Trent Thompson, Sophomore:
The defensive tackle position is led by the big sophomore Trent Thompson. The former 5-star prospect from Albany (GA) is one of the highest signed prospects in school history, and will be asked to take his game to the next level after an effective freshman campaign.
Last season the star freshman played in 12 games, starting in 6 of them. He recorded 25 tackles, half a sack, and three quarterback pressures on the season. He showed good strength and quickness to get into the backfield, but had times where he got pushed around by veteran lineman. I expect him to continue making his way into the backfield, but make more plays behind the line of scrimmage than last year. If he continues to progress and get better under defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, Thompson has a chance to become one of the best interior defensive linemen in the league this upcoming season.
The rising sophomore made three tackles and one tackle for loss in last week’s G-day scrimmage.
John Atkins, Junior:
A guy who is in a similar situation as Thompson is junior defensive tackle John Atkins. The 6-foot-4 300-pound Thomson native was not the big recruit like Thompson was, but he is in a position to have a breakout year in 2016. Atkins has played little in his first two seasons, but brings leadership and experience to the position group. He is one of the strongest players on the entire team, and is likely to be one of the starting interior defensive linemen going into the season.
Atkins has tallied just 21 total tackles in first two seasons in a limited role, but expect those numbers to change drastically this fall. The former three-star recruit made one tackle in last week's G-day scrimmage.
DaQuan Hawkins, Sophomore:
Another member of the talented defensive line class of 2015, Hawkins played major minutes for the Bulldogs as a freshman last season. The three-star recruit picked the Bulldogs on Signing Day 2015, and many thought he would be a red-shirt candidate. Instead, Hawkins played in 10 games last season, starting in two. While he only recorded three tackles on the season, he gained a ton of experience and was able to push around some offensive lineman without making a tackle.
The 6-foot-4 300-pounder from Atlanta will have plenty of opportunity to push for a starting spot this summer, but should be in the rotation at defensive tackle throughout the season.
Julian Rochester, Freshman:
The early enrollee definitely has the size to play at 6-foot-5 327-pounds, but it will be interesting to see how much he plays this season. There is not a ton of depth at the position, but Rochester needs to lose more weight before he can really make an impact. The former four-star recruit out of McEachern (GA) was ranked as one of the top defensive tackle prospects in the state of Georgia last season, and while he should turn out to be a good player down the road, I'm not sure how much of an impact he will make. Ideally it would be nice to redshirt him, but he might be needed in the rotation sooner than later.
Freshman Tyler Clark, freshman Michail Carter, and sophomore Alex Essex will add depth to the position group.