No Jarvis Jones? No Alec Ogletree?
No problem for the 2013 Georgia Bulldogs.
Georgia's defense enters the season as one of the most mysterious units in the SEC, but don't be fooled by lack of star power in the linebacking corps. When all is said and done, this group will be the surprise of the SEC due to its ability to stay disciplined and stop the run.
Jordan Jenkins is the rising star who's the next big thing at outside linebacker. While Jones stole all the headlines, Jenkins was solid as a part-time starter last season, tallying 31 tackles, eight tackles for loss and five sacks.
The 6'3", 246-pound sophomore plays more downhill than Jones, which makes him better-suited to stop the run. That's good news for Georgia, because despite coming within an eyelash of playing for the BCS National Championship, its rush defense gave up 182.14 yards per game, 12th in the SEC.
Check out Jenkins in the video below at the bottom of the Bulldog defensive line. At the 1:36:43 mark, he breaks into the backfield, forces South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw to make a decision and stops him behind the line for a two-yard loss.
He didn't go for the big hit or get overly excited. It was just a sound defensive play. That's the kind of thing Georgia fans can expect in 2013.
But it isn't just Jenkins who's got star written all over him. Middle linebacker Amarlo Herrera has played well during his first two seasons in Athens, notching 70 tackles, three tackles for loss, one interception and one fumble recovery a year ago.
It was Herrera who was praised by former safety Shawn Williams last season, when, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Williams called out the defense for being too soft before the Florida game.
Personally, if I was the coaches, I can’t tell them what to do, but I’d have Amarlo Herrera in the game more. I want to see Amarlo (Herrera) and (Alec) Ogletree in the game at linebacker; I don’t want to see anybody else at linebacker.
The 6'2", 244-pounder is a hard hitter who had six tackles in the Georgia spring game. He knows the system and will be the quarterback of that defense.
Alongside Herrera will be fellow inside linebacker Ramik Wilson. At 6'2", 232 pounds, Wilson is a little on the smaller side, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in athleticism That athleticism was on full display in the spring game, when Wilson was all over the field, making eight tackles and a sack.
It's going to be difficult to get any of those three off the field, even if Georgia strays from its 3-4 system in specific situations and brings in more help at defensive back. They're athletic, quick, can shed blocks and are fundamentally sound, which should go a long way toward fixing Georgia's problems against the run.
Sophomore James DeLoach and senior Chase Vasser will likely rotate at the other outside linebacker spot. DeLoach has only seen spot duty, but Vasser—who is coming off of a shoulder injury—has notched 38 career tackles.
Nobody is talking about Georgia's linebackers, but that's going to change in a hurry. If they perform well against the vaunted Clemson offense in Week 1 on one of the biggest stages of opening weekend, it will be the springboard to a fantastic season.