NCF Nation: Kwame Geathers

National signing day might have come and gone, but that didn't stop Georgia from adding to its already stout 2013 recruiting class.

Almost two weeks after the most important recruiting day of the year, the Bulldogs signed Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College defensive tackle Toby Johnson, who is the nation's No. 4 prospect in the ESPN Junior College 100. He gives Georgia 33 signees in its 2013 class.

The 6-foot-4, 305-pound Johnson picked Georgia over Auburn and Mississippi State.

"I called Mark Richt last night and told him I was coming," Johnson said. "He was fired up. They want me to play defensive end, but I will move inside in the nickel package."

The addition of Johnson, who finished the year with 37 tackles, three sacks and four pass breakups in nine games, is big for the Bulldogs, who lost starting nose guard John Jenkins, along with Kwame Geathers, Abry Jones and Cornelius Washington up front. Georgia was in desperate need of some depth up front, and Johnson gives the Dawgs someone who can immediately help out.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham wanted to play more defensive linemen last season, and he might get his way in 2013 after Georgia signed seven defensive line prospects in this year's recruiting class. But Johnson might be the best of the bunch with his versatility. It also doesn't hurt that he has some post-high school playing experience.

With all the struggles Georgia's defense had against the run last season, the addition of Johnson will give Grantham a chance to rotate more players up front, keeping guys much fresher this fall.

Johnson is rehabbing a torn ACL in his right knee, suffered in November, but he said that his injury shouldn't limit him when he reports this summer.

“I plan to enroll June 6, and I do not plan to redshirt,” Johnson said. “It feels great to be a Dawg.”

Georgia bowl X factor

January, 1, 2013
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We're taking a look at Georgia's X factor for the Bulldogs' matchup with Nebraska in today's Capital One Bowl:

X FACTOR

Kwame Geathers, Jr., NG: With big man John Jenkins academically ineligible for today's game, Geathers steps in to try and clog the middle of Georgia's line against a very, very good running team. Nebraska led the Big Ten and ranked eighth nationally with 254.5 rushing yards per game. The Huskers are averaging 5.4 yards per attempt and run the ball almost 50 times a game. Georgia has to stop Nebraska's ground game or it's going to be a long day for the Bulldogs' defense.

Georgia enters the game with one of the SEC's worst rushing defenses, as the Bulldogs surrendered 177.8 yards on the ground per game. That was good enough for 12th in the SEC. Georgia is fresh off giving up 350 rushing yards to Alabama in the SEC championship and can't afford to get sloppy again up front because this defense will just wear down as the game goes on. That means Geathers, who has five tackles for loss on the year, has to get push up front to disrupt Nebraska's elite running game. Nebraska running backs Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah and quarterback Taylor Martinez combined for 2,597 rushing yards this season, so getting some pressure up the middle and clogging things up front will be key for Georgia's defense, as it looks to slow down the Huskers. Geathers isn't as wide as Jenkins, but he's taller and has a ton of strength. If he can slow plays up the middle, Georgia's defense should tire out like it did against Alabama.

Pregame: Capital One Bowl

December, 31, 2012
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Georgia (11-2, 7-1 SEC) vs. Nebraska (10-3, 7-1 Big Ten)

Who to watch: Considering that the two defenses in the Capital One Bowl rank 95th (Nebraska at 194.9 rushing yards allowed per game) and 77th (Georgia, 177.8 ypg) against the run, we recommend that you keep an eye on the respective teams’ running threats.

The run is particularly important for Nebraska, which ranks eighth nationally in rushing offense at 254.5 yards per game. Quarterback Taylor Martinez (175 attempts, 973 yards, 10 TDs) and running backs Ameer Abdullah (219-1,089, 8 TDs) and Rex Burkhead (74-535, 4 TDs) present a major threat for a Bulldogs defense that has surrendered 300-plus rushing yards in three straight games.

Georgia’s offense is more balanced than Nebraska’s -- the Bulldogs average 274.2 passing yards and 184.2 rushing yards per game -- but offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will no doubt try to set up his passing game with his dynamite one-two punch of freshman tailbacks, Todd Gurley (199-1,260, 16 TDs) and Keith Marshall (109-723, 8 TDs). Marshall has two touchdown runs of 70-plus yards this season, providing the home run threat out of the backfield that the Bulldogs have lacked for several years.

What to Watch: Georgia’s defensive front against Nebraska’s offensive line. The Cornhuskers have a pair of All-Big Ten offensive linemen in guard Spencer Long and tackle Jeremiah Sirles, but center Justin Jackson is out with an injured ankle. Their backup center, either Mark Pelini or Cole Pensick, will not have to go up against Georgia’s senior All-SEC noseguard, John Jenkins, who will miss the game after being declared academically ineligible last week. But they’ll hardly get much of a break in having to block 6-foot-6, 355-pound nose Kwame Geathers, who will replace Jenkins in the starting lineup.

Nonetheless, after getting shredded by Alabama’s powerful running game, Georgia’s defensive line will be subject to close observation against Nebraska’s talented runners.

