April 22, 2011

Who will start on the D?

After breaking down the offense and projecting the starting lineup for the season-opener against Boise State, it's time to turn our attention to the defensive side.

Like the offense, several members of the Bulldogs' "Dream Team" are in line for considerable action on the defensive side as well.

Below, UGASports takes a look at the defense and who we think will line up where in the opener against the Broncos:

Defensive Line: No doubt this has been the most talked about position on Todd Grantham's squad, particularly the nose where the impending arrival of Jonathan Jenkins has been likened to that of a conquering hero on his way home from battle. At 6-foot-4 and 361 pounds (at last report), "Big Jenks" is being viewed by many as being that exclamation point, that immovable object, that one player who can successfully handle double-teams and anchor what was last year - at times - a very porous position for the Bulldogs.

Jenkins gets to Athens in May, but already his presence has lit some kind of bonfire under redshirt sophomore Kwame Geathers, who entered spring determined to prove to his coaches he's not ready to become an after-thought to their defensive plans.

That's just what happened as Geathers went on to earn Defensive MVP honors for the spring, to the point where he is now expected to play an integral role for the Bulldogs this fall.

Also, Geathers' improvement has allowed senior DeAngelo Tyson to slide from nose to right defensive end, where he will pair with junior Abry Jones - which on paper - could be a stout defensive line. Garrison Smith and Derrick Lott (who had two sacks in G-Day) will get their share of reps as well, with redshirt freshman Mike Thornton getting some chances at nose on passing downs. The Bulldogs did sign Chris Mayes in February, but he could be a redshirt candidate sans any injury at the position.

UGASports Projected Starting Lineup: Nose - Geathers, Jenkins (based on Geathers' spring, although both will obviously play a lot), Thornton; RE - Tyson, Lott; LE - Jones, Smith.

CONCERNS: Although there is talent, there's not a lot of depth so any major injury could wind up being devastating.

Linebackers: Georgia will certainly miss Justin Houston who has taken his talents to the NFL, but fortunately the Bulldogs have Jarvis Jones to help take up the slack.

The Southern Cal transfer won't play Houston's old position at Will - he will plan Sam -but with his versatility, his hard-hitting approach and proverbial nose for the football, expect Jones to make a SIGNFICANT impact.

As for Houston's old spot at Will, it will be interesting to see how Cornelius Washington handles his move there from Sam. Washington remains one of the more imposing physical specimens on the Bulldogs, but the junior is expected to get some serious competition from incoming freshman Ray Drew.

Reuben Faloughi and Chase Vasser also improved their stock during the spring, while coaches also expect sophomore T.J. Stripling (patella tendon) and redshirt freshman Dexter Morant (shoulder) to be ready for the start of practice.

Incoming freshman Sterling Bailey would also have been likely to play his first year, but after undergoing surgery in March to repair a torn labrum, his status for 2011 appears a bit more questionable.

As for the inside linebackers, Christian Robinson is the unquestioned starter at Mike while Alec Ogletree's move from safety to Moe has thus far been nothing but a success.

The jury still remains somewhat out on Richard Samuel, with returnees Mike Gilliard and Brandon Burrows figuring into the mix as well.

Expect incoming freshmen Amarlo Herrera, Ramik Wilson and Kent Turene to also get close looks, although Grantham said recently it has not been decided yet what position they might play.

UGASports Projected Starting Lineup: Will - Washington, Drew, Faloughi; Sam - Jones, Stripling, Vasser; Moe - Ogletree, Samuel, Gillard; Mike - Robinson, Burrows.

Defensive backs: The secondary will certainly have a new look this fall with Ogletree opening a spot at free safety and Sanders Commings moving to the position from cornerback.

Senior Brandon Boykin will once again be the anchor at short corner, with Branden Smith the early favorite to start on the wide side.

Of the backups, Jordan Love was impressive this spring and will play a lot, particularly in nickel downs with Derek Owens getting the opportunity to do the same.

There's plenty of incoming freshmen to watch, beginning with Damien Swann, Nick Marshall, Chris Sanders and Devin Bowman.

At safety, Bacarri Rambo missed most of spring with an MCL sprain but will be back to start for the third straight year at strong safety, with Commings, Jakar Hamilton, Shawn Williams, Marc Deas and incoming freshman Corey Moore each getting a look at free, while cross training to backup Rambo on the strong side.

UGASports Projected Starting Lineups: Short corner -Boykin, Love; Wide Corner - Smith, Owens; Strong Safety - Rambo, Williams; Free Safety - Commings, Hamilton.

Concerns: Georgia's corners will need to play more physical to keep from getting jammed at the line of scrimmage. This isn't necessarily a worry in regards to Boykin, but Smith, Owens and perhaps Love still need to learn to be more physical at the point of attack.

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