Georgia Bulldogs: Keyon Brown

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 position groups to improve: No. 3

February, 12, 2014
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Georgia doesn't open spring practice until March 18, so we'll use the next few weeks to look ahead to those all-important workouts and preview what to watch once the Bulldogs get started.

Today we continue a series where we examine five position groups with room to improve. After touching on the inside linebackers and offensive line, today we focus on the outside linebackers, who were inconsistent last season despite worlds of potential.

[+] EnlargeLeonard Floyd
Jeffrey Vest/Icon SMILeonard Floyd emerged at outside linebacker last season for the Bulldogs, leading the team in sacks and tackles for loss.
3. Outside linebackers

Battling for No. 1: The starters here seem fairly easy to predict, as rising junior Jordan Jenkins and sophomore Leonard Floyd combined for 21 starts a season ago. Floyd made a big splash during preseason camp and was one of the pleasant surprises of the fall, leading the team with 6.5 sacks and adding 9.5 tackles for a loss. Jenkins had a fairly quiet season, posting five sacks and a team-high 12 TFLs. Both players need to do a better job of controlling the edge against the run, as last season's disappointing defensive results often proved. They have clear pro potential -- particularly as pass rushers -- but they must refine their positional skills in order for the defense to improve this fall.

Strength in numbers: James DeLoach was penciled in as a starter last year until Floyd came along and stole his thunder. Nonetheless, the versatile outside linebacker offers a bit more bulk at the position (he's listed at 265 pounds) than the two starters. Rising senior Brandon Burrows is the only other veteran at the position, but he has never played much of a role in the Bulldogs' defensive scheme.

New on the scene: Five-star defensive end/OLB Lorenzo Carter is the name to know here. ESPN's No. 14 overall prospect became the crown jewel in a strong recruiting class when he signed with the Bulldogs last week on national signing day. The Under Armour All-American is still raw, but he possesses size and freak athleticism that should help him make it on the field early in his career. In addition, ESPN 300 defensive end/OLB Keyon Brown looks like another versatile prospect who can contribute at either position depending on the situation. The Bulldogs will also have two redshirt freshmen enter the mix in Davin Bellamy and Shaun McGee.
Georgia has another top-10 class lined up for national signing day, but its final ranking next week could rise or fall depending on how the Bulldogs finish within their own state -- particularly whether they land their top remaining target, Lorenzo Carter.

As it stands, the Bulldogs have commitments from two of the top six players from Georgia, but that's it among the Peach State's collection of elite prospects. Heavily recruited players such as linebacker Raekwon McMillan (Ohio State) and quarterback Deshaun Watson (Clemson) were among those who checked out Georgia before committing elsewhere.

Mark Richt's staff still has a chance to finish on a strong note, however.

[+] EnlargeLorenzo Carter
Miller Safrit/ESPNLorenzo Carter is the top remaining recruiting target for Georgia.
The Bulldogs seem to be in good shape to land five-star defensive end Carter (ESPN's No. 14 overall prospect and No. 3 player at his position). Other targets such as ESPN 300 prospect Wesley Green (No. 120 overall, No. 13 cornerback, uncommitted), Bryson Allen-Williams (No. 162 overall, No. 10 outside linebacker, committed to South Carolina) and Andrew Williams (No. 174 overall, No. 17 defensive end, uncommitted) are among those lurking as possible final members of the class.

Otherwise, this recruiting class -- one that could be slightly smaller than normal -- adequately addresses Georgia's immediate needs. Let's look at how Georgia addressed some of those positions:

Secondary: Georgia's weakest position segment last season could use some immediate help -- and it will get it in cornerbacks Shattle Fenteng (No. 3 overall prospect, top cornerback on ESPN's Junior College 50) and Malkom Parrish (No. 77 overall, No. 10 athlete). Georgia recently added three-star athlete Dominick Sanders at corner. Green -- who is scheduled to join Carter and others on a visit to Athens this weekend -- and three-star athletes T.J. Harrell and Tavon Ross remain as targets.