Why watch? The Capital One Bowl is traditionally one of the highest-profile non-BCS bowl games, and this one fits the bill. No. 7 Georgia came within 5 yards of upsetting Alabama and playing for the BCS title. No. 16 Nebraska could have played in the Rose Bowl before laying an egg against Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.

Surprisingly enough, though, these teams have played only once before despite their positions as two of the winningest programs in college football history. Nebraska’s 45-6 win over the Bulldogs in the 1969 Sun Bowl still ranks as the worst bowl loss in Georgia history.

Prediction: Nebraska is going to score, but can it score enough to keep up with Georgia? The Cornhuskers have played six games against teams that rank in the nation’s top 50 in scoring offense. They went 3-3 in those games and allowed an average of 39.5 points per game. And here’s the kicker: Georgia boasts the highest-scoring offense Nebraska has faced this season, as the Bulldogs rank 19th nationally in scoring at 37.2 points per game. Georgia 38, Nebraska 24.
We all know that defense wins championships and the SEC is very much a testament to that. Alabama possessed the nation's No. 1 defense last season and now possesses another national championship. Runner-up LSU ranked second nationally.

Alabama ran away with the crown as the nation's and the SEC's best defense, but that title is for the taking in 2012. Alabama is down key players from last year's squad, like linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower, defensive tackle Josh Chapman, and defensive backs Mark Barron, Dre Kirkpatrick, and DeQuan Menzie.

SportsNation

Who will have the best defense in 2012?

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Discuss (Total votes: 12,039)

Alabama's defense isn't as green as the 2010 group, but it's still drawing some comparisons to it. That's exactly what the Tide wants to hear. Nico Johnson seems primed to be a true leader at linebacker, while Adrian Hubbard could be a budding star at Upshaw's old position. Defensive backs Robert Lester and Dee Milliner are back and will be joined by a couple of JUCO standouts and talented sophomores Vinnie Sunseri and Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix. Jesse Williams could be a real force at defensive tackle along with end Damion Square.

Then you have LSU. The Tigers lost All-World cornerback Morris Claiborne to the NFL draft and two starting linebackers. Michael Brockers is gone at defensive tackle as well. But LSU is still loaded. The Tigers return Heisman finalist Tyrann Mathieu and Tharold Simon, who should be fine with an expanded role at cornerback. Junior Kevin Minter really stepped up at linebacker last year and should pick up right where he left off. Even without Brockers, the line is solid with future first-rounder Sam Montgomery at one end position and the underrated Barkevious Mingo at the other. The two combined for 17 sacks last season.

Bennie Logan and Anthony Johnson should provide some meat nastiness in the interior, while the very talented Eric Reid is back at free safety.

Georgia and South Carolina both finished the 2011 season ranked in the top five nationally in total defense. South Carolina was third, while Georgia was fifth, respectively. The Gamecocks lost first-round defensive end Melvin Ingram, but return freshman standout Jadeveon Clowney and Devin Taylor, who many thought would be better than Ingram last season. Kelcy Quarles is back at defensive tackle and the coaches think he'll be even better in his second year.

Shaq Wilson and Reginald Bowens, who combined for 96 tackles last year, will grab time at linebacker again, while the very athletic DeVonte Holloman returns to the Spur for his senior year. There are questions in the secondary, but seniors D.J. Swearinger (safety) and Akeem Auguste (cornerback) return.

Georgia returns nine defensive starters. Brandon Boykin is gone at corner, and the Bulldogs will enter the fall with a lot questions in the secondary, especially with starters Branden Smith, Sanders Commings and Bacarri Rambo suspended to start the season. Star freshman receiver Malcolm Mitchell moved to corner this spring and fits right in, but there are depth issues at the position.

Other than that, the Bulldogs are still pretty stacked. Inside linebacker Alec Ogletree will serve a suspension to start the year, but Georgia will fill his spot by committee. Mike Gilliard, Cornelius Washington, Christian Robinson, Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson provide Georgia with a very solid linebacking unit alongside star Jarvis Jones, who racked up 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks. Georgia's defensive line should also be pretty stout with the massive John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers battling in the middle. Abry Jones really progressed at end as well this spring.

Or maybe someone else will step up and take the crown ...

Alec Ogletree returns for Dawgs

October, 25, 2011
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The boost that Florida's offense is getting this weekend with the return of quarterback John Brantley is matched by the boost Georgia's defense will get with the return of inside linebacker Alec Ogletree.

Ogletree broke his right foot in the season opener against Boise State and hasn't played since. He's the Bulldogs' hardest hitter, the kind of big-play defender who can change a game with one blow and a piece of the puzzle that's been missing for the Bulldogs these past six games.

Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham will tell you that Ogletree was his best football player before the injury. If he's indeed all the way back, then he should take a Georgia defense that's steadily improved and played well in his absence to a defense capable of being dominant.

