When Trenton Thompson takes the practice field, he is known as the stack monster.
Georgia head coach Kirby Smart coined the term due to the junior defensive tackle’s relentlessness to run towards the football.
After the ball is snapped, Thompson gets out of his stance – bunched against the offensive line – and is ready to go.
“The best thing Trenton does is he turns and he runs to the ball really fast, so his cover down on short passes and going to get the ball,” Smart said. “He is a great energy guy, so I have been pleased with where Trenton is.”
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Thompson displayed those abilities in his senior season as he collected a career-best 64 tackles, along with five sacks. His best performance was to conclude the campaign in the Liberty Bowl against TCU, in which he tallied three sacks and eight tackles – 3.5 for loss.
But after that showing granted Thompson the game’s MVP award, his path back to the football field became turbulent. Thompson was hospitalized for undisclosed reasons in February and withdrew from spring courses and missed all of spring practice.
Thompson has returned for fall camp as a full participant. After his return to the team, he fully understands the defensive unit as a third-year player, but has one key area to improve upon.
“I think Trenton would be the first to tell you he has to work on his block protection, how he strikes the offensive lineman and the ability to control his gap,” Smart said. “He is really quick and he is really athletic, but he does not always control his gap, so he is trying to improve on that.”
Georgia’s defensive line returns all of its starters but welcomes a new face to lead the unit. Tray Scott has made his way to the program after short tenures at Mississippi and North Carolina to replace Tracy Rocker.
Scott was quickly hired after Rocker’s dismissal and brings a jolt of younger energy and experience to the unit.
“He’s a technician and high-energy guy,” Tucker said. “He’s very good at coaching and teaching at a progression – run and pass rush. I think the guys have grown to like him and respect him. There’s no waste in motion on the football field with drill work. He’s extremely organized, knows what he wants to get done and holds guys to a high standard. We have a chance to be a strong unit.”
Scott carries a style that has allowed the Bulldogs’ linemen to “buy-in” to his philosophy. Under Rocker, Georgia collected 29 sacks and hopes to improve upon that under his successor.
Thompson, flanked by junior Jonathan Ledbetter and sophomore David Marshall, will play a big role in potential improvements by his on-field play and mentorship.
“Trenton is a lead by example guy,” Georgia defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said. “He brings a tremendous amount of energy to the field and is very consistent in that matter. When you have guys that lead by example, that really shows the way for the other guys.”
With Georgia returning 10 defensive starters, Tucker consequently has significant depth across the board. The Bulldogs signed seven freshman defensive backs a season ago and hope to play “eight or nine” at the position as a result. With the defensive line, Tucker’s hopes are the same but only having two enrollees – Mary Persons’ Malik Herring and IMG Academy’s Robert Beal – creates a different challenge.
Devonte Wyatt, a four-star defensive tackle signee out of Towers, didn’t meet academic requirements and enrolled at Hutchinson (Kansas) Community College. According to head coach Rion Rhoades, he hopes to enroll with the Bulldogs when he is eligible – either in the 2018 or 2019 class.
The second-year group of Marshall, Michail Carter, Chauncey Manac and Tyler Clark will be depended upon to contribute.
“We are going to rotate a lot and want to play as many guys as we can (on the defensive line),” Tucker said. “If guys have a role, you have more buy-in and you have better team chemistry. We want to get all of those guys ready to play. As we practice and scrimmage, eventually we’ll know who can help and play for us.”