The possible shortcoming here is that safety was an inconsistent position for Georgia last season and the Bulldogs have only three-star prospect Kendall Gant lined up so far.

With Josh Harvey-Clemons suspended to open the season, senior Corey Moore, rising sophomore Quincy Mauger and oft-injured Tray Matthews might be the only early options, but keep an eye on Harrell and Ross between now and signing day.

Running back: With Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall entering their third seasons on campus, Georgia needed insurance policies at tailback.

The Bulldogs locked that up in a big way with the current headliners in this class, Sony Michel (No. 19 overall, No. 2 running back) and Nick Chubb (No. 63 overall, No. 7 running back). It will be interesting to see how Richt's staff juggles a glut of talented ball carriers just a year after injuries to Gurley and Marshall created depth problems.

Tight end: With Ty Flournoy-Smith getting kicked off the team last summer and Arthur Lynch exhausting his eligibility in the fall, Georgia had a need at tight end. Jeb Blazevich (No. 101 overall, No. 2 tight end/H) could become Georgia's next great pass-catching tight end thanks to an impressive combination of size (6-foot-5) and soft hands.

Offensive line: Replenishing the line of scrimmage is always a priority, and with Georgia losing starting guards Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee, signing a top prospect such as Isaiah Wynn (No. 106 overall, No. 6 guard) will be particularly valuable. The Bulldogs are also set to sign four-star tackle Dyshon Sims and three-star prospects Kendall Baker and Jake Edwards.

Receiver: Georgia has plenty of bodies here for 2014, but Chris Conley, Michael Bennett, Jonathon Rumph and Michael Erdman will each be seniors and Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell will be fourth-year juniors.

The Bulldogs have secured commitments from ESPN 300 member Shakenneth Williams (No. 297 overall, No. 45 receiver) and three-star prospect Gilbert Johnson. They also are set to re-sign Rico Johnson, who failed to qualify after signing with the Bulldogs last February.

Defensive line/outside linebacker: Keep an eye on this group for the future. If Georgia lands Carter to go along with already-committed Lamont Gaillard (No. 55 overall, No. 4 defensive tackle), that could be the foundation for some outstanding defensive lines in the next couple of seasons.

The Bulldogs return almost everyone along the line from last season, so it is not a glaring immediate need. The 2014 line will be stocked with fourth-year players, though, so this is a good time to restock the depth charts for the future. They already have a commitment from the versatile Keyon Brown (No. 185 overall, No. 19 defensive end), with Carter and Williams potentially joining him. Like Brown, three-star outside linebacker Detric Dukes brings some versatility to the crop of commitments along the line.

Georgia's coaches never gave up on Allen-Williams even after his commitment to South Carolina in April. He insists he will still sign with the Gamecocks, but plans to visit Georgia with Carter and the others this weekend. Stay tuned.

Recruits react to Grantham's departure 

January, 12, 2014
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Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is leaving the school to take the same position at Louisville, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt confirmed on Sunday. The move surprised many people, including a few Georgia commits and targets.

SEC class rankings analysis 

October, 2, 2013
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For the fifth straight week, there is very little change in Recruiting Nation's class rankings. Thirteen of the 14 SEC teams are ranked in the top 40, including nine of the top 16, and top-ranked Alabama is holding a big lead over any and all pursuers.

Trending up: There isn’t a team in the class rankings that has the ability to ascend as much as LSU in the coming months. That march towards a possible top-3 class began Monday with a commitment by No. 216 overall Davon Godchaux (Plaquemine, La./Plaquemine High).

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Weekend recruiting wrap: SEC 

September, 30, 2013
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With the college football season nearing the halfway point, there is plenty of recruiting news each and every weekend. From Georgia’s big win over LSU with several key visitors to some big-time performances by SEC commitments, here is the latest.

