Georgia Bulldogs: DeAndre Johnson

We're closing in on the start of spring practice at Georgia, so this week we will take a look at five position battles worth watching this spring.

Yesterday we examined the competition at safety. Today let's move to the defensive line, which lost a starter in Garrison Smith, but should otherwise have plentiful depth and experience:

[+] EnlargeRay Drew
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsRay Drew will be among those tasked with getting a better pass rush for Georgia in 2014.
Returning starters: A number of defensive linemen earned starts for the first times in their careers last fall. Defensive end Sterling Bailey (34 tackles, one sack, one tackle for a loss) started the first eight games and came off the bench for the remaining five. Position mate Ray Drew (43 tackles, six sacks, eight TFLs) started seven times, but never started more than two games in a row at any point. And noseguard Chris Mayes (31 tackles, one sack, one TFL) started to come into his own during his streak of seven straight starts to conclude the season.

Departures: Smith (63 tackles, six sacks, 10 TFLs) started all 13 games last season and was one of the emotional leaders on the defense, earning defensive team captain honors after the season.

Returning reserves: John Taylor (nine tackles, one sack, 1.5 TFLs) and Toby Johnson (seven tackles, 1.5 TFLs) are probably the first names to mention here. Both players appeared in 10 games off the bench in 2013 and should compete for extended playing time this fall. Taylor was a redshirt freshman and still looked a bit green last season, while Johnson was only nine months removed from a season-ending ACL tear when the Bulldogs opened preseason camp a year ago. Josh Dawson (eight tackles, one TFL) appeared in 12 games and started once at end and Mike Thornton (five tackles, one sack, one TFL) appeared in 11 games. Smith mentioned Thornton as a player who might fill a larger role in the Bulldogs' retooled 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.

Newcomers: Redshirt freshman John Atkins is among the more intriguing players who will enter the mix this spring. He's big and quick enough to play any position along the line, and it wouldn't be a big surprise to see him figure into the line rotation early next season. Noseguard DeAndre Johnson is also coming off a redshirt, but he faces steep competition in the middle this spring. The Bulldogs also signed defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard -- ESPN's No. 55 overall prospect and No. 4 DT -- and ESPN 300 defensive end Keyon Brown, but neither player is on campus yet.

What to watch: The line came into 2013 with limited experience, but ranked among the pleasant surprises for a defense that disappointed overall. The Bulldogs defended the run fairly well -- Georgia's average of 3.7 yards allowed per carry ranked second in the SEC -- thanks in large part to typically stout play by the line. With six sacks apiece, Drew and Smith both ranked among the SEC's top pass-rushers, but the group generally struggled to generate a consistent pass rush or convert sack opportunities. Identifying strong rush men will likely rank among new line coach Tracy Rocker's goals for the spring, as will simply teaching his new players how he wants things done. This will be the third line coach in as many seasons for the Bulldogs, so the group has certainly become accustomed to change. It will be a big spring for all of the linemen since Rocker brings a fresh set of eyes to the table, without having formed an opinion based on their performances in previous seasons. It might provide a chance for someone like Johnson -- we recently discussed his situation here -- Taylor or Atkins to grab a bigger role than he previously enjoyed.

UGA redshirt review: defense

December, 20, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia signed a massive 33-man recruiting class in February, and many of those signees -- like Leonard Floyd, Shaq Wiggins, J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas -- contributed immediately. Yesterday we reviewed the players who redshirted on offense. Today we move to the defense.

[+] EnlargeDavin Bellamy
Radi Nabulsi/ESPNDavin Bellamy, a former four-star prospect, could work his way into the DL rotation this spring.
John Atkins, Fr., DL
2013 ESPN rating: Four stars, No. 119 overall in 2012, No. 11 defensive tackle
This season: The prep school transfer did not seize a role in the defensive line rotation, but impressed coaches and teammates with a promising skill set that could help him play multiple positions in the future.
Veteran's perspective: “John Atkins' footwork is crazy for a big guy. He's like 320 -- we're the same size – and he has amazing footwork and work ethic. He's going to be one of those guys popping off the scene next year.” -- sophomore defensive lineman Chris Mayes

Davin Bellamy, Fr., OLB
2013 ESPN rating: Four stars, No. 299 overall, No. 25 defensive end
This season: Underwent shoulder surgery during the offseason, but could have played this season according to defensive coordinator Todd Grantham were it not for the emergence of Floyd and Jordan Jenkins at his position.
Veteran's perspective: “Bellamy's a big-bodied kid. I know just from being around him, he has a giant attitude. And when I say that, it's a good thing. He believes in himself and what he can do. He thinks he's the best thing since sliced bread, which is the attitude that you have to have when you're playing football because if you don't believe in yourself, nobody will.” -- junior defensive end Ray Drew

Paris Bostick, Fr., ILB
2013 ESPN rating: Three stars, No. 55 safety
This season: Grantham compares Bostick's skills to those of another converted safety -- former UGA linebacker Alec Ogletree. Bostick suffered a toe injury during the summer and returned to practice during the season.
Veteran's perspective: “Bigger than what most people think -- real big dude now. He's just trying to learn the system and figure out where he's going to fit in at. … He's a real big dude, but he still runs like a safety. He's fast. He's going to be a real good addition to us.” -- junior linebacker Ramik Wilson

