The Georgia Bulldogs are one of the better programs in the country when it comes to churning out prospects for the NFL. This is largely due to tremendous recruiting, but also give credit to HC Mark Richt and co. for turning good high school players into elite professional prospects. The 2014 Bulldog team once again features an abundance of top prospects, especially in the linebacking unit. So who are the top prospects this fall?
First we broke down the top offensive prospects HERE, and now we’ll breakdown the top defensive prospects. Again, only players eligible for the 2015 NFL Draft will be discussed.
You have to start with the linebackers, because this just might be the best starting unit in the country. OLB’s Jordan Jenkins, a junior, and Leonard Floyd, a sophomore who spent a year at prep school, are simply tremendous athletes who know how to get to the QB. The two combined for 11.5 sacks in ’13 playing hybrid DE/OLB edge rushing roles, in addition to a whopping 45 QB hurries combined.
Jenkins (6-foot 3, 246-pounds), may not have the length to play OLB in a professional 3-4, but I like the possibility of playing strong side in a 4-3, not only because of his pass rushing prowess, but also his ability to remain stout against the run. Floyd has an unbelievably high ceiling, and is only just starting to tap into his limitless potential. He shows not only an explosive first step, but the violent hands necessary to keep long arms from opposing offensive tackles off his chest. I like his future in either 3-4 or 4-3 fronts at the next level.
In the middle of the linebacking unit is seniors Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera, who both look to have the ability to play inside on multiple fronts and schemes. The two combined for a mind-boggling 245 tackles in ’13, to go along with 16 QB hurries. Wilson has the higher ceiling of the two, and shows very impressive interior rushing up the middle (4 sacks last year). He has the sideline-to-sideline speed to cover a lot of ground and is decent, though improving, in coverage. Herrera seems tailor-made for an odd front, especially because of how strong he is against the run.
Up front for the ‘Dawgs is senior DE Ray Drew, a former mega recruit who struggled early in his career, but really came on strong last year, racking 6 sacks, 8 TFLs and 12 hurries. Drew has good size at 6-foot 5, 276-pounds, and has the versatility to play in multiple schemes. Truly, in my very humble opinion, I think his absolute best position as a pro would be to move inside to 3-tech, where his first step and ability to penetrate would absolutely wreak havoc on the pocket. Plus, he’s still got the girth and strength to hold at the point of attack.
Finally we get to the secondary, which is led by senior Damian Swann, who’s looking to bounce back after a somewhat rocky junior campaign. Swann showed NFL-caliber coverage skills playing the nickel in 2012, and impressed with four INTs, but had some difficulty playing ‘on an island’ in single man. I think at worst Swann could be a solid nickel back at the next level, but I think he’s got the raw skills to play outside as well, though he’ll have to prove that this year in his final season in Athens.