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Looking Back - 2018 Defensive Tackle - How Did Georgia Do?

Jason Brassell

It's always fun to look back and review the recruiting choices that Georgia made. There are always going to be guys that you can look back on and say "man, I wish we would have gone after him", especially in-state guys. We're never going to say UGA was wrong in signing a player that came to Athens and gave his all to help the team. If they came here, put in the work, stayed out of trouble, then I believe they deserve some respect for that. We'll never be the type of site to bash our own, whether they were a key contributor or a third stringer. That's not who we are.

Last week we looked at Kenny McIntosh and the 2019 running back class. It was interesting to see who got immediate playing time and who had to wait their turn, like McIntosh has behind Zamir White and James Cook. I guarantee you when this class signed that hardly anyone looked down the list and saw Iowa State signee Breece Hall as the star of the class. We're excited to see how McIntosh does in his new role as one of the featured backs.

Today, we'll take a look back at the 2018 dfensive tackle class. Much like Hall and Iowa State mentioned above, if you look at their rating, many outside of UGA circles didn't expect the production that came from this class. That's part of what makes following recruiting fun, you get to see how these guys develop. It's much more than signing every five star you cna get and throwing them on the field. The development and production from these 2018 defensive tackles are one of the main reasons, if not the main reason, Georgia was able to win a national championship last season.

Just in case someone missed every single UGA game last season, Jordan Davis was the key in the middle of the defense that allowed the Dawgs to shut down almost every offense they faced. His ability to take on two to three blockers allowed guys like Nakobe Dean and Nolan Smith to apply pressure and hit open gaps where blockers should have been. Devonte Wyatt actually signed with UGA earlier, but had to spend some time at Hutchinson Community College and come in with Davis in the 2018 class. He was originally a 4* and the #17 defensive tackle in the nation in the 2017 class. For this article, we'll still compare him to the 2018 class that he came in with.

Wyatt surprised the nation, including some Georgia fans, because of how athletic he was coming from his defensive tackle position. Heading into this last season and even after a productive 2020 season, all eyes were still on Jordan Davis and #1 overall pick Travon Walker. Wyatt quickly made a name for himself and started jumping up draft boards. Tramel Walthour also orginally signed in the 2018 class, but had to spend a year at Hutchinson like Wyatt. He signed again with Georgia and came to Athens with the 2019 class, so he'll be reviewed with those guys.

Wyatt was actually rated higher than Davis in the 2018 class. He came in as the #6 overall JUCO prospect and the #2 JUCO defensive tackle in the nation. Davis was the #424 overall high school prospect and #29 defensive tackle in the nation. Of course Davis had and has the ability to create pressure of his own and can run sideline to sideline, even at 340-350 pounds. He's showed the abiltiy to catch running backs from behind going across the line of scrimmage. With his unselfish responsibily of getting the attention of as many offensive linemen as he can, he won't have eye popping stats. As evidenced by the 2022 NFL Draft, his importance to a defense can't be overlooked. Wyatt's speed and first step allowed him to consistently create havoc in the backfield.

Let's take a look at some of the well known and not so known prospects that were ranked ahead of Davis and Wyatt, who were both taken in the first round of this year's NFL draft. Davis was selected #13 overall by the Eagles and was the first defensive tackle taken. Wyatt went #28 overall to the Packers and was the second defensive tackle taken. 2018 defensive tackle prospects ranked ahead of them include names such as Taron Vincent (5*, #1 DT), Josh Belk (4*, #7 DT), Rick Sandidge (4*, #14 DT), Christian Barmore (4*, #16 DT), and Dare Rosenthal (4*, #24 DT). Antwuan Jackson (#1 overall JUCO) was ranked ahead of Wyatt coming out of JUCO. Jackson went undrafted this year, but has been invited to the New York Giants rookie mini camp. All of the high school recruits mentioned above with the exception of Rosenthal were also rated higher than Wyatt.

