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Should We Worry About the Inside Linebackers?


Jim Wood
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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.

2017 ILB Tackles
      Tackles
Rk Player G Solo Ast Tot Sk
1 Roquan Smith 15 85 52 137 6.5
12 Reggie Carter 11 12 24 36 0.5
13 Natrez Patrick 8 13 22 35 0.0
18 Monty Rice 8 10 12 22 0.0
23 Tae Crowder 5 3 4 7 0.0

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.

2021 ILB Tackles
      Tackles
Rk Player G Solo Ast Tot Sk
2 Nakobe Dean 15 36 36 72 6.0
3 Channing Tindall 15 35 32 67 5.5
4 Quay Walker 13 37 28 65 1.5
17 Jamon Dumas-Johnson 9 9 12 21 2.0
25 Smael Mondon Jr. 5 4 6 10 1.0
31 Trezmen Marshall 2 2 4 6 0.0
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.

2018 ILB Tackles
      Tackles
Rk Player G Solo Ast Tot Sk
3 Monty Rice 9 25 34 59 1.0
5 Tae Crowder 14 18 35 53 1.5
9 Natrez Patrick 13 25 19 44 0.0
20 Channing Tindall 9 3 14 17 2.0
29 Quay Walker 3 4 2 6 0.0

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.

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