Coming into the spring, one of the biggest question marks for the Georgia Bulldogs was the defensive line. However, based on how the unit performed throughout the spring, the Dawgs will once again be extremely tough in the trenches this fall.
Make no mistake about it, defensive line coach Chris Wilson had his work cut out for him. After all, the Bulldogs had the monumental task of replacing four of their top five linemen from last year’s squad, including NFL-bound John Jenkins, Cornelius Washington and Kwame Geathers.
Fortunately for Georgia fans, this year’s team will reload on the defensive line rather than rebuild.
So what will the Dawg defensive line look like this fall? Aside from Garrison Smith at one end, the rest of the positions are still up for grabs.
Nose tackle is the most intriguing position battle on the UGA roster. John Taylor, the favorite to take over the starting spot, spent the entire spring practicing at defensive end. John Atkins, also a contender for significant playing time, shuffled back and forth between nose and end. With these two players (temporarily) out of the mix at nose, Mike Thornton and Chris Mayes took most of the snaps there. While Thornton would appear to have the nod if the season started today, Mayes was impressive yesterday, recording six tackles and a sack.
The competition at defensive end is just as spirited. While Sterling Bailey (three tackles, one sack) played with the starting defense on the Black team, Taylor had an outstanding scrimmage, registering seven tackles—including five solo — and two sacks. Ray Drew (four tackles) and Atkins (a half sack before leaving with a minor injury) also turned in solid performances.
Regardless of who takes the field for the opening snap on August 31, it’s evident that the Bulldogs will have plenty of viable options up front. With Taylor, Atkins and Thornton able to play multiple positions, the Dawgs can move players around in order to get the most favorable matchup.