In Georgia’s recent surge to become one of college football’s elite teams, the defensive line has lagged slightly behind and certainly has not been the team’s strongest unit. In order to fulfill lofty expectations and make the playoff in 2019, Georgia needs a very strong year up front defensively. While there have been a few recruiting misses on the defensive line, it is still a very talented room, including a few 5-stars. Let’s review some of the biggest contributors and breakout potential players for 2019.
Tyler Clark – Clark had a disappointing 2018 after he burst onto the scene in Georgia’s 2017 National Championship run. Clark is likely Georgia’s “pivot player” along the defensive line. If Clark is great, this defensive line is a team strength. If Clark has another quiet season, there are several teams on Georgia’s schedule that could take advantage via the rushing attack. Clark’s strength in 2017 was consistent, quick penetration, ruining run timing and creating long down and distances. A strong Tyler Clark equates to a strong Georgia football team in 2019.
Jordan Davis – Sometimes you sign a 3-star with monstrous size and potential and hope for the best. Well Davis arrived way ahead of schedule in 2018 and was an immovable force in the middle. Georgia hasn’t had a game changing nose tackle since John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers, but Davis has the potential to be better than both. He is a huge key to maintaining a stout run defense in 2019.
David Marshall – Marshall has been injury-riddled throughout his time at Georgia. His injuries have continued to hamper his progress in 2019 fall camp. If he can fight through injuries, he is a plug-in starter with a ton of SEC experience. Marshall won’t make eye-popping plays but he does effectively hold the line in the rush game. Georgia isn’t doomed if Marshall remains hobbled, but experience and consistency would greatly improve with Marshall healthy.
Michael Barnett – Barnett has had an interesting career in Athens. There was a time when he was written off as a defensive lineman and moved over to offensive line. He won’t be the most talented player out there but he has a motor and is an extremely important depth piece. Barnett may see a few starts at the beginning of the season but as talented freshmen gain experience I expect him to slide to the second and third team. In a long run to a possible playoff, players that know what to do and give maximum effort on every down are crucial in the SEC.
Julian Rochester – Rochester has not lived up to his 5-star billing. He has played with a low motor and high pad level. My expectations are low for 2019. I see Rochester as a depth piece that could be quickly passed up by younger players with better effort.
Travon Walker – Walker is a ridiculously talented 5-star freshman that even had some #1 overall player consideration late last year. He is athletic enough to throw down windmill dunks on the basketball court while maintaining the strength needed to play upfront in the SEC. Walker will need some time to adjust to the college game, but look for him to be a starter by the time the Dawgs play in Jacksonville.
Devonte Wyatt – I think Wyatt has a chance to be great this year. He was very active in the later half of 2018 and his physical tools are all in place. Wyatt reminds me a bit of John Atkins, with a slightly higher talent ceiling. I have big expectations for Wyatt in 2019.
Malik Herring – Herring is probably the most athletic returning player along the defensive line. We should see a big production leap in his junior year as he will see more time as a starter. He will be the most effective pass rusher inside. When you think of Herring, think of a disruptor, with the explosiveness to cause turnovers.
Tramel Walthour – Reports on Walthour at camp have been very good. His JUCO experience is serving him well and he has physically excelled in the preseason. I expect Walthour to be a consistent contributor towards the end of the year.
Other Players Providing Depth: Michail Carter, Justin Young, Netori Johnson
Freshman on the Come Up: Bill Norton, Zion Logue, Tymon Mitchell
2019 Breakout Player of the Year: Devonte Wyatt
2019 Best Player on the Defensive Line: Jordan Davis
2019 Best Freshman: Travon Walker
2019 Best Interior Pass Rusher: Malik Herring