Biggest commitment: ESPN 300 defensive end Keyon Brown (Wauchula, Fla./Hardee County) committing to Georgia was a big one for the Bulldogs. With five-star outside linebacker prospect Lorenzo Carter (Norcoss, Ga./Norcross) being far from a lock for Georgia, adding a pass-rushing outside linebacker who fits Todd Grantham’s 3-4 was key after missing on Darrion Owens (Orange Park, Fla./Oakleaf) this summer. With Brown now in the fold, the Bulldogs can go after Carter, ESPN 300 Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn) and Alabama commitment Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) with the comfort of having one very capable prospect at the position in the fold.

Best weekend performances: Many SEC pledges were in action this weekend. Here's a look at some of the top performances over the weekend.

  • QB Rafe Peavey (Bolivar, Mo./Bolivar), Arkansas commit: The four-star prospect passed for 195 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 260 yards and three scores on 18 carries in a 59-24 win over Marshfield.
  • RB Nick Chubb (Cedartown, Ga./Cedartown), Georgia commit: In what is becoming the Chubb Weekly Watch, the powerful ESPN 300 running back rushed for 370 yards and five touchdowns in Friday night’s 42-28 win over Southwest Whitfield. On his way to a 2,500-yard regular season, Chubb now has 1,359 yards.

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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Georgia scored a major recruiting victory on Thursday when it landed an ESPN 300 defensive end; Ohio State is hosting more than just the Wisconsin Badgers this weekend in Columbus; and Oregon hosts a ESPN 300 speedster who would be a great fit for the Ducks’ offense.

Dawgs land key defensive commitment
With a monster SEC matchup against LSU on Saturday, Georgia received some positive recruiting news on Thursday when ESPN 300 defensive end Keyon Brown (Wauchula, Fla./Hardee County) committed to the Dawgs.


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SEC recruiting storylines: Sept. 26 

September, 26, 2013
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If the first four weeks of the college football season weren’t enough for SEC fans, this weekend is sure to be the midseason tipping point with a number of big games, including LSU at Georgia and Ole Miss at Alabama. As is always the case, the official and unofficial visit process takes center stage in recruiting with many of the top prospects scheduled to be on hand for the marquee matchups.

Georgia snags Sunshine State pass rusher
While a win over LSU is what would make for a great week for the Georgia Bulldogs, it turns out Thursday hasn’t been too shabby either, Mark Richt and staff landed a key piece to the 2014 recruiting class, plucking edge pass-rushing prospect Keyon Brown (Wauchula, Fla./Hardee County) out of the Sunshine State. The 6-foot-3, 243-pound Brown committed to Georgia over Miami and Florida State, becoming the 17th commitment for the Bulldogs in the class, which is ranked No. 5.

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Critical positions in SEC recruiting 

September, 3, 2013
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Each year college coaches prioritize their recruiting needs. Whether it's offensive or defensive linemen or skilled positions, there always seems to be an area that needs more attention than others. Here's a closer look at the most important position for each SEC team in recruiting this year.


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For the past two weeks, ESPN 300 linebacker Christian Miller (Spring Valley, S.C./Spring Valley) has refuted reports that he was close to making a decision between Alabama and Georgia. On Thursday, the former Florida commitment proved those rumors were true, announcing his pledge to the Crimson Tide.

“It was for a number of reasons,” Miller said. “They have a lot to offer. Defensively, I fit in perfect with their scheme and how they’re going to use me. Their player development, particularly if you look at linebackers, they’re well known for that.

“They have great tradition. They have an excellent program for former players and for their current players. They don’t just focus on things on the field. They also focus on things off the field as well. You get a great education. You get a great football experience. You also get to grow and learn as a man. They prepare you for the real world out there.”

The No. 76 prospect in the country, Miller originally committed to Florida in February before opening his recruitment back up in May. Alabama and Georgia immediately jumped into the mix, and the 6-foot-4, 212-pound outside linebacker -- who had 121 tackles, 14 sacks, 21 tackles for loss and four forced fumbles as a junior -- took visits to both schools in June and July.

It was thought that perhaps the Bulldogs had taken the lead after his time in Athens for Dawg Night, but Miller took one last visit to Tuscaloosa last week, and today he committed to the back-to-back national champions. This time he’s sure of his decision, he said.