Shaquille Fluker, Jr., S
2013 ESPN rating: Four stars, No. 36 on Junior College 50, No. 2 safety
This season: Initially set back by an array of physical ailments, Fluker was designated as a redshirt candidate by midseason. He announced this week his plans to transfer in search of playing time.
Coach's perspective: “I can't comment on any medical situation, but everybody wants to play more, obviously, and I hope wherever he goes, he gets to play. I hope he finds a good home. I like him a lot. He's a good kid. I'm very confident we had his best interests at heart the entire time he was here at Georgia and we treated him well.” -- coach Mark Richt

DeAndre Johnson, Fr., DL
2013 ESPN rating: Three stars, No. 84 defensive tackle
This season: The youngest defensive lineman on the roster, Johnson needs to have a productive offseason in order to crack a veteran-heavy rotation next season, defensive line coach Chris Wilson said.
Veteran's perspective: “He's a low-pad-level player, just a young guy that's got to build up and get more experience and get comfortable with the game. … I think he'll be able to play the 3-technique as he has to learn the game and progress. For his size, he's pretty shifty, so I think he'll be all right.” -- Mayes

Kennar Johnson, Jr., CB
2013 ESPN rating: Three stars, No. 4 safety
This season: Injuries slowed Johnson's development early in the season and the coaches opted to redshirt him instead of utilizing another inexperienced player in a youthful secondary.
Veteran's perspective: “KJ is an athlete. He's very fast. It just comes with being able to compete and learning the system. I think he was kind of put in a bad situation coming in playing behind Corey [Moore], playing behind Tray [Matthews], who was here in the spring, and playing behind Josh [Harvey-Clemons] who's been here for two years. … [Johnson and Fluker were] playing behind guys who had already been here that grasped the system very well. That kind of put them behind the 8-ball a little bit.” -- junior cornerback Damian Swann

Shaun McGee, Fr., OLB
2013 ESPN rating: Three stars, No. 43 defensive end
This season: Capable of playing inside or outside, McGee's development this offseason will establish which of the two spots he plays next fall according to Grantham.
Veteran's perspective: “He's a little bit shorter, but he's very strong. His legs are massive and he can run. He has great speed off the edge, so I see that being one of his best contributions to the team.” -- Drew

Reggie Wilkerson, Fr., CB
2013 ESPN rating: Four stars, No. 163 overall, No. 15 athlete
This season: Enrolled in January and was on track to contribute this season before suffering a season-ending knee injury during summer workouts.
Veteran's perspective: “Reggie had a pretty good spring and he had a freak injury during the summer doing [pass skeleton drills] and we lost him. But I think he can be a big key and big part of this secondary with what we already have with Sheldon [Dawson], with Shaq and with [Brendan] Langley.” -- Swann
ATHENS, Ga. -- Nick Chubb’s verbal commitment last week was big not only because it added a record-setting rusher to Georgia’s 2014 recruiting class, but also because -- together with a previous commitment from another elite tailback, Sony Michel -- it addressed Georgia’s biggest need in this class.

The Bulldogs have Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, of course, but they will be draft-eligible juniors after the 2014 season. The only other scholarship backs on the roster are brand-new freshmen A.J. Turman and Brendan Douglas, so Michel and Chubb will add depth and the talent necessary to keep Georgia’s backfield train on the tracks.

With that recruiting need addressed, it brings us to this week’s DawgNation roundtable question: Now that Georgia has addressed its most glaring need for 2014, running back, what is the next position Mark Richt’s coaching staff should square away for this recruiting class?

Post-spring position review: DL 

April, 22, 2013
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Editor’s note: Last week we started reviewing each of Georgia’s position groups at the end of spring practice. We took a look at the offense last week. Today we begin examining the defense, starting with the defensive line:

Returning players/stats: Garrison Smith, Sr. (Eight starts in 2012. 57 tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack); Ray Drew, Jr. (23 tackles, 1 TFL); Michael Thornton, Jr. (No tackles); Sterling Bailey, So. (One tackle); Jonathan Taylor, RFr. (Redshirted in 2012)

Newcomers: Toby Johnson, Jr. (ESPN’s No. 4 overall prospect in the 2013 junior college 100, No. 3 DT. Expected to enroll this summer); John Atkins, Fr. (Hargrave Military transfer. Enrolled in January); Chris Mayes, Jr. (No. 87 in 2013 junior college 100, No. 14 DT. Enrolled in January); DeAndre Johnson, Fr. (No. 84 DT. Expected to enroll this summer)


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ATHENS, Ga. -- With signing day in the rear-view mirror and spring practice just a few weeks away, we have decided to bring back our mailbag feature where we can address the topics our readers want addressed. Each week we will take submitted questions from either our premium message board, The Pound, or from Twitter or Facebook.

GAbread: I am curious about your thoughts on Rodney Garner. Quotes coming out lately from recruits have not put him in the best light. Did you hear these rumblings before? Or is this just recent? And how would you summarize his time at Georgia?


