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Position Preview: The Defensive Ends

The End is near! Relax. This is a warning to opposing quarterbacks.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 01 Sugar Bowl - Georgia v Baylor Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

If ever there was a season to have a potential shut-down-best-ever-in-UGA-history defense, this is it. Teams are going to struggle initially, and we might not be immune to some inconsistency despite a roster full of blue-chip guys at every position, and that so-called “home field advantage” is not quite what it normally is. Somewhere in the SEC, someone who is highly ranked is going to lose an early game that they shouldn’t. I think it’s inevitable. Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, mama...

Georgia, like everyone else playing football in 2020, has questions, at least on offense. We may or may not have a quarterback controversy, but we also don’t know to date who will be lining up under center before the weekend begins, or even the Arkansas game for that matter. No one has had an entire spring practice/spring game to install an offense, so to a degree that evens things out. Maybe. Not everyone is trying to assimilate a entirely new plan with a new coordinator, playbook and influx of new faces all over the map on that side of the ball. In our case, it’s not all gloom and doom, especially after what we all witnessed during The James Coley Experience™. This quote is also my Dawg Sports signature and boy does it resonate:

If we score, we may win. If they never score, we’ll never lose.

I believe our offense will click, but I also believe it might take a month to get it firing on all 8 cylinders. Long-story short, be prepared to watch some ugly offensive football with some brilliance mixed in until our guys figure some things out. O.K., enough of my offensive thoughts.

Let’s turn our attention to one of the strengths and a known commodity of the 2020 Georgia and a positional unit that we’re going to have to lean on for a few weeks: The defensive ends.

The Three Deep

In his senior season, Malik Herring (6’ 3”, 280) is poised to garner some SEC and, perhaps, National accolades. Herring is among the most experienced players regardless of position and had an outstanding 2019 campaign from his normal weak side alignment and is particularly stout against the run.

Herring has the highest grade of any returning SEC defender per Pro Football Focus. - Jake Rowe, 247Sports

Herring accounted for 8 12 tackles for loss, 2 sacks and 2 pass deflections in 2019. Every now and then, he can play with his hands down, depending on defensive packages.

University of Georgia Bulldogs v University of Tennessee Volunteers
Senior DE, Malik Herring.

I covered soph. Travon Walker (6’ 5”, 290) a few weeks ago as a potential down-lineman, but where he’ll truly thrive is off the edge. Walker was just a pup last year, but came on strong as the season wound down and with a full season behind him, young Walker will flourish with experience to draw upon and an entire season in the S&C program. Walker is a threat to get to the quarterback on any given down and should become more adept in defending the run game as he literally grows into his position. Like Herring, Walker runs to the ball carrier his potential to create havoc on any play will benefit everyone on that side of the ball. Walker looks leaner than he did last year, so his first step get-off might be even more explosive.

Walker’s finest moment of 2019 begins at the 8:32 mark. Expect more of this in ‘20.

Red shirt sophomore Tramel Walthour (6’ 4’ 275) out of Liberty County will certainly be in the 3-man DE rotation and his best days of football are still ahead of him. Walthour’s forte is run defending and can be plugged into a 3-technique in a pinch. This is an important year as Tramel will be gaining experience to hopefully pay dividends once he becomes an upper classman.

2021 Recruiting Needs Took a Hit.

Georgia only signed one defensive end in the 2020 cycle, Cameron Kinnie (6’ 3”, 265) out of Suwanee and is a likely red-shirt candidate and is currently listed by 247Sports in the offensive line group.

Unfortunately, 4-Star Elijah Jeudy de-committed and is trending towards Texas A&M by the major recruiting sites, although he says Georgia (among others) are still in the mix. Dan Lanning, Kirby Smart and Co. are going to have to fill the void. The national #1 recruit, Korey Foreman, is considering taking his talents from Riverside, California to the Classic City. This would be a huge addition. Ideally, Georgia needs to add 2 defensive ends in the 2021 cycle. Opportunity is everywhere.

Adapting the Talent to the Situation

Georgia’s base 3-4 scheme is built around the ability for the 3 down-linemen to occupy blockers and with Jordan Davis’ ability to take on 2 offensive lineman, someone off the edge is going to be free; usually a linebacker. This is a problem for offensive coordinators attempting to scheme for our talent on the outside, particularly Nolan Smith and Jermaine Johnson. Malik Herring and Travon Walker are versatile enough to play with their hands in the dirt on occasion, allowing for so many options to “cause havoc,” the goal of the 2020 defense. It is going to be a fun thing to watch and might have to carry the team in the early going. They’ve got the chops to do it.