Dean’s List: Defensive Challenges in 2015

Dean Legge gives you the top defensive challenges heading into 2015.

1. Figuring out Steve Spurrier

This one is easier said than done, but Jeremy Pruitt had a difficult time keeping up with South Carolina and Spurrier last season. And that was a South Carolina team not very skilled at quarterback.

The Bulldogs will host the Gamecocks this fall, and Georgia can’t hand away another game to the Cocks if they want to get to Atlanta. Georgia’s offense shouldn’t have to score more than 35 points to win a football game.

Don’t look now, but Georgia allowed 30 points or more six times in 2014. The fact that Mike Bobo and his boys were breaking the scoreboard with points is one thing, but the defense is going to have to get it together the entire season —not just in blowouts.

And that starts with Spurrier and company on September 19. When Georgia was good on defense in 2014, often it was lights out. But many times the defense didn’t play as well as it could have, which came back to bite them against Florida and South Carolina.

2. The secondary

Right now Georgia’s not that great in the secondary. Jeremy Pruitt will, for the second season in a row, typically use underclassmen to fill in spots in the secondary. I've had several coaches (not necessarily Georgia coaches) tell me Georgia just isn't that great on the back end, and that Pruitt will have to play young players again.

For three seasons Todd Grantham built to the 2012 defense by playing the same group in the secondary. Although players like Brandon Boykin left, Shawn Williams, Sanders Commings and Baccari Rambo were multi-year starters that took their lumps and built to the 2011 and 2012 success with pain in 2009 and 2010.

Right now Georgia should have senior Josh Harvey-Clemons and junior Tray Matthews to go along with two other players in the secondary. Say what you want about that duo, but at least they would be experienced going into 2015.

With all of that said, I love Dominick Sanders - the kid is a ball player.

3. Middle linebacker

The good news is that about half of the defense plays middle linebacker — or at least it feels that way at times. Jeremy Pruitt and company will have a slew of options at a spot that is losing two very productive if not spectacular players in Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson.

Who will it be? Reggie Carter and Tim Kimbrough? Natrez Patrick and Jake Ganus? How does Roquan Smith fit in?

This is one of the spots that really doesn’t feel settled in Athens. We might not know the answer until a few weeks before the season. Also, with the start of the schedule, Georgia will have time to figure out who works best where.

But Smith will have a role one way or the other one third down. To be sure, the combination of Smith and Patrick at middle linebacker gives Georgia great diversity for the future. But in 2015, both will have to play well to have starting roles.

4. The defensive line

Georgia isn’t short of options on the defensive line. Sterling Bailey returns for his final season in silver britches. Josh Dawson is back, too. Jordan Jenkins might be considered an outside linebacker, but he plays a lot of defensive end in Georgia’s multiple defense.

How will John Atkins fit in? Is Jonathan Ledbetter going to take starting time away from someone else? What about five-star prospect Trenton Thompson? How does he enter into the equation for the Bulldogs? What is Davin Bellamy’s role? Is he the new Jordan Jenkins?

Obviously, there are questions about the defensive line, but the bodies and production seem to be there. The best way to wonder about this group is how they will be deployed. For the first time in some time, it seems Georgia has very little to worry about on the defensive line.

Georgia’s defensive line held up pretty well for the most part against the offensive line in the spring. That’s a good sign for the defense, because we know the offense has been able to run on nearly everyone they’ve played over the last two seasons — even without Todd Gurley.

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