One of the keys to the Bulldogs' five-game winning streak has been how well they've held up defensively despite some of the injuries and the two-game suspension of junior outside linebacker Cornelius Washington, who's one of the team's best pass-rushers.

Washington is back this week, and along with Ogletree, should give the Bulldogs their most disruptive front seven since the season opener. Getting Ogletree and Washington back also helps counter not having noseguard Kwame Geathers and safety Shawn Williams for the first half against Florida after they were suspended by the SEC for their actions in the Vanderbilt game.

Overall, this is a mentally tougher Georgia defense than a year ago and a defense that has bought into Grantham's system and his physical approach. It's also a defense that should play with even more of an edge now that the 6-foot-3, 236-pound Ogletree is back in the middle.
The SEC announced Wednesday the suspension of three players from the Georgia-Vanderbilt game played Saturday.

Georgia nose guard Kwame Geathers and safety Shawn Williams, along with Vanderbilt center Logan Stewart will each serve one half-game suspension for their upcoming games.

Stewart will sit out the first half against Army Saturday, while Geathers and Williams will sit out the first two quarters against Florida on Oct. 29.

Stewart committed a flagrant personal foul early in the fourth quarter when he dove at the back of Geathers' legs after a play. Geathers then retaliated when he dove on top of the Commodores' center and punched him.

Williams was suspended for launching himself into Commodores receiver Jordan Matthews' head on a play where Chris Boyd caught a 23-yard pass during the third quarter. While the play wasn't flagged, the league said it was a violation of Rule 9-1-4 of the NCAA Football Rule Book, which states that “No player shall target and initiate contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder.”

Williams' was flagged for two personal fouls during the game.

What really drew people's attention was what transpired after the game. Vanderbilt coach James Franklin was upset with some of the things said and some of Williams' play and voiced his displeasure toward Williams as the two teams met at midfield following Georgia's win. Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham overheard Franklin and intervened, which led to a heated argument between the two and a fight nearly broke out.

The league decided not to punish Franklin or Grantham for their postgame actions.

Georgia's suspensions could have a major impact on the Bulldogs' game with Florida. If the Gators do get quarterback John Brantley back in time, you can expect to see an improved offense from Florida, meaning Georgia will need to get more pressure up front early. Not having Geathers there could hurt the Bulldogs in the run game, with Florida using speedy back Chris Rainey.

Not having Williams in the defensive backfield for the first part of the game should benefit Florida's struggling passing game as well, as Williams has been one of Georgia's most active defensive backs, grabbing two interceptions and breaking up four passes.
Aaron Murray and Kellen MooreUS PresswireKellen Moore, right, and Aaron Murray will lead their respective offenses when Boise State and Georgia meet Saturday in Atlanta.
No. 5 Boise State and No. 19 Georgia square off Saturday night in one of the top nonconference games of the season. So who is going to win and why? How about a little debate between college football nation blogger Andrea Adelson and SEC blogger Edward Aschoff.

Andrea Adelson: So I hear you want to debate me on Boise State versus Georgia, Edward. I am glad to see you are not too scared to take on a little sister of the poor. Now I know you are new around these parts, but that does not mean little sister here is going to take it easy on you. I am in this debate to win it, just like Boise State has agreed to travel across the country to play in what is hilariously called a "neutral-site game" in Atlanta to play Georgia. The Broncos are in this to win it, and to show -- yet again -- they can beat the so-called big boys. Wait. What? Oh, right. You are going to bring up 2005, and the 48-13 shellacking Georgia delivered to Boise State. Well, if I am not mistaken, this is 2011 and Boise State has a fellow named Kellen Moore at quarterback. He just finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy race. Advantage, Boise State. Tell me where Georgia has an advantage.

Edward Aschoff: No, I won't bring up that 2005 game where the Broncos didn't belong on the same field. I also don't need to bring up that the Broncos are 0-4 all-time against SEC opponents -- all of those losses came in the past decade. But what are Georgia's obvious advantages? Well, besides the fact this game is going to literally be played in Georgia's backyard, the Bulldogs have tremendous speed on defense. Speed that I don't think Boise's offense can match. Georgia has one of the most athletic front sevens in the league. Boise's line is going to have to try to stop the likes of Kwame Geathers and big ol' John Jenkins in the interior. Together, they weigh close to 700 pounds. Plus, DeAngelo Tyson is going to drive tackles crazy on the outside. But even if the Broncos manage to squeeze by that front line, they'll have to meet one of the fastest linebacker corps around. Alec Ogletree dropped down into the box from safety and can absolutely fly around the field to make plays. With Christian Robinson joining him in the middle and the likes of Jarvis Jones and Cornelius Washington in there, the Broncos are going to need jet packs to get through the box. Kellen Moore might be back, but without Titus Young or Austin Pettis (142 catches, 2,166 yards and 19 touchdowns gone) to throw to, Boise is going to have to rely more on its running game and that wreaks of trouble.

