This is where we wrap up the first half of our summer countdown of Georgia's most important players for 2014. Once again (yes, I'm cutting-and-pasting this each day): This is not a ranking of the team's best players. Rather it's a look at the players who are most vital to the team's success. That takes into account the team's strengths and weaknesses, the depth at certain positions, and the importance of each position.
And continuing the linebacker theme, we now arrive at ...
7. LEONARD FLOYD
WHY HE’S VITAL:Floyd showed flashes as a freshman. This year he can take his game to another level, and carry the defense with him. A year after leading the team with 6.5 sacks, Floyd is going to be put in what should be better position to make plays. The new defensive staff plans to have Floyd is less pass coverage and concentrate on his ability to fly after the ball. Last year Floyd played the star position a few times, especially in the opener against Clemson, and was in pass coverage on LSU’s fourth-and-23 conversion. Jeremy Pruitt, however, has been adamant about using a defensive back at the star, which means Floyd at a more traditional edge-rushing spot. He could easily exceed 10 sacks this year, and that would also put him in position to force more fumbles, something last year’s defense did not do nearly enough. Floyd’s importance is less about the depth at outside linebacker – Jordan Jenkins plays the other spot, and redshirt freshman Davin Bellamy is waiting for his chance. But Floyd has the kind of ability to affect the derail offensive drives and become a star.
QUOTABLE: ”Floyd, he’s so fast, and so athletic.” – Herrera.
BEST CASE: Floyd not only racks up the sacks, but has several forced fumbles, and emerges as a first-team all-SEC pick. He teams with Jordan Jenkins at the other outside linebacker spot to be a constant headache to opposing offenses.
WORST CASE: The expectations prove premature, as Floyd is too inconsistent. He barely equals his numbers of last year.
FINAL WORD: Floyd was named to the preseason All-American third-team by Phil Steele, an indication of what’s being expected of him. There’s no reason to think he can’t do that