The consensus concern about Georgia's defense seems to be around the inside linebackers. I've been thinking about this a lot myself, and I've been trying to find a reason to feel better about the fact that we lost Nakobe Dean, Channing Tindall, and Quay Walker.
What I came to realize was my main concern was continuity. For the past several years, we've returned the top (if not the top two) leading tacklers amongst linebackers. There's also been a passing of the leadership torch within the heart of this defense.
In case you missed it, John Powell and I discussed this topic on this week's My God a Podcast.
In 2021, while we lost the prior year's leader of the linebacking corps in Monty Rice, we returned the team's leading tackler at ILB in Nakobe Dean. In 2020, we returned Monty Rice, the leader and leading tackler from 2019. In 2019, again the continuity came from Rice, the leading tackler amongst ILB's in 2018. However, if you go back to 2018, we found ourselves in a similar situation as we are in now. Let's take a look at tackle production from the 2017 team.
If you're anything like me, the first thing you notice is, "holy crap Roquan Smith," but I digress. Look at these names. In 2018, Roquan Smith and Reggie Carter were gone. And who did I already say was the leader at ILB in 2018? Monty Rice. The same Monty Rice that played in only 8 games with 22 total tackles in 2017.
For comparison sake, here's the same data from 2021.
|25||Smael Mondon Jr.||5||4||6||10||1.0|
|40||Xavian Sorey Jr.||2||1||1||2||0.0|
Just like in 2018, we are losing a whole lot. But, take a look at the leading returning tackler from last season. Jamon Dumas-Johnson registered very similar statistics in 2021 as compared to Monty Rice in 2017. And just to put some numbers behind my statement that Rice was the leader in 2018, here's that data.
So I suppose my point is, we have seen something similar before. We can look back to the transition from 2017 to 2018 and see that Kirby Smart was able to get a true sophomore to step up and fill some pretty big shoes. Here's to hoping he can do the same thing with Dumas-Johnson in 2022 that he did with Monty Rice in 2018.