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2023 Defense By the Numbers


Alec Smith
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2023 Defense By the Numbers

            I grew up on the “Junkyard Dawgs” defenses of the early 2000’s. My favorite Dawg of all time is David Pollack, and he was the reason why I wanted to play defensive end in little league. Sadly, my 6-foot, 150-pound frame did not project to the SEC level of play, but players like Greg Blue, Sean Jones, Richard Seymour, Thomas Davis, Boss Bailey, and Champ Bailey were some of the reasons why I fell in love with this sport at a young age. I think that I am safe to say that the “Junkyard Dawgs” have returned and are here to stay.

            The 2022 UGA Defense finished 10th in the country (1st in the SEC) in yards per game allowed at 296.8. Georgia’s opponents converted 3rd Downs at just 26.6%, which was good for 2nd in the nation. Not a surprise to most, the Bulldogs once again led the country in rushing defense, giving up only 77.1 YPG, 2.88 YDS/RUSH, and 7 rushing TD’s. Even after facing 5 teams with a top 30 offense (Tennessee, Ohio State, Oregon, LSU, and TCU), the Dawgs finished 5th in PPGa at 14.27.

            I could go on and on about how great that defense was, but let’s focus on what we have to look forward to in 2023. Same deal as last time, we are going through PFF grades and snap counts for all eligible returning players. To help with formatting, the column titles are shortened to: Grade=Overall Grade, RDEF=Rush Defense Grade, PRUSH=Pass Rush Grade, COV=Coverage Grade, T Snaps= Total Snaps, RD Sn=Rush Defense Snaps, PR Sn=Pass Rush Snaps, COV Sn=Coverage Snaps.

Cornerbacks

Name

Grade

RDEF

PRUSH

COV

T Snaps

RD Sn

PR Sn

COV Sn

J. Bullard

80.5

73.1

71.6

80.4

624

193

23

408

K. Lassiter

73.0

81.0

65.3

71.1

825

276

2

547

Tykee Smith

71.4

71.2

60.3

70.7

256

90

14

152

N. Green

69.4

66.2

64.3

66.5

38

18

1

19

D. Everette

62.4

76.5

-

59.4

141

52

-

89

J. Humphrey

61.1

62.1

-

60.1

24

11

-

13

**S. Bouie

63.5

51.0

-

66.6

116

64

-

52

**Denotes Incoming Transfer

            Georgia lost their #1 corner, Kelee Ringo, in the NFL Draft to Athens North (Philadelphia). Kamari Lassiter is slotted to fill Ringo’s shoes and should be more than up to the challenge. Lassiter boasts the 2nd most snaps played in 2022 of any returning defenders and allowed a QB Rating of 83.7 when targeted in 2022. Admittedly, Lassiter does not have the straight-line speed of recent CB1’s, meaning he will have to rely on technique and physicality to deter homerun threat WR’s.

            One of the bigger question marks going into 2023 is who will solidify themselves as CB2 opposite of Lassiter. Daylen Everette (So), Nyland Green (RS So), Julian Humphrey (RS Fr), along with incoming Texas A&M transfer, Smoke Bouie (So), were all highly touted recruits with SEC playing experience that could see the field early and often. Kirby also added 4* AJ Harris, 4* Justyn Rhett, 4* Daniel Harris, and 4* Chris Peal from the 2023 recruiting cycle to further supplement the DB room.

            Javon Bullard and Tykee Smith play more as a strong safety/star rather than a traditional boundary corner. Nonetheless, both are extremely talented at what they do and will be major contributors to the 2023 defense. Tykee, former West Virgina DB, earned 3rd Team All American honors in 2020 while he was a Mountaineer and will look to return to prime form this year. Javon Bullard returns as Georgia’s 2nd highest graded defender and one of the best DB’s in the country. He is also seen by most as a projected 1st Rounder in the 2024 Draft.

Safeties

Name

Grade

RDEF

PRUSH

COV

T Snaps

RD Sn

PR Sn

COV Sn

D. Jackson

80.7

63.8

-

84.2

126

38

-

88

D. Daniel-Sisavanh

69.0

74.2

-

66.6

165

49

-

116

M. Starks

67.1

72.1

58.1

64.8

847

278

8

561

J. Thomas

58.9

60.3

-

58.0

38

21

-

17

 

            Just as everyone expected, Dan Jackson is Georgia’s highest graded returning defender (min. 100 snaps). Really though, Jackson comes back as one of the most experienced members of the 2023 DB room and will certainly help fill the void left by the departure of Christopher Smith. True freshman phenom, Malaki Starks, looks to build on his standout rookie year and will be a cornerstone of the secondary for next season. In 2022, Starks had 68 total tackles, 1.5 TFL, and 2 INT’s, earning a spot on PFF’s True Freshman All American Team.

            As discussed above, Javon Bullard and Tykee Smith have a solid grip on the strong safety/star position. David Daniel-Sisavanh and JaCorey Thomas will look to expand their roles in the secondary next year alongside 2023 5* Joenel Aguero. Joenel is one of my spotlight players from the 2023 cycle. He is a very versatile prospect, excelling on offense, defense, and special teams in his senior year of high school. Aguero is a ferocious run stopper that fills alleys similar to Richard LeCounte and Lewis Cine. He also has the speed and ball skills to matchup well in man coverage.