AA: Does it, Edward? Doug Martin is one of the most underrated running backs in the nation, running for 1,260 yards and 12 touchdowns last season, averaging 6.3 yards a carry. Forget all that mumbo jumbo about playing against bottom-feeders. Scouts Inc. lists Martin as the top senior running back available in the 2012 NFL draft. He runs the 40-yard dash in 4.48. Same time as Arkansas running back Knile Davis, and faster than Alabama running back Trent Richardson. Martin also ranks No. 2 in the Scouts Inc. power/balance evaluation and No. 1 in competitiveness. I should also mention he is a terrific pass-catcher, with 28 receptions last year for 338 yards. His offensive line also has a stud in left tackle Nate Potter, who made the ESPN.com preseason All-America team. Mel Kiper lists Potter as one of the top senior offensive tackles in the nation as well. So your argument about the plodding, unathletic Broncos makes little sense. Boise State is way more athletic than UCF, and I do recall the Knights beat Georgia last season.

EA: While we're discussing future NFL prospects, you might as well look at Georgia's offensive line. The same Scouts Inc. that you referred to ranks senior Cordy Glenn as the top-rated guard in the 2012 draft and senior Ben Jones as the top center. Glenn could have easily left school early for the NFL, but will be lining up at left tackle for the Dawgs on Saturday. Good luck to those Broncos trying to get by deceptively agile 6-foot-5, 348-pound monster. Also, left guard Kenarious Gates isn't well known yet, but he's extremely athletic and can move along the line if needed. Those guys will be blocking for the SEC's best quarterback in Aaron Murray, who set all sorts for school and SEC freshman records in passing and total yardage in 2010. He'll have one of the nation's best in tight end Orson Charles, an ESPN.com preseason All-American, who is too fast for most linebackers to keep up with and he's too big for most corners to guard. And while Tavarres King doesn't have the clout A.J. Green had, he's been tremendously consistent and has been Murray's go-to guy at flanker. Also, two freshmen to keep an eye on are running back Isaiah Crowell and receiver Malcolm Mitchell. Crowell could have a Marcus Lattimore-like impact, and word out of Athens is that Mitchell has been turning heads and breaking ankles in practice. Don't sleep on Georgia's offense.

AA: Well, I did fall asleep on them watching the bowl game against UCF last season. Murray, Charles and Glenn were on that team, right? Joking aside, I know Georgia will be much better on offense and defense. But I’m not sure the Bulldogs will be good enough against a veteran team with a senior class that has lost twice in their careers.

EA: The Broncos are in a must-win situation, meaning the pressure is on. For Georgia, the Bulldogs can lose this game and still make a run at the SEC title and maybe even the national championship if a ton of pieces fall into place. With that said, Boise has been in this situation many times before, and it's tough to pick against them in this situation. I think Georgia takes it down to the wire, but comes up just short in its opener against the Broncos.
Everyone is looking for the next Nick Fairley.

Everyone would love to have their own Cam Newton.

So as we look around the league at some of the newcomers from either the junior college ranks or who have transferred in from other schools, we'll try to find them.

Could Georgia noseguard John Jenkins be the beast in the middle that Fairley was? Does Barry Brunetti have what it takes to have a Newton-like impact at Ole Miss?

Here is a look at some of the new athletes around the league to keep an eye on this fall:

ALABAMA
  • Duron Carter, WR: Carter could be a big-time playmaker for the Tide, but he has yet to enroll because of transcript issues. The former Ohio State and juco wideout is the son of star former NFL receiver Cris Carter.
  • Quinton Dial, DL: Dial could play both inside and out, but is currently getting quality reps at defensive end for Alabama. The former juco standout has made quite the impression on his head coach and he seems to be in line for a starting spot.
  • Jesse Williams, DT: Like Dial, Williams transferred in from the juco ranks in January and has also performed well in practice. He's gotten reps all around the line, but could also be in contention for one of the end spots. He's a massive lineman at 6-foot-4 and 319 pounds.
ARKANSAS
  • Alonzo Highsmith, LB: The juco transfer is an extremely athletic linebacker and has really impressed since his arrival. He stepped in at the starting weakside linebacker spot on Day 1 of preseason camp and appears to have the edge there heading into the season.
  • Robert Thomas, DT: Speaking of athleticism, the Razorbacks might have found their most athletic defensive lineman in Thomas. The juco transfer got a ton of reps this spring with Byran Jones and DeQuinta Jones out with injuries, and is currently competing for a starting spot.
FLORIDA
  • Dan Wenger, C: He earned an extra year of eligibility after concussions cut his Notre Dame career short. He's reuniting with offensive coordinator Charlie Weis and offensive line coach Frank Verducci and is not only competing for the starting spot at center but has become a leader on the offensive line.
GEORGIA
  • John Jenkins, DT: He was a giant gem of Georgia's 2011 class and was expected to snatch the starting noseguard position. However, the juco standout has had injury issues and hasn't been in the best shape. At 6-foot-4, and 340 pounds, people are hoping he can be a force in the middle this fall, but he's currently behind Kwame Geathers.
  • Jarvis Jones, LB: Jones transferred in from USC last year and takes over as the starting strongside linebacker. Georgia's coaches feel that with his speed and athleticism he could be a more versatile player than former stud Justin Houston.
LSU
  • Zach Mettenberger, QB: If Jordan Jefferson is indeed punished for his alleged involvement in a horrific fight outside of a Baton Rouge bar, Mettenberger's time could be now. He matches his cannon of a right arm with tremendous accuracy and might have the best skill set of any of LSU's current quarterbacks.
MISSISSIPPI STATE
  • Brandon Maye, LB: Maye transferred from Clemson and with the Bulldogs looking to replace three starters at linebacker, Maye is expected to make an immediate impact at middle linebacker. He had a slow start to fall camp, but improved throughout.
OLE MISS

