Leaders at Every Level
Han Vance on Georgia football: The secondary of the Dawgs is plainly policed by J.R. Reed. The safety has way over-performed based on the early expectations set for him, by others, throughout his time at the University of Georgia, since switching allegiances from a non-Power 5 Tulsa. His NFL lineage (dad Jake played WR for 12 years) apparent enough in his athleticism on the field, his vocal leadership on-and-off the field drives the overall defensive back excellence at UGA. Of course, head coach and defensive specialist Kirby Smart is a former all-SEC DB himself. Reed has a knack for being in the right place at the right time.
With the departure of Jim Thorpe Award (top DB) winner Baker before the Sugar Bowl – disagree with uninjured players skipping any bowl games, especially New Year’s 6 bowls, regardless of whether or not they are College Football Playoff semifinals, by the way – the vastness of veteran experience went out the window. That the remaining starting cornerbacks are so young and that fellow starting safety Richard LeCounte III has conversely not lived up to the lofty 5-star ballhawk expectations thrust upon him out of high school, yet, signifies Reed’s importance. He is truly a quarterback or additional coach in the defensive backfield. With suddenly pass happy teams awaiting Georgia in an already highly-probable third straight trip to the SEC championship game in Atlanta, where Bama or LSU appear most likely to be an opponent of the four true contenders in the SEC West, coverage and proper backfield alignment is of the utmost importance. Then, the CFP will feature Clemson almost assuredly and their robot of a quarterback.
Linebacker Monty Rice was the Bulldogs’s leading tackler at the time of his injury last year, and that full season honor finally falling to LeCounte downfield in the secondary indicates just how valuable he was and is to the defense. Seemingly coming out of nowhere, I was there as the 3-star out of the state of Alabama shred the first-team defense for double-digit tackles two G-Day games back, where he was the clear defensive MVP. Undersized compared to previous players starting at his position, his physicality is perhaps more mental than physical – he’s a hitting and tackling machine by intention. He wills himself to get to the ball, and I love the way he has been talking to the media with all the right answers. I could easily see him being a college defensive coordinator in the future.
On the defensive line, Georgia has three seniors, each a high-character hardworking guy. I met very cool guy Michael Barnett at UGA’s inaugural Alumni Weekend this past spring – you should go with us this year if you went to UGA – and I have to like seeing so much upperclassmen leadership on hand. But younger big boy Jordan Davis leads the way, with his dominant play. He reminds me of the University of Miami haymaking cloggers of the 1980s (and ’90s), which is saying a ton. So huge yet still seems lithe on his feet for his size.
Tomorrow (or the day after) I’ll look at the offensive leaders.
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Please get ready for the rematch:
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