We continue our look at players most likely to take on a higher profile during the Bulldogs’ 2019 campaign with a young pass rusher who could fill some big shoes.
The Bulldog pass rush was many things in 2018. A sack machine was not one of them. While Mel Tucker’s defense altered a lot of plays without getting to the quarterback, they finished 12th in the SEC in sacks with only 24 on the season. When you consider how much time the 2018 Bulldogs spent playing with a lead, and consequently how much time opponents spent slinging the ball around from behind that’s, well, it’s quite something.
What’s worse, departed outside linebacker D’Andre Walker accounted for 7.5 of those sacks, almost a third of the total. No returning UGA defender tallied more than 2.0 on the season. The leading returning sack master for the Red and Black? Freshman reserve linebacker Channing Tindall.
Returning production is a useful metric, but it’s not the be all/end all, especially when you’ve stacked talent on top of talent the way Kirby Smart and his staff have in the last three recruiting classes. Smart has also signaled that he’s making getting to the quarterback and causing more havoc in the backfield a priority. But who will be the player to bring that havoc?
One excellent candidate is sophomore outside linebacker Adam Anderson. The Rome native and former five star recruit saw action in all 14 games for the ‘Dawgs in 2018. But Anderson only really came to the fore later in the season, tallying 2 quarterback pressures against Auburn and a career-high 5 tackles against Tech.
Anderson’s biggest assets are a quick first step and wiry agility. At 6’5, 225 pounds he’s unlikely to ever play above 240 pounds during his time in Athens. Fellow young OLBs Robert Beal and Brenton Cox appear more likely to grow into run anchoring, 250 pound-plus hybrid defensive ends.
But Anderson’s tailor-made to take over the third down duties that Walker grew into over the course of his time in the Classic City. It wouldn’t be a bad thing at all to have a guy who can get to the quarterback even when the offensive line knows he’s coming, much the way Leonard Floyd was able to during his UGA tenure, and as Walker was on at least a couple of occasions. And with a Bulldog secondary that could lose some key pieces after the 2019 season, Anderson (or one of his compatriots) developing into that sort of pass rusher could become even more important for the future.