In case you haven't heard, Georgia nose tackle Kwame Geathers is foregoing his senior season in favor of the NFL draft. This is not necessarily news to most Dawg fans who had been expecting this announcement since late in the 2012 season, but now that it's official, I got to thinking.
Kwame's departure is but one of many changes in store for the Georgia defensive line in 2013. Big John Jenkins, his senior partner in crime up the middle, has exhausted his eligibility and will be playing on Sundays, as well. As reported here by chuckdawg, longtime defensive line coach Rodney Garner will be leaving Athens for "flatter pastures" and will be replaced by former Mississippi State co-defensive coordinator and line coach Chris Wilson whose hire was analyzed by Mr. Sanchez here.
Once he gets to Athens, Coach Wilson will have a job on his hands. What can we expect his defensive line to look like? Allow me to take a stab at it.
We'll start with the nose position, the anchor of the defensive line and a key cog in the 3-4 machine. The position most responsible for drawing double-teams from opposing offensive linemen and allowing linebackers to get through to the quarterback must be manned with a big ol' son of a gun. It will be nearly impossible to replace the size of Geathers (6'6" 355 lbs.) and Jenkins (6'3" 358 lbs.) but we have a likely candidate in rising redshirt freshman Jonathan Taylor (6'4" 335 lbs.) out of Millen. Taylor was a monster coming out of high school and has done nothing but add muscle mass and hone his skills in his 2012 redshirt season. I expect him to get the starting nod, but don't rule out undersized but talented Mike Thornton (6'1" 302 lbs.) getting some playing time up the middle, too.
I fully expect one defensive end position to be occupied by rising senior Garrison Smith who filled in admirably after Abry Jones suffered a career-ending injury earlier this season. Just like the guy who wore #56 before him, Geno Atkins, Smith is a slightly underappreciated impact player and will flourish as a starter. He might even one day wreak havoc in the NFL à la Atkins, a fourth-round pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 2011 and recurrent Pro-Bowler.
Abry Jones will have exhausted his eligibility by 2013. Ray Drew, c'mon down! I expect to see you as the other starting DE. #47 arrived in Athens to a ton of hype, went underground for a season and a half, and finally started seeing consistent playing time, like Smith, in the wake of Jones's injury. I have similar expectations for Drew as I do for Smith. Staying on the field will do Drew well.
Don't forget about the impact recruits coming in who could all see significant playing time in 2013: John Atkins, Leonard Floyd, DeAndre "Moose" Johnson and Chris Mayes. Georgia is also at the top of the list for uncommitted super-recruits Montravius Adams (whose skills MaconDawg puts under the microscope here) and JUCO star Toby Johnson.
All in all, things are looking pretty good for the defensive big uglies next season. And thus begins my countdown to G-Day...