There is turnover in college football personnel, and then there is Georgia's defense.
After the Bulldogs face Nebraska in Tuesday's Capital One Bowl in Orlando, as many as 12 of their defenders will need to be replaced. Georgia will be losing nine defensive seniors who have made at least 15 career starts, and the departure list could reach a dozen if junior noseguard Kwame Geathers and junior linebackers Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree all decide to leave early for the NFL.
"It's kind of weird that this is it, but it's also been an honor getting to play with so many NFL-cailber players," sophomore inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. "I think they will have helped me to pick up my game moving forward."
Georgia stands to lose four players at every defensive level.
Should Geathers leave early, he would join senior noseguard John Jenkins and senior ends Abry Jones and Cornelius Washington. Jenkins had his Bulldogs career cut short last week when he was an academic casualty.
Jarvis Jones and Ogletree would join senior linebackers Michael Gilliard and Christian Robinson, and the secondary has four seniors: cornerbacks Sanders Commings and Branden Smith and safeties Bacarri Rambo and Shawn Williams.
"We're definitely going to have to step up with the young defense we're going to have next year," freshman outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said. "At least every other day my dad is telling me that I better be ready next year and how I'm going to have to step up and help the defense out. He's been trying to get me ready for the offseason and next season."
Herrera and Jenkins are expected to be the defensive leaders next year, along with junior end Garrison Smith and sophomore cornerback Damian Swann. Ray Drew should start at the end spot opposite Smith, but the biggest question will be in the secondary, where Swann is stout but alone in that aspect.
Cornerback Devin Bowman and safety Corey Moore did log meaningful minutes earlier this season due to suspensions for Commings and Rambo.
"We've got some good guys on this team, even the ones who didn't play that much this year," Smith said. "We've had All-Americans like Jarvis Jones playing, so there really isn't room for other people to get in. We have guys who will step up.
"That's why they're on scholarship, too, so I think we're going to be all right."
Herrera is tied for fourth on the team with 67 tackles, while Smith is sixth with 55. Swann is ninth with 47 tackles and has two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Rebuilding the defense will be foremost as a spring-practice priority, and those who are returning already are dealing with the "weak link" talk.
"I'm hearing that, and a lot of people have told me that I need to leave and run out with this great class of defensive guys we've got and go to the NFL," Smith said. "The way I look at it is that it's just another opportunity and another way for me to step up. We've got our whole offense coming back, so I think we've got a good chance of doing some good things next year."
The Bulldogs will lose senior receivers Tavarres King and Marlon Brown from the offense, and junior quarterback Aaron Murray is debating whether to forgo his senior season.
Odds and ends
Georgia practiced for two hours Saturday morning before visiting Disney World. ... Offensive line coach Will Friend opened the competition at all five spots but has remained with the lineup of Kenarious Gates at left tackle, Dallas Lee at left guard, David Andrews at center, Chris Burnette at right guard and John Theus at right tackle. ... Coach Mark Richt on if he is having fun in Orlando: "I'd have more fun if the game was today or tomorrow. After a while, you're like, 'Let's just play the thing.'"
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...