Can Dawgs' D Rule in 2020?

June 30, 2020

ATHENS - Did you know Kirby Smart’s defense held five of its 14 foes to season lows in points?

Baylor, Arkansas State, Kentucky, Missouri and the Gators were all held to their lowest scoring totals of the season in 2019 when facing those in Silver Britches. Lost in the concern/fascination of what will happen at quarterback and on the offensive side of the ball is just how powerful and difficult the 2020 defense will be at Georgia. 

If you watched Georgia play Baylor in the Sugar Bowl then you got a pretty good look at what the Dawgs’ defense will look like in 2020 (and beyond). It is a mishmash of talented and or developed players who don’t stand out individually often. 

Then again, it can be more difficult to stand out when the collective unit is doing its job. 

Monty Rice and Richard LeCounte seem to be the ringleaders of that side of the ball, but the defensive line made it very hard to run on the Dawgs last season, and those players seem to be an afterthought in pre-season publications. 

In fact, in most of the pre-season All-American postings to come out thus far its hard to locate a UGA player on the first team. I’ve see LeCounte on one or two, but not all or even most of them. The point here isn’t that Georgia is lacking high-end talent. That’s not true. The point is that the high-end talent blends in with the developed talent to form a cohesive unit that often frustrates the offenses it faces. 

Keep in mind that this defense was the top overall defense in the country last year, and it is returning everyone outside of J.R. Reed - who wasn’t drafted, and didn’t play in the Sugar Bowl - and Tae Crowder, who was the final pick in the 2020 draft.

All of that speaks to the work Kirby Smart has done over the last few years; Dan Lanning, too. LeCounte, Rice, Eric Stokes and Malik Herring all decided to return to Athens for another year at UGA. None of those players are slam dunk first rounders, but there can’t be much doubt that the first round isn’t a possibility for LeCounte and Stokes if they continue to develop. 

Needless to say, Stokes was a total afterthought in recruiting. Kirby and company need to be given credit for his development and success over time. 

And develop is what Kirby and company have done so well. Raw players like Devonte Wyatt, Herring and Jordan Davis were not household names. I watched all three in high school, and Wyatt stood out the most, but it was clear he had work to do.

Now, four years later, and those three make up part of one of the best defensive lines in the country. It’s no wonder the Dawgs kept five teams to their season lows in 2019. How many will they do that to in 2020?

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