  • Barry Brunetti, Randall Mackey, Zack Stoudt, QBs: All three are vying for the starting quarterback spot and all have done well since the spring. Brunetti transferred from West Virginia, while Mackey and Stoudt are former juco athletes. Brunetti has the edge at quarterback, but Mackey was on top this spring and won't make things easy for the sophomore. Stoudt isn't as athletic as the other two, but has been very sharp with his passing ability.
  • Uriah Grant, Gilbert Pena, DT: Both players were brought in to add some beef in the middle of Ole Miss' line and both could end up starters for opening day. Both have dealt with injuries, but that really hasn't slowed their on-field production in practice.
  • Wesley Pendleton, CB: Pendleton had an impressive juco career and has really caught on in Ole Miss' defense. He's in the thick of it for one of the starting cornerback spots and has shown that he might be the Rebels' most athletic defensive back.
TENNESSEE
  • Alex Bullard, OG: He transferred from Notre Dame and was granted a hardship in order to play this fall. Bullard has moved all along the line this preseason, but it looks like he could be in the running for one of the starting guard positions.
  • Maurice Couch, DT: A lot is expected from Couch, who hopes to fill one of the spots in the middle of Tennessee's line. It hasn't been an easy preseason for Couch, who suffers from asthma, but he has made improvements. He'll contribute at noseguard and the three technique this fall.
  • Izauea Lanier, CB: Though he made his mark playing safety in junior college, Lanier is competing for time at corner. At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, he's a bigger corner, which coach Derek Dooley likes.
  • Byron Moore, DB: Moore appears to be a "tweener" on defense. He could play safety or corner for the Vols. With Tennessee running a lot of nickel formations, Moore should see the field in some capacity this fall.
VANDERBILT
  • Jordan Rodgers, QB: Rodgers missed the 2010 season and missed the spring while recovering from shoulder surgery, but is No. 2 at quarterback. The younger brother to Super Bowl champ Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Rodgers is a player coach James Franklin has been especially excited about seeing.
Today we look at the big uglies that cause all the mayhem in the trenches. The SEC consistently spits out nasty defensive linemen and this year has more of an athletic feel.

Here's how the teams stacked up:

1. South Carolina: The Gamecocks return a defensive line that would make any offensive line shutter. Plus, incoming freshman Jadeveon Clowney comes in as the top high school player in the country and could be one of the best ends in the league this fall. Devin Taylor leads the group at end and was second on the team with 7.5 sacks as a sophomore. Helping on the outside is Melvin Ingram, who plays inside on passing downs, and led South Carolina with nine sacks a year ago. Senior Travian Robertson, who came off injury to get four sacks last year, is solid in the middle as well.

[+] EnlargeDevin Taylor
Dale Zanine/US PresswireDevin Taylor made a habit of harassing quarterbacks last season.
2. Arkansas: The Razorbacks might have the best pass-rushing group Arkansas has seen in a while. Things revolve around defensive end Jake Bequette, who was one of the more unheralded players in the league last year, despite having seven sacks. On the other side of the line is Tenarius Wright, who will make up the second part of a formidable outside duo in Fayetteville with his speed and athleticism. In the middle, there are plenty of options. Byran Jones and DeQuinta Jones missed spring due to injury, but will be back this fall and there’s a wealth of depth behind them. Junior college transfer Robert Thomas might be the best and most athletic option in the middle is primed to break out.

3. LSU: There are some questions about the experience the Tigers bring back, but no one will question the talent and athleticism in Baton Rouge. Sam Montgomery is back at defensive end, after suffering a serious knee injury. He hasn’t played much, but the coaches believe he’s got what it takes to be a top end in this league. Kendrick Adams started 11 games last year at end, while Lavar Edwards filled in for Montgomery. Ego Ferguson redshirted last year, but should get a ton of playing time in the middle this fall. He is already one of the most athletic tackles in the SEC. Don’t forget about five-star early enrollee Anthony Johnson, who made very strong impressions on his coaches this spring and will be in the rotation inside.

