed to just yelling and frothing at the mouth) and has a solid plan and formations, they could easily just take over games with their speed and instincts. Add the depth that Georgia already has with several talented players waiting in the wings, not to mention incoming recruits over the next two season, and it bodes well for the middle of the Dawgs defense.
The best in the nation? If you stack them up against other schools, it’s quite possible. While some schools have some outstanding individual players (Alabama’s Trey Depriest and Mississippi State’s Benardrick McKinney leap to mind), I’m not sure there is a school in the nation that can boast a group of linebackers as good as the ones that Georgia fields.
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