Azeez Ojulari said the Wolfpack nickname never left.
The moniker, bestowed upon the Georgia outside linebacker group several years ago, has remained a part of the group’s identity. But last year, the pack’s howl was much quieter than it had been in the past.
The Bulldogs were 84th in the country last season with 24 sacks in 14 games. This is part of the reason for the defense’s obsession this year over the term “havoc rate” when talking about disrupting opposing offenses.
The group’s two leading sackers from 2018, D’Andre Walker and Brenton Cox, are no longer with the team, the former due to graduation and the latter due to transfer. All this added up to plenty of questions heading into 2019.
So far things have gone well, as the Bulldogs are tied for ninth in the country in sacks with 12.
However, that number has come in games against Vanderbilt, Murray State and Arkansas State. This Saturday night against Notre Dame, Georgia’s outside linebackers have the chance to prove that the Wolfpack is officially back.
“It’s going to be a great challenge and we’re looking forward to it,” Ojulari said. “We just can’t wait. It’s going to be a great challenge.”
The Fighting Irish front has something in spades that the Bulldog rushers are somewhat short on: experience. Of the projected starting five, four have at least eight career starts heading into Saturday’s game.
They also have size, which head coach Kirby Smart said will make the Notre Dame group the most challenging the Bulldogs have faced. The starting five averages over 6-foot-4 and 308 pounds.
“They’ve got a great o-line,” Ojulari said. “You’re going to come and try to dominate every down, every play we play, just give it our best.”
Further complicating matters is Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book. He possesses the ability to get outside the pocket and make plays both running and throwing.
In fact, Book is second on the team in rushing yards at 127, and he leads the team in attempts with 23.
“I think you can still be aggressive, you’ve just got to keep a level rush and don’t run past the quarterback a lot because he can get out of the pocket and run,” Ojulari said. “He’s really fast and athletic.”
It’s fitting that Ojulari was the outside linebacker chosen to speak with the media this week. Smart said that with all the changes the outside linebacking corps has gone through, it’s Ojulari who “has taken over the room.”
Ojulari said he tries to lead by example, although he’s working on being more of a vocal leader as well. Either way, he’s the leader of a wolfpack that is looking to show the world that it is once again back on the hunt.
“We all know we’ve got the big, great group of guys that can make plays all over,” Ojulari said. “It’s just like we’ve got to put it out there on the field Saturday.”