The linebacking corps, specifically, lost draft picks Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins, and senior inside linebacker Jake Ganus. Although Georgia has good depth up front, losing that amount of experience is difficult to replace.
When asked how he planned to replace the lost talent at the position, Smart said: “Right now I’m praying, to be honest with you I’m scared.” Smart continued, “That defense was really good because they had really good rushers, they had good guys up front. Right now we don’t have that… That certainly makes your secondary better, secondary stats aren’t just the secondary.”
Smart has made it clear that he believes defenses are built from the front back.
“That’s one thing that, in my history, has been very important, to sign enough big bodies to dominate the line of scrimmage," he said. "Finding the big defensive linemen who can dominate the line of scrimmage is critical to your success in the Southeastern Conference.”
Another important factor is the loss of former defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt. Pruitt was a highly respected coach, and under his tutelage Georgia had the number one pass defense in college football last year. However, the secondary has remained intact, and new defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is also known as a defensive back guru.
Smart served as defensive coordinator to Nick Saban for eight seasons. Along with Mel Tucker, Georgia now has two of the premier defensive coaches in college football. While the loss of experience in the front seven could be a big issue, if anybody can engineer a quick turnaround, it’s Georgia.