Georgia Football: Are the Bulldogs' Defensive Front Seven the Best in the SEC?

Brian JonesContributor IDecember 6, 2013

AUBURN, AL - NOVEMBER 16: Nick Marshall #14 of the Auburn Tigers is pursued by Ramik Wilson #51 of the Georgia Bulldogs at Jordan-Hare Stadium on November 16, 2013 in Auburn Alabama. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Anyone who has watched the Georgia Bulldogs play in 2013 knows why they did not live up to expectations. The defense could not keep up with the offense, ranking 11th in the SEC in scoring at 29.4 points per game and 10th in the conference in passing at 232 yards per game.

The secondary for the Bulldogs was young this season, as Georgia had four true freshmen and two true sophomores starting or playing reserve at the four defensive back spots. They had issues with coverage and could never get on the same page while injuries also played a role in the lack of consistency in the secondary.

As for Georgia's front seven, they will be the first admit that they could have played better this season. Look at the numbers a little closer, however, and one could argue that the defensive line and the linebackers for the Bulldogs were one of the best in the conference.

One reason that argument can be made is how they were able to get after the quarterback. One of the biggest concerns going into the 2013 season was how the Bulldogs were going to generate any pressure off the edge without Jarvis Jones.

Many thought Jordan Jenkins would be the player who would step up and get at least 10 sacks this season because he had five sacks in six starts last season. Jenkins did have a solid season in leading the team in tackles for loss (11), but he did not reach 10 sacks again.

In fact, no player on the Georgia roster had even eight sacks, but the Bulldogs still finished the regular season ranked second in the conference with 32 sacks, as three players had at least six sacks and two players had at least four.

Nov 30, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets running back Robert Godhigh (25) runs against Georgia Bulldogs linebacker Leonard Floyd (84) during the second quarter at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Outside linebacker Leonard Floyd notched 6.5 sacks, which led the team and puts him sixth in the SEC. He is not as big as Jones, but is a tall, rangy player who knows how to beat offense tackles.

Meanwhile, Garrison Smith and Ray Drew, each had six sacks on the Bulldogs defensive line. Drew emerged this year after playing sparingly the last two seasons. Smith had a strong 2012 season at defensive end and got better this season despite playing both defensive end and nose tackle.

Both Drew and Smith’s job were able to eat up space and let the linebackers make plays. Consequently, Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera finished the regular season in the top five in the SEC in total tackles:

If you missed it, Ramik Wilson & Amarlo Herrra finished 1-2 in the SEC in tackles, will return next season, w/ every other starting 'backer.

— Dawg Sports (@dawgsports) Dec. 3, 2013

Wilson led the conference with 128 tackles and had 11 tackles for loss with four sacks. Those numbers should be good enough to put him on the All-SEC team.

As for Herrera, he finished right behind Wilson with 107 tackles, ranking him in second place in the conference. He also had one interception, one forced fumble and six pass breakups.

This is not to say that the Bulldogs defense was underrated because it still gave up 30 or more points in eight of 12 games, the secondary only had six interceptions and finished 13th in the conference in turnover margin at minus-6.

But the front seven for the Bulldogs are not as bad as many would think. It wouldn’t be surprising if a few of them were named to the All-SEC team when the season comes to an end.

The good thing for Georgia is that everyone except for Smith should be back next season. So, with the all of the Bulldogs' secondary returning as well, the defense should be much improved in 2014.