The Bulldogs expect to have as many as eight defensive linemen who could rotate this season, which could have been nine until Jon Taylor was dismissed. His absence has left senior Mike Thornton and junior Chris Mayes listed 1-2 on the depth chart at nose, but new coordinator Jeremy Pruitt is cross-training everybody up front.
Juniors Sterling Bailey and James DeLoach entered camp as the starting ends, with DeLoach backed by redshirt freshman John Atkins and Bailey by junior Josh Dawson. Seniors Toby Johnson and Ray Drew were listed on the third team, which is interesting given that Drew made seven starts last season and registered 43 tackles, eight tackles for loss and six sacks.
Georgia should be solid with senior inside starters Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera as well as outside starters Jordan Jenkins and Leonard Floyd. There also appears to be standouts waiting in the wings, with sophomore Reggie Carter on the inside and touted freshman Lorenzo Carter on the outside.
Reggie Carter has practiced alongside Herrera for much of this month due to the absence of Wilson, who led the SEC last season with 133 tackles. Jenkins, a junior, and Floyd, a sophomore, have the potential to be factors coming off the edge after combining for 100 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks last season.
The biggest concern of the team has not exactly come together yet, with Pruitt mentioning earlier this month that senior cornerback Damian Swann was the only defensive back “playing winning football.” Other candidates at corner are juniors Sheldon Dawson, Shattle Fenteng, Kennar Johnson and Devin Bowman, as well as redshirt freshman Reggie Wilkerson.
Safety may have slightly more stability with senior Corey Moore and sophomore Quincy Mauger and the additions of sophomore J.J. Green, who made two starts at tailback last season, and redshirt freshman walk-on Aaron Davis. A starting cornerback at G-Day, Davis moved to safety following the dismissal of Tray Matthews and has earned the praise of coaches.
Junior kicker Marshall Morgan went 22-of-24 on field-goal attempts last season and made his last 17 in a row. Morgan is two away from breaking the SEC record of 18 straight made by Tennessee’s Fuad Reveiz in 1984, and he really has placed an emphasis on improving his kickoffs after notching just 17 touchbacks in 72 attempts last season.
Junior Collin Barber and senior Adam Erickson continue to be locked in the battle at punter, and the return game remains up for grabs. Freshmen Isaiah McKenzie and Sony Michel have returned kickoffs this month, along with J.J. Green and Sheldon Dawson. McKenzie, Chris Conley and Damian Swann have taken turns returning punts.
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 ...