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Friday, October 12, 2012
UGA midseason report card: DL

By David Ching

Editor’s note: Georgia’s football season is at the halfway mark, and the Bulldogs will take this weekend off before resuming SEC play next Saturday at Kentucky. We'll take a look at a different position group each day this week and evaluate how it performed in the first half of the season in our DawgNation midseason report cards.

ATHENS, Ga. -- Viewed in the preseason as one of the team’s biggest strengths, Georgia’s defensive line was something of a disappointment in the first half of the season.

The seven regulars have sometimes failed to control the line of scrimmage and have not provided the improved pass rush that many expected when Cornelius Washington and Ray Drew shifted from outside linebacker to defensive end -- at least part time -- in the offseason. The entire group has accounted for just seven tackles for a loss and half a sack in the first six games of the season.

Don’t get us wrong, they haven’t been terrible. We just expected a dominant defensive front. Instead it has been merely serviceable. Georgia’s defense should improve in the second half now that all of the starters are back in the fold -- and the defensive front needs to lead the charge in the final six games.

Let’s examine the first half for Georgia’s defensive line:

DEFENSIVE LINE REPORT CARD
STARTERS (stats): DE Abry Jones (17 tackles, 1 tackle for loss), NG John Jenkins (23 tackles, 1 TFL), DE Cornelius Washington (15 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 3 TFL)

RESERVES (stats): DE Garrison Smith (20 tackles), NG Kwame Geathers (14 tackles, 2 TFL), DE Ray Drew (5 tackles), DE/NG Mike Thornton (0 tackles), DE Sterling Bailey (0 tackles), DL Jonathan Taylor (redshirting)

HIGHLIGHT: Georgia came to play against Vanderbilt and, for the first time this season, obliterated its opponent up front. The Bulldogs were up 27-0 before Vandy dented the scoreboard. The defensive front did a great job of tying up blockers and freeing teammates to record nine tackles for a loss and three sacks against the Commodores.

LOWLIGHT: Although the South Carolina game was the team’s low point of the season, the defensive line performed a bit better than it had the week before against Tennessee, when the Volunteers rolled up 44 points and 478 yards of total offense (197 on the ground). Tennessee surprisingly controlled the line of scrimmage throughout that game.

OVERALL EVALUATION: This group is not untalented. Far from it. John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers had dominant moments in the first half -- Jenkins in particular -- and Abry Jones and Cornelius Washington have a good chance to play in the NFL next season.

But they are not pushing around offensive lines as consistently as they did last season, and Georgia’s defensive totals reflect those issues. The defensive line is certainly not solely to blame for Georgia’s declining defensive results, but it will need to perform better if the Bulldogs are to have a better second half.

For starters, they need to apply more consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, who frequently seem to have too long to stand in the pocket and find an open receiver. Washington and Jones in particular need to do a better job of helping Jarvis Jones make quarterbacks sweat.

POSITION GRADE: C