4. Florida: This unit was criticized for lacking toughness last season, but will be full of that and even more athleticism in 2011. Jaye Howard is returning from spring ankle surgery and is already considered a top defensive tackle prospect in next year’s NFL draft. Alongside him are youngsters Sharrif Floyd and Dominique Easley. Floyd was the most consistent of the much-ballyhooed freshman class last fall, while Easley struggled with attitude problems. Easley has rebounded and both excelled this spring. Omar Hunter is finally healthy and will share time with Floyd at noseguard and senior William Green will occupy an end spot. This group is even better when Ronald Powell lines up at end in the 4-3.

5. Alabama: On paper, there are a few questions with this group, but it’s hard to drop Alabama very far on this list. The 3-4 scheme will have senior Josh Chapman at noseguard. Chapman started 12 games in the middle last fall, totaling 31 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. Damion Square will compete for time on the outside, and since returning from his ACL injury, he’s gained a lot more playing confidence and could be a budding star in the league. Junior college transfers Quinton Dial and Jesse Williams will compete for time on the line as well, while sophomore Ed Stinson will stay at end after starting last season at Jack linebacker.

6. Mississippi State: The Bulldogs have arguably the top returning tackle tandem in the SEC. Fletcher Cox and Josh Boyd are the behemoths in the middle who combined for 53 tackles, 13 for loss and five sacks last year. Finding any sort of inside running game against Mississippi State will be extremely tough. Developing a pass-rusher is the next step for the Bulldogs’ staff. Sean Ferguson occupies one side, but the other is still up for grabs. Trevor Stigers and Shane McCardell battled for the spot this spring, but neither has really pushed ahead.

7. Georgia: There is a lot of talent in Athens, but there could be a lot of movement on the line. JUCO transfer John Jenkins is the big -- and we mean big -- name up front and he’s yet to play a down in the SEC. He arrives with a ton of hype, but is perfect at noseguard in Todd Grantham’s 3-4. DeAngelo Tyson moves to his natural position outside after playing noseguard last year. Kwame Geathers played in the middle this spring, but could be usurped for Jenkins this fall and move outside. Abry Jones is still maturing after moving to end and recording 34 tackles including 3.5 for loss last season and had a 16-tackle performance against Georgia Tech.

8. Auburn: The Tigers must replace three starters this season. Inside, Auburn is talented but inexperienced with Kenneth Carter and Jeffrey Whitaker having 13 combined tackles from a year ago. There’s less concern on the outside with lone returning starter Nosa Eguae on one side and sophomore Corey Lemonier on the other. Eguae might have more experience with 11 starts, but Lemonier appears to be more athletic and should be near the top of the defensive end pool this year. After that, the Tigers are young across the board.

9. Tennessee: The Volunteers’ line will grow with senior Malik Jackson running things in the middle. He had 48 tackles and five sacks a year ago and some think he’ll be even better this fall. A lot will also be expected from incoming JUCO transfer Maurice Couch. He’s pretty athletic at 6-foot-4, 327 pounds and he’ll be greatly needed, considering the dismissal of Montori Hughes. Jacques Smith has All-SEC potential and will hold one of the end spots. After that, Tennessee has some young, but encouragingly talented bodies at each position.

10. Ole Miss: Some of the best news of the spring coming out of Oxford was the return of Kentrell Lockett at defensive end. Lockett was granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA and will not only be the Rebels’ top lineman but possibly their best defensive player. After that, the questions roll in with four tackles gone and youth coming in. Tackle Justin Smith has yet to really emerge as the All-SEC talent he was expected to be and Ole Miss is smaller up front. JUCO transfer Gilbert Pena could add some size in the middle. Gerald Rivers returns to get time at end, but has played in just 15 career games in two years.

11. Vanderbilt: This was supposed to be a strength for the Commodores last year until injuries hit. Still, Vanderbilt returns three starters. Experience is there, but this unit has to continue to improve, especially in the pass-rushing department where the Commodores had just 20 sacks in 2010. Rob Lohr led Vanderbilt with four sacks a year ago and had 35 tackles. T.J. Greenstone is coming off of injury and will line up inside. Tim Fugger was one of the Commodores' most consistent players at end, playing in every game and registering three sacks and four forced fumbles.

12. Kentucky: End Collins Ukwu and tackle Luke McDermott return with the most experience on Kentucky’s line. Ukwu improved not only on the field but in the weight room this spring and is expected to be a more consistent pass-rusher. McDermott is a walk-on currently ahead of Donte Rumph, who has the talent to be one of Kentucky’s top defenders, but has yet to fully buy in to the program. The coaches are also waiting for tackle Mister Cobble to finally break out of his funk and be a regular contributor. The rest of Kentucky’s linemen have some developing to do and are inexperienced.

'Big' help on the way for Georgia

June, 6, 2011
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John Jenkins has been a name bandied about by Georgia fans since the end of last football season.

By the end of this week, he'll be more than just a name. He'll be a member of the Georgia football team and one of the more important recruits Mark Richt has brought in since coming to Athens as head coach in 2001.

Jenkins, considered one of the top junior college defensive tackles in the country, is on his way to campus and scheduled to begin summer school classes on Friday. The Bulldogs plan to plug the 340-pound Jenkins in at nose guard. He's from the same junior college, Gulf Coast Community College, that produced Terrence Cody, and Georgia is banking on Jenkins having a similar impact as Cody.

