Anyone who follows the Georgia Bulldogs knows how much they struggled on defense last year.
Along with surrendering too many big plays in key situations, the lack of impact plays was one of the reasons the Bulldogs finished with an 8-5 record.
However, one of the strong points of the group last year will be the reason the Bulldogs will be a much better defense in 2014. The linebackers played solid football, and with all four starters returning this season, they will only be better despite having a new defensive coordinator in Jeremy Pruitt.
With that said, Georgia's linebackers are not only the strongest unit on defense. They are the best unit in the conference and the argument can be made it's the best in the nation.
That might sound strange to say, especially with this group leading a defense which gave up nearly 30 points per game last year.
Looking at last year’s defense closely, though, the linebackers weren’t the reason the Bulldogs were a below-average defense.
The linebackers are led by Ramik Wilson, who led the SEC in total tackles last season (133). It was the third time a Bulldog has led the conference in tackles, which is the reason Wilson was a consensus All-SEC pick last season.
Wilson is great at playing from sideline to sideline and has a nose for the football. Of the 133 tackles he had last year, 85 were in conference play.
There was another fellow inside linebacker that was just a productive as Wilson, but did not get the attention.
Amarlo Herrera was third in the SEC in total tackles and even had one interception. Ever since Herrera has arrived on campus, his numbers have gotten better and he could emerge as the leader of the defense—if he hasn’t already.
Jordan Jenkins came onto the scene in 2012 playing opposite of Jarvis Jones. He recorded 31 tackles and five sacks in nine starts. In 2013, Jenkins started all 13 games and tallied 45 tackles and five sacks. He also had 12 tackles for loss, which led the team and was eighth-best in the SEC, and registered two fumble recoveries.
Jenkins has been consistent over the last two seasons, but needs to take the next step and be more of a dominant player, which he has the ability to do.
The one linebacker that probably had the greatest impact was Leonard Floyd.
The outside linebacker played as a true freshman last year and led the team with 6.5 sacks. He was voted to the All-SEC Freshman team as well as Phil Steele’s Freshman All-America First Team.
There is a chance he could be the best pro prospect out of the four linebackers.
There are other linebacker units in the country that are talented and can be just as productive. Georgia’s SEC East foe, South Carolina, has a group led by Skai Moore, who tallied 56 tackles and four interceptions last year and helped the Gamecocks turned that position into a strength.
Alabama always has good linebackers, and this year is no different. Trey DePriest leads a very deep and talented group and he has the best chance of being the fifth All-American linebacker for the Crimson Tide in the last six years.
Oklahoma, West Virginia and Clemson also have very good sets of linebackers, but they don’t have the athleticism and versatility Georgia has.
If all four Bulldogs linebackers stay healthy all year long, they will be the reason the defense has improved, which could lead to a 10-plus-win season for the team.
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