Georgia went nine deep on the defensive line a season ago and will add two more to the mix this fall.
Even so, head coach Kirby Smart believes this position group needs more players at its disposal.
“We certainly don’t have enough depth at that position,” Smart said. “Many people think we’re stacked on the D-line. We have to attack the D-line in recruiting. We have to get some athletic guys who can rush and play on the edge.”
The defensive line figures to be a position of strength in 2017, especially with the experience that returns. In addition to bringing back key contributors such as Trenton Thompson, John Atkins, Julian Rochester, DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle and David Marshall, Georgia got great play out of Jonathan Ledbetter during spring practice.
Ledbetter could wind up making the biggest jump out after seeing some significant gains during the winter strength and conditioning program. While his weight stayed steady at 279 pounds, Ledbetter is much more muscular in his upper body compared to before. It’s allowed him to add additional strength to his on-field performance.
“Heavy hands, explosion – that’s what you really need out of a D-lineman,” Ledbetter said. “You want that explosion, especially out of a pass rush. Get off the ball, be able to shed blocks and play at a four, five, or six technique. You just need to have that upper body strength to push a big man off of you.”
While the optics suggest Georgia’s defensive line should play a huge role in 2017, Smart isn’t ready to suggest such a thing yet.
But he did mention that sophomores such as Rochester, Marshall, Tyler Clark and Michail Carter have made significant strides since arriving in 2016.
“Their growth this spring was really good,” Smart said. “A lot of times the biggest jump you make as a football player isn’t that first fall, it’s that next fall. A lot of those guys did get better.”