Here's a closer look at where things stand with the two Georgia stars and the well known guys that were ranked above them. Some were targeted by the Dawgs and some were not. One factor to consider is if these defensive tackles are in a three or four man front, as players in a four man front aren't necessarily required to take on blockers and can put up better stats:

Taron Vincent will use his fifth season of eligibility this season. So far he's had an underwhelming career. UGA did target him early on. Nesta Silvera will also be using his fifth season of eligibility, only he'll be playing in a different uniform at Arizona State. Tommy Togiai was drafted in 2021 after three seasons at Ohio State. Robert Cooper is another super senior who will be using his fifth year of eligibility. He's from the state of Georgia and his older brother David Cooper was hired as the Director of Recruiting Relations at UGA last summer. He is a huge Georgia's recruiting process and is often mentioned by top targets as a key to why they chose the Dawgs. UGA just didn't seem to go too hard after David, even before we knew Jordan Davis was coming. Coynis Miller started his career at Auburn, before transferring to Jackson State to play for Deion Sanders last season. He is now in the transfer portal again.

Greg Emerson was highly ranked going into hsi freshman season at Tennessee and was a contributor in the 2019 season. He didn't get much playing time in 2020 and put his name in the transfer portal. He transferred to Memphis, but did not play in 2021. Rick Sandidge had heavy interest in UGA coming out of high school. He ended up staying at home and becoming a Gamecock. It was rumored that he tried to jump  on board with the Dawgs at the last second, but nothing has ever been confirmed and will likely never be. He missed all of last year with an injury that he is still recovering from. Christian Barmore was a big target for UGA before he decided to become a member of the Crimson Tide. He played two seasons at Alabama befroe being drafted by the New England Patriots with the 38th overall pick in the second round of the 2021 draft. Rosenthal signed with LSU out of high school and moved to offensive tackle after his freshman season. He spent three years in Baton Rouge and won a national championship with the Tigers. A violation of team rules that would cause him to miss multiple games sent him to the transfer portal, where he decided to play the 2021 season at Kentucky. He started 12 of 13 games at left tackle for the Wildcats and signed with the Atlanta Falcaons in May as an undrafted free agent. UGA didn't recruit Darnell Jeffries very much out of high school and the 3* ended up at Clemson. After three years of not getting much playing time with the Tigers, he has transferred to Minnesota, where he'll have two additional years to finish his college career.

2018 Top Defensive Tackles Career Stats
Jordan Davis 3*, #424 overall, #29 DT UGA PHI, Rd 1, Pk 13 90 11.5 7.0 0 0 0 1
Devonte Wyatt 4*, #6 JUCO overall, #2 JUCO DT UGA GB, Rd 1, Pk 28 113 12.0 5.0 2 2 0 3
Taron Vincent 5*, #20 overall, #1 DT OhSt College 33 5.5 2.0 0 0 0 0
Nesta Silvera 4*, #54 overall, #2 DT Miami/AzSt College 105 16.0 2.0 1 2 0 1
Tommy Togiai 4*, #55 overall, #3 DT OhSt CLE, Rd 4, Pk 132 49 8.5 3.0 1 0 0 3
Robert Cooper 4*, #117 overall, #9 DT FSU College 104 12.0 2.5 0 1 0 3
Coynis Miller 4*, #120 overall, #10 DT Aub/JackSt College 14 1.5 0.5 0 1 0 2
Greg Emerson 4*, #136 overall, #13 DT Tenn/Mem College 31 4.0 2.0 0 0 0 2
Rick Sandidge 4*, #141 overall, #14 DT USCe College 29 4.0 1.5 0 0 0 0
Christian Barmore 4*, #176 overall, #16 DT Ala NE, Rd 2, Pk 38 63 15.5 10.0 3 0 0 5
Dare Rosenthal 4*, #305 overall, #24 DT (OT) LSU/Ken ATL, UDFA              
Darnell Jefferies 3*, #560 overall, #42 DT Clem College 16 1.0 0.5 0 0 0 0
^^^Rank according to 247sports composite rankings

As you can tell, there aren't many defensive tackles from the 2018 class that could come close to Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt. While Togiai has done good for himself, Barmore is the only one who is not still in college who could compare to the two Dawg favorites. Silvera and Cooper have put up impressive numbers in college, but both could have declared for the draft last year. Why didn't they? Kirby Smart and company definitely got it right with these two top Dawgs!



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