 

Linebackers

Name

Grade

RDEF

PRUSH

COV

T Snaps

RD Sn

PR Sn

COV Sn

J. Dumas-Johnson

72.6

79.9

73.4

56.2

671

244

80

347

E.J. Lightsey

66.8

67.4

59.1

62.7

19

12

1

6

S. Mondon

64.4

63.2

63.2

63.2

653

221

112

320

X. Sorey

49.9

31.8

55.9

62.8

90

21

26

43

 

            The Bulldogs return arguably the best LB room in the country, not to mention the excellent additions made via the ’23 recruiting class. Junior ILB Jamon Dumas-Johnson headlines a group of seasoned and talented backers. JDJ finished 2022 with 70 total tackles, 9.0 TFL, 4.0 sacks, and 1 FF. This outstanding performance earned him the titles of All-SEC 2nd Team and Butkus Award Finalist. Smael Mondon has certainly arrived on the scene as the other primary off-ball linebacker, racking up 76 total tackles (1st on the team), 8.0 TFL, and 1 INT in 13 games last year.

            Georgia, like their philosophy of running back management, cycle in and out defensive players like a revolver loaded with five stars. In 2022, 23 players recorded at least 10 tackles, and 18 players picked up a sack. 2023 5* Raylen Wilson, 4* CJ Allen, and 4* Troy Bowles will all certainly be throwing their hat in the ring for playing time come September.

Interior D-Line

Name

Grade

RDEF

PRUSH

COV

T Snaps

RD Sn

PR Sn

COV Sn

Jonathan Jefferson

83.6

73.9

82.4

-

28

17

11

-

N. Stackhouse

73.8

86.1

53.1

62.1

473

186

287

-

W. Brinson

72.3

65.8

72.6

61.0

272

103

168

1

C. Miller

64.9

61.2

67.1

-

45

27

18

-

Z. Logue

58.0

58.2

56.4

59.9

332

129

202

1

 

            Jordan Davis, Devonte Wyatt, Jalen Carter… who will be the next hand in the dirt lineman to make a name for themself? The Dawgs bring back plenty of snaps and experience with the trio of Nazir Stackhouse (Sr), Warren Brinson (Sr), and Zion Logue (RS Sr). The collection of upperclassmen accounted for 61 tackles and 6 TFL last year. A majority of UGA’s QB pressures come from the defensive end/ edge position, with the DT and NT taking on the honorable roles of eating blocks. Even with Bear Alexander heading out West, I firmly believe that pivotal, run stuffing, double-team eating part of Georgia’s scheme will be alive and well in the hands of Nazir, Warren, and Zion.

            What do most great teams have in common? - A healthy blend of experienced players with solid depth of young guys behind them. Guess what? – The Bulldogs just happen to be a great team. Christen Miller (RS Fr), 2023 5* Jordan Hall, and 4* Jamaal Jarrett are all prime suspects to push for playing time. As Graham and Jason have mentioned before, the staff sees a lot of potential in Jarrett and Hall.

 

Edge Defenders

Name

Grade

RDEF

PRUSH

COV

T Snaps

RD Sn

PR Sn

COV Sn

M. Williams

71.5

75.9

66.1

60.8

410

117

291

2

J. Walker

63.2

75.7

61.5

57.2

118

25

64

29

C. Chambliss

61.2

67.7

63.3

45.6

249

84

119

46

T. Ingram-Dawkins

60.2

56.8

61.1

60.9

206

79

124

3

T. Walthour

58.4

62.4

51.8

64.5

283

106

168

9

M. Jones Jr.

56.0

50.5

56.1

56.1

66

27

29

10

C.J. Madden

49.4

54.9

-

-

3

3

-

-

D. Smith

26.4

58.4

57.7

25.0

18

12

3

3

 

            Some of these guys may be considered as/ can play either off-ball linebackers or IDL, but PFF has them classified as Edge players. Getting straight into it, Mykel Williams (So) could very well end up as not only one of the best players on the 2023 roster but as one of the best players in the country. Williams was a 5* (No. 4 OVR) in the 2022 cycle and heralds from Hardaway HS in Columbus, GA. Also named to PFF’s Freshman All-America Team, Mykel had 28 total tackles, 6.5 TFL, and 4.5 sacks.

            Speaking of young talent, Jalon Walker (So.) could be a really interesting piece to the puzzle next year. Walker has been out for the spring but showed potential when asked to fill in for an injured Nolan Smith. Expect Jalon to take snaps at both ILB and Edge, but he will have to stave off 5* Damon Wilson, 4* Samuel M’Pemba, and 4* Gabriel Harris at the Sam LB. Chaz Chambliss (Jr) and Marvin Jones Jr. (So) will see a lot of downs at the Jack LB, opposite Walker and company.

            Tramel Walthour (RS Sr) and Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins (RS So) both play more of the traditional defensive end rather than a stand-up edge. The duo come out of the 2022 season with over 200 snaps played and will be valuable compliments to the front seven of the Dawgs.

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