UGA Football: Why the Bulldogs will win the SEC East again in 2020

Kirby Smart (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Kirby Smart (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /
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Best group of linebackers in the nation?

Georgia also has a dominant linebacker corps waiting behind its solid defensive line. Athlon Sports ranks the unit No. 1 while Lindy’s Sports ranks it No. 2. Of Georgia’s 76 tackles for loss in 2020, linebackers were responsible for 30.5, and made 17.5 of Georgia’s 31 sacks last season.

Georgia’s best linebacker is Monty Rice. Rice led all defenders with 89 total tackles last season, three of which were for a loss. He also added three pass breakups and 14 quarterback hurries. Rice is Lindy’s Sports’ No. 10 linebacker in the nation. It would be no surprise if Rice were able to get over the 100 tackle mark this coming season.

With Tae Crowder going to the NFL, Quay Walker and Nakobe Dean will compete to see who starts alongside Rice this season. Last season Walker had 23 total tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss including 2.5 sacks, and nine quarterback hurries. Dean was a true freshman but flashed his potential with 25 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries, two pass breakups, and one forced fumble.

Another standout linebacker is Azeez Ojulari. Ojulari led all defensive players in sacks a season ago with 5.5, he also led the defense in quarterback hurries with 39. However, Ojulari isn’t the only Georgia linebacker that has a knack for getting to the quarterback. True freshman Nolan Smith was tied for second on the defense with 2.5 sacks and added 19 quarterback hurries.

One of the lesser-known stars of Georgia’s linebacking corps is Adam Anderson. Anderson played mostly on 3rd and 4th down as a pass-rush specialist. He had 2 sacks and 18 quarterback hurries on the season. His numbers are very similar to Smith’s, but when you look at their snaps you can tell just how productive Anderson really was. In less than half the snaps, Anderson produced the same numbers as Smith.

Coach Smart should give Anderson even more chances to get after the quarterback this season. That will be tough though with a guy like Jermaine Johnson also in the rotation. The former No. 1 ranked junior college transfer made 2.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hurries in his debut season.