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Lilly a key factor in UGA class 

February, 7, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Multiple coaches had a hand in Georgia’s landing another top-10 signing class on Wednesday, but John Lilly might have been the standout in the collaborative effort. The Bulldogs’ tight ends coach played a key role in recruiting at least six of the Bulldogs’ 32 signees, including two of their top early enrollees.


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DawgNation signing day live blog

February, 6, 2013
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Welcome to DawgNation's live coverage of national signing day for the Georgia Bulldogs. We'll be with you throughout the day providing up-to-the minute updates on Georgia's Class of 2013.

Watch live coverage on ESPNU | Talk signing day in "The Pound"

Follow the live blog after the jump.

(Read full post)

To gear up for 2013 national signing day, DawgNation's Radi Nabulsi is breaking down every commitment in the Bulldogs' 2013 recruiting class.

Vitals: Defensive tackle DeAndre Johnson, Newnan, Ga./Northgate | 6-foot-3, 311 pounds

Committed: Feb. 28, 2012

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Position scouting report: Nose guard 

December, 20, 2012
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Editor’s note: Over the next several weeks, we’ll take a look at each position on Georgia’s depth chart and project how it might look in the future. Today we examine Georgia’s nose guards:

* Two-deep depth chart: John Jenkins (Sr.), Kwame Geathers (Jr.)

* Who’s ready to move up for more playing time?: This won’t be as pressing of a need if Geathers decides to return for his senior season. If he does not, redshirt freshman Jonathan Taylor and sophomore Michael Thornton would be the next two nose guards on the roster to watch.

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Editor’s note: Over the next several weeks, we’ll take a look at each position on Georgia’s depth chart today and projecting how it might look in the future. Today we examine Georgia’s defensive ends:

Current two-deep depth chart:
Garrison Smith (Jr.), John Jenkins (Sr.)
Cornelius Washington (Sr.), Ray Drew (So.)

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Weekend rewind: Georgia 

December, 10, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- The Georgia coaching staff was on the road Friday, as usual, checking in on commits and targets alike. In what had to the most fortuitous turn of events of the day, tight ends coach John Lilly and inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti just happened to be stopping by Auburn (Ala.) High School right after the nation’s No. 1 inside linebacker, Reuben Foster, decommitted from Auburn University. Both coaches met with Foster, who reopened his recruitment, citing reports that his mentor Trooper Taylor had been let go at Auburn.

Later that night, another coach would also prove lucky as defensive line coach Rodney Garner was on hand to congratulate Montravius Adams (Vienna, Ga./Dooly County) after the top-ranked defensive tackle won the chance to play for the Georgia Class A championship.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and running backs coach Bryan McClendon were on hand to see the Bulldogs’ top tailback target, Alvin Kamara (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), win his semifinal game as well. Alabama’s Kirby Smart was also there, and the battle for Kamara is still neck and neck.

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Inside the DawgHouse: Sept. 28 

September, 28, 2012
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DawgNation is here to take you Inside the DawgHouse -- a confidential look inside Georgia football recruiting for DawgNation subscribers only. As it will be every week, everything reported Inside the DawgHouse stays on The Pound forum. We are providing this information for our subscribers and hope that you help keep this information protected by keeping it here.

In this week's update:

  • Prospects flock to Athens
  • Spots filling up

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Inside the DawgHouse 3/2 

March, 2, 2012
3/02/12
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DawgNation is here to take you Inside the DawgHouse -- a confidential look inside Georgia football recruiting for DawgNation subscribers only. As it will be every week, everything reported Inside the DawgHouse stays on The Pound forum. We are providing this information for our subscribers and hope that you help keep this information protected by keeping it here.

A few things discussed in this week's update:

  • UGA set to host pivotal junior day

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Commitment No. 7 a big one for Georgia 

February, 28, 2012
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[+] EnlargeDeandre Johnson
Kipp Adams/ESPN.comDeAndre Johnson says he can use his 'quick feet' and agility to break through the O-line and get to the quarterback.
The University of Georgia picked up its seventh commitment of the 2013 class Tuesday, and it might end up being the biggest in the class.

With VID (Very Important Dawg) Day only a few days away, one of the top prospects in the Peach State made the call to become a Bulldog. The coaching staff was only hoping to confirm his attendance on Saturday, but when they picked up the phone, they got great news from a key target at a position of need.

As defensive lineman Deandre Johnson (Newnan, Ga./Northgate) thought about it last night with his family, he discusses his intentions of committing to Georgia. The Johnson household was ecstatic about it, so this morning, Johnson got on the phone to the coaches in Athens.

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Inside the DawgHouse 2/18 

February, 18, 2012
2/18/12
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DawgNation is here to take you Inside the DawgHouse -- a confidential look inside Georgia football recruiting for DawgNation subscribers only. As it will be every week, everything reported Inside the DawgHouse stays on The Pound forum. We are providing this information for our subscribers and hope that you help keep this information protected by keeping it here.

A few things discussed in this week's update:

  • Coveted OOS TE has ties to Georgia
  • Dawgs jump back in for former target

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