While Cody might have been a tad bigger, the book on Jenkins is that he might be a little more athletic.

He also brings the kind of sheer size and power the Bulldogs were missing up front last season. In fact, Kwame Geathers, who's also beefed up to the 350-pound range, improved enough this spring that the Georgia defensive coaches think there's a chance they might be able to play Jenkins and Geathers together.

DeAngelo Tyson, who was undersized at nose guard a year ago, is moving to end in Georgia's 3-4 scheme, and Abry Jones will also play end.

That's four guys right around 300 pounds or bigger up front for the Bulldogs, who should be greatly improved across the board in their front seven on defense.

Of course, if Jenkins is the game-changer the Bulldogs think he is, he's going to make everybody around him look at lot better.
With spring officially over in the SEC world, it’s time to take another look at some of the guys who surprised this spring.

After the first weekend of spring games, guys like LSU wide receiver Kadron Boone and South Carolina offensive lineman A.J. Cann drew high praise from their respective coaches.

Here’s a look at the players from the past two weeks of spring games who helped get their names out there:

Alabama

RB Eddie Lacy -- Last season, Lacy’s production was hindered because of a problem with fumbling. Lacy helped shake that stigma with a strong spring and appears to have secured the No. 2 running back spot. He finished the spring game with 74 yards (44 rushing, 30 receiving).

WR Brandon Gibson -- The fifth-year senior had a productive spring not only at wideout, but he’s becoming more of a leader for the Tide. He's always been a special-teams workhorse, but he's looking to make a name at receiver. He recorded five catches for 53 yards, including a long of 27, in Alabama’s spring game.

Arkansas

S Eric Bennett -- The sophomore from Tulsa, Okla., made it a battle this spring at the strong safety position with senior Elton Ford. Bennett was a quarterback in high school and has an edge to him that all coaches like. Whether he wins the starting job or not, he’s proved that he can help the Hogs in the secondary in 2011.

RB Ronnie Wingo, Jr. -- With the season Knile Davis had a year ago, a lot of people forgot about Wingo. But he came back this spring and showed his big-play capability both as a ball carrier and pass-catcher. He rushed for 62 yards on 11 carries in the spring game.

Auburn

DE Joel Bonomolo – The junior college transfer was injured all of 2010, and while he’s still a bit raw, he led the defense during the spring game with six tackles, three for a loss, including two sacks. He still has some things to learn, but he finished the spring on the right track heading into the offseason.

RB Anthony Morgan -- Morgan has moved all over the field during his Auburn career, but seemed to make a statement at running back this spring. He finished the spring game with a team-high 57 yards on six carries, and if he continues to improve, coach Gene Chizik said he could earn playing time this fall.

Georgia

DT Kwame Geathers -- The sophomore noseguard was one of the biggest surprises of the spring for the Bulldogs. He was named the defensive MVP for spring practice by Georgia’s coaches and had four tackles, including two for loss, in the spring game.

RB Ken Malcome -- Injured for part of the spring and seemingly buried on the depth chart, Malcome showed some of his bulldozing ability in the spring game. He's the kind of downhill runner the Bulldogs want in their offense, and if he's healthy he could contribute. He scored the game-winning, 12-yard touchdown and finished with 39 yards on the ground.

Kentucky

DE Collins Ukwu -- A starter a year ago, Ukwu only had one sack all season and none in SEC games. Look for that to change in 2011. He’s gotten bigger and stronger, adding to his great speed, and was a force this spring. He had two tackles for loss, including a sack, in the spring game.

WR Brian Adams -- The Wildcats were looking for dependable playmakers at receiver following the loss of Randall Cobb and Chris Matthews, and even though Adams split his time between football and baseball, he was as consistent as anybody. He was the star of the spring game with seven catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.

Ole Miss

WR Vincent Sanders -- The redshirt freshman looked like the playmaker the Rebels had desperately searched for at times this spring. Like most of the other receivers, he was inconsistent at times, but finished the spring game with a game-high 96 receiving yards and a touchdown on four catches.

S Brishen Mathews -- Mathews worked his way into the No. 1 strong safety spot exiting spring. He was a pleasant surprise for the Rebels’ secondary and finished the spring game tying for a game-high eight tackles.

Tennessee

DT Daniel Hood -- After spending last season on the offensive line, Hood moved to defense and exited the spring as one of the starters at tackle. The Vols are extremely thin inside on the defensive line, and Hood gives them another big, athletic body in there.

RB Rajion Neal -- After carrying the ball just 46 times last season, Neal emerged this spring as a nice complement to Tauren Poole. Tennessee coach Derek Dooley is looking for two No. 1' at running back, and Neal showed some big-play ability the Vols were missing a year ago.

Vanderbilt

DT Colt Nichter -- With the injuries the Commodores were forced to weather up front last season, Nichter stepped in and played very well. But this spring, he showed signs of becoming a star and was a disruptive presence in every scrimmage. He had two sacks and two pass breakups in the spring game.

