The game of football can be a complex mix of strategy, skill, athleticism, and hard work. The tiniest details can alter one play, which can affect the outcome of a game. However, sometimes football can be as simple as which team can hit the opponents’ quarterback more times. Affecting the quarterback is the most disruptive act in football. For as successful as they were the past two seasons, the Georgia Bulldogs pass rush has not been what they’ve needed. If they can improve in that facet, it can help a program already contending at the top even more difficult match-up with.
The Georgia Bulldogs Pass Rush Must Produce
Kirby Smart’s defense has finished 9th and 12th in the SEC in sacks over the last two season respectively. They have 51 total sacks during that time frame, while the SEC’s leader had at least 40 in each of those years. The Bulldogs pass rush also loses its leading sack master from 2018, with D’Andre Walker and his 7.5 sacks graduating. It is without question that Smart has raised the level of recruiting in Athens. Now he needs a few of those highly touted Friday night stars to start harassing quarterbacks on Saturdays.
Channing Tindall was the only player other than Walker with multiple sacks a season ago. The freshman linebacker had two in his nine games of action. Monty Rice will return as the leader of the linebacker group, but at the middle spot, he isn’t relied on to rush the passer. Brenton Cox was one of those highly touted recruits a season ago, and he began to make some noise at the end of 2018. He had 10 tackles, two for a loss, and a sack in the last four contests.
Walter Grant also returns at outside linebacker, and he will look to finally break out. The Cairo, Georgia native has just a half of a sack in two seasons but is projected as a starter following spring practice. David Marshall will look to factor into the Bulldogs pass rush after a foot injury ended his junior season early. The defensive end had 52 tackles and three and a half sacks his first two seasons in Athens. Georgia has plenty of experience returning, but between them, these five guys had just four sacks in 2018.
Possibly the biggest factor in the Bulldogs pass rush this fall will be which young player can emerge as a playmaker. Freshman Azeez Ojulari and sophomore Adam Anderson are the two most likely candidates. Ojulari red-shirted a season ago but impressed in spring ball. He is projected as a starter at outside linebacker in Georgia’s 3-4 defensive scheme. The power rusher had three tackles in a cameo appearance in the Sugar Bowl.
Anderson recorded two and a half tackles for loss and one sack in seven games as a freshman. The 6’5″ 225-pound edge rusher will push for more playing time this fall. Another name to look out for is true freshman Nolan Smith. He was the nation’s number one recruit for the 2019 cycle. Smith is versatile, instinctive, and explosive. He should force his way onto the field early in the season. Junior College transfer Jermaine Johnson can make an immediate impact if he can replicate his production at Independence Community College. The defensive end tallied 12.5 sacks over two seasons.
Production on Saturdays
No one will accuse Georgia of being short on talent anytime soon. They have accumulated a ton of it all over the field since Smart’s arrival. The defensive staff has plenty of options to bolster the Bulldogs pass rush. The skill, size, and athleticism in all there. As this season approaches, they will look to turn that potential into production. Georgia needs to ramp up the pressure on opposing quarterbacks, and they need their talented young prospects to start making plays. With as successful as they have been the past two seasons, the addition of a dominant pass rush could be the final piece for the Bulldogs.