UGA's Best Player? Probably on Dawgs' Defense

May 19, 2020

ATHENS - You can’t know when a big season is coming. For the first four years of Kirby’s tenure it felt like the offense was the lead dog. Jacob Eason, Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and Jake Fromm. The headliners have been on the offensive side of the ball for the Dawgs. 

Don’t look now, but with the exception of George Pickens at receiver, it looks like Georgia’s defense is going to lead the way. Nolan Smith‍. Travon Walker‍. Richard LeCounte III‍. Those three probably won’t be household names nationally, but they are some of the best players in this program. 

Quarterbacks always get the bulk of the attention, and there’s a lot of momentum behind Wake Forrest transfer Jamie Newman. If he turns out to be the best player on the Dawgs’ roster look out. To review, Newman has been praised by more than a few folks as the best quarterback in the SEC for 2020. He’s currently listed at +600 to win the Heisman Trophy. That’s the third-best in the nation. 

In a UGA player head to New York for the Heisman presentation that means a lot of positive things for the Dawgs. I will believe that when I see it (UGA hasn’t had a player at the Heisman ceremony in decades), but if that happens not only do you know that you’ve had a great season as a program, but Georgia is almost certainly in the playoff and probably has won the SEC. 

And still, even in that scenario, Newman would probably not the best player on the team for his position. Defensive players nearly never get Heisman recognition. And with the type of defense returning to Athens this season it is going to be hard for any one player on the Dawgs’ defense to get separation in terms of publicity. 

But Smith and Walker are special players. Both closed the 2019 season strong. They paved the way, along with the other defensive linemen, for Monty Rice to end the final five games of the year with 28 solo tackles. 

Meanwhile, LeCounte grew up in a huge way in 2019. In LeCounte’s final six games of the year he created six turnovers. He was around the ball constantly. This was a very different LeCounte than the one who was burned by the Vols for a 73-yard touchdown to Marquez Callaway for Tennessee’s only big moment it the 43-14 blowout Georgia win. 

Georgia’s defense got better as the season went on. Its offense got worse. The defense allowed over 19 points only twice last year. It lost both games. That won’t be the case this year. Georgia’s offense is going to be better.

But its defense has the best players. That’s why judging the 2020 defense is going to be about how many times it allows more than 14 points in a game. And, no, that’s not ridiculous to judge by because these guys do appear to be that good. 

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