RB Wesley Tate -- The two big names in the Commodores’ backfield last season were Warren Norman and Zac Stacy, but get ready to add a third name to that equation. The 225-pound Tate showcased power and speed this spring and will add a different dimension to the Vanderbilt running game now that he’s healthy.
Todd Grantham got a glimpse of the hand he was dealt in the spring.

The first-year Georgia defensive coordinator will get a more definitive look beginning Monday when the Bulldogs open preseason practice.

Todd Grantham
Dale Zanine/US PresswireDefensive coordinator Todd Grantham says he has a better feel for his second unit after spring practice.
The freshmen and players who were injured during the spring will be added to the mix as Georgia completes its move to the 3-4. Grantham, whose previous 11 seasons were spent coaching in the NFL, is one of three new defensive assistants on the Bulldogs’ staff.

Their challenge is pretty straightforward: to return the edge to Georgia’s once-proud defense. The Bulldogs were 10th in the SEC last season in scoring defense and have given up 34 or more points in 10 of their 26 games over the last two seasons.

I caught up with Grantham recently to get his thoughts on the upcoming season, his first in college football since 1998 when he was the assistant head coach/defensive line coach at Michigan State under Nick Saban.

Where will the hottest battles be this preseason?

Todd Grantham: The corner position will be interesting. Brandon Boykin, Vance Cuff and Branden Smith will all play, but they will be battling it out for the two starting spots. At safety, we have Bacarri Rambo starting at one, but [junior college transfer] Jakar Hamilton and Nick Williams will be a good battle at the other safety. We moved Darryl Gamble from inside linebacker to outside linebacker, and we’ll see how that turns out with Cornelius Washington. I’m also curious to see what freshmen T. J. Stripling, Dexter Morant and Brandon Burrows do at linebacker and how they fit in. On tape, I like Stripling at our will linebacker position [weakside linebacker] behind Justin Houston. We’ll see how it plays out when everybody gets here.

How much will you experiment this preseason, especially given the move to the 3-4?

TG: I come from pro football, and you’re going into the game with 21 or 22 guys on defense, and that’s it. What you learn is that you have to be flexible, and we will be. If somebody goes down, I’d rather play the next best guy instead of the next guy at that position, and there’s a difference in that. We’re going to find out which guys can play different roles.

What will be key for you up front defensively?

TG: We’ve got to develop a rotation up there, and those guys have to be relentless. DeAngelo Tyson will start out at nose, and Kwame Geathers is behind him. We also have Justin Anderson moving over from the offensive line. If those other two guys come on, it might give us a chance to move DeAngelo around and see what we can do with him at end. I just believe you have to play a lot of guys up there. You expend so much energy playing in the defensive line. If a guy feels like he has to play 60 plays, he’s going to coast. But if he knows he only has to play 35, he will give you more and knows when he gets tired that he’s going to come out and the next guy’s going in. We’ve got to find a way to develop that kind of rotation. If you don’t, when the fourth quarter comes around and it’s time to win the game, your best guys are going to be tired.

What kind of outside linebacker will Houston be in your scheme after recording 7.5 sacks last season at defensive end?

TG: I’m expecting a big year out of him and have talked to him about that. Everybody on your team isn’t the same, and he’s got to be one of those guys who rises above for us. We need to expect more out of him. You have to manufacture production from your linebackers in the 3-4, particularly your outside guys, because that’s where you generate your pass rush. I think Justin is made for the 3-4, and it’s a very good fit for him. That showed up in spring ball with some of the things he did.

Georgia was tied for next to last nationally last season with 12 forced turnovers. How do you turn that around?

TG: It starts with the quarterback. In pro football, we did a study, and the guy who fumbles the ball the most is the quarterback. He’s also the guy throwing the ball, so the more you can do to disrupt him, the more you’re going to create turnovers. You can do that a lot of ways -- disguising what you do, by bringing pressure, four-man and six-man rush, and the biggest thing is the disruption of routes. You can’t allow free access. If you disrupt them and jam them, they’re not always going to be in the spot they’re supposed to be. There’s no question that we need to create more turnovers. Again, going back to the NFL, the teams that were plus-1 in turnover margin over the last 11 years won 80 percent of their games.

Will you call the defensive plays from the booth or be on the sideline during games this season?

TG: I’ll be on the sideline. You have more time to get the calls in when you’re on the sideline. You have more time to think about what you want to do, and you also get a better feel for the players down there. I was on the sideline in the NFL and am used to it. You get used to watching the game from down there and seeing everything develop from down there.

What do you hope the Georgia fans see in this defense?

TG: What I want them to see is improvement and that we’re aggressive, fundamentally sound and relentless in our pursuit of the ball. I want them to see a defense that doesn’t give up explosive plays, a defense that plays with a swagger. I know this, that the Georgia fans have a passion for defense, the “Junkyard Dawg” defense that is so famous around here. I anticipate working toward giving them the things they have a passion for.

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