“I wanted to go ahead and get it out the way before my season starts,” Miller said. “I kind of had it in mind that that’s where I really wanted to go, but I wanted to be sure because this is my last commitment. I’m going to be 100 percent committed this time.

Miller said he’s done taking visits to other schools, but he does have plans to visit UA in the fall, specifically for the LSU game.

The Tide and the Bulldogs are not done in their search for pass-rushers, either. Alabama and Georgia also are battling it out for five-star defensive end Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross), although he lists Florida as his lead at the moment. Georgia leads for ESPN 300 defensive end Keyon Brown (Wauchula, Fla./Hardee County) and ESPN 300 linebacker Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn). Alabama has also been after five-star defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge).

With the addition of Miller, Alabama now has 10 commitments from ESPN 300 prospects in the 2014 class, a class that already was ranked No. 4 in the RecruitingNation class rankings.

TideNation's Greg Ostendorf contributed to this report.

Summer Recruit Wrap: Georgia 

July, 23, 2013
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With the camp season over and the fall season rapidly approaching, DawgNation takes a look back at the biggest recruiting news of the summer.

[+] EnlargeSony Michel
Davide De Pas/ESPN.comClass of 2014 RB Sony Michel is one of the many big names in Georgia's class.
1. Summer has been very, very good to Georgia
Heading into June, Georgia had five commitments, after going without one in May. Some analysts had pegged the Bulldogs as being off to a slow start for 2014, but with a class of 33 in 2013, Georgia has had to be very selective with this class. Even with a decommitment last week, the Bulldogs have added 12 commitments in June and July, headlined by the additions of five-star defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard (Fayetteville, N.C./Pine Forest) and ESPN 300 athlete Malkom Parrish (Quitman, Ga./Brooks County). As August approaches, Georgia can realistically pick and choose to fill its remaining spots.


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ATHENS, Ga. -- With 16 commitments so far in the Class of 2014, spots are quickly becoming limited at Georgia. The commitment of five-star defensive tackle Lamont Gaillard (Fayetteville, N.C./Pine Forest) on Saturday was just another in a long line of recruiting wins over the last two months that has quadrupled the size of the recruiting class since May. Even if the Bulldogs lose several juniors to the NFL, there appears to be only five spots remaining. With that in mind, this week’s DawgNation Roundtable question is: Assuming five is the correct number, who do you see taking Georgia’s last five spots?


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ATHENS, Ga. -- The annual Dawg Night recruiting camp at the University of Georgia always draws some of the region’s most coveted prospects. This year was no different, and four of them decided to become Bulldogs. But what of the other recruits that have offers or earned new ones? Here are a load of updates and scoop from this year’s Dawg Night camp.


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ESPN 300 DE has UGA in front 

July, 2, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- The potential logjam at outside linebacker in Georgia's recruiting class just got a little tighter. There are no commits at the position so far, but the Bulldogs lead for Rashaan Evans (Auburn, Ala./Auburn), are tied at the top for Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Ga./Norcross) and are among the top three that Christian Miller (Columbia, S.C./Spring Valley) is considering. In addition, a fourth ESPN 300 target just completed a weekend visit with the Bulldogs, and Keyon Brown (Wauchula, Fla./Hardee County) still has Georgia out front as well.


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ATHENS, Ga. -- The Georgia coaching staff has addressed some of its pressing needs for the Class of 2014, but they still have half the class to go. Here are the top five positions of need for the Bulldogs:

Offensive tackle: After missing out on Laremy Tunsil last year and Avery Young the year before, the staff would love to get a bookend tackle to play opposite of John Theus. After starting all 14 games his freshman season, Theus is the perfect example of how a premier tackle can have an immediate impact. Offensive line coach Will Friend hopes that Dyshon Sims (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes) could be that player, as Sims has Georgia on top and just completed a visit to Athens. Sims plans to return for the Dawg Night camp and a commitment would not be surprising.


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SEC SCOREBOARD

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