If you missed the earlier thoughts on the offense, you might read that first. The basic idea is that I compare the guys we landed vs. my perception of our needs in that area.
Overall a solid collection of talent on defense. It lacked the headliner defensive tackle that I would've thought we were a lock to land. When you combine glaringly available playing time, a spectacular NFL pedigree for draft day success at the position, with an established position coach who is a great recruiter, you have high expectations in that area. Otherwise a solid haul.
Position by Position...
Tradition never graduates.
Next year we return Ray Gant (SR), Jeff Owens (So) and Kade Weston (RFr) as the frontline guys. They will be backed up by guys like Dale Dixson (SR) and Mudcat Elmore (SR). Two guys who have spent more time on the training table than butcher paper. We're thin there, and this class needed to build depth back.
Ricardo Crawford headlines the incoming group. He's smart enough to enroll early and according to Jeff Owens he's already strong enough to contribute. This kid is built like a brick shithouse. If he's as quick as he is strong, he'll give us the run stuffing, low leverage guy that we need immediately as a backup. Geno Atkins was a late surprise selecting the Dawgs over Auburn and others. Michael Lemon also had solid offers elsewhere and looks like a kid that can contribute after a redshirt year.
Grade vs. Needs: B
(We are really thin here, and needed more)
Charles Johnson and Brandon Wood both remind me of Charles Grant for some reason.
The only place on the team where we are as thin as DE is OT. Thank heavens Moses returned for his senior year. Moses (SR) and Charles Johnson (JR) stack up well versus anyone. If Brandon Miller makes the logical move to Rush End, this group looks better for 2006. Their backups are Marcus Howard (JR) and Jeremey Lomax (RSo) who combine to weigh about 430 lbs. Just so we're all on the same page...210 lb defensive ends are the types of guys that end up holding the pocket liner from the other the team's offensive tackle and answering to names like Bridgett and Rebecca during games. (See AU vs. UGA 2005 as Marcus McNeil gives Howard "the treatment" on running plays).
Brandon Wood looks to be exactly what the doctor ordered. His High School videos look like Charles Johnson's did. Joining him is Demarcus Dobbs and possibly Kiante Tripp (who may start at OT. Who knows). These three guys will hopefully combine with some position changes (Howard to linebacker and one of our excess tight ends to DE) to give us some depth here. This is a PRIORITY area for 2007 recruiting. Especially if Tripp moves to offensive line. Note: Wood says he's within 1 point on his ACT. If he doesn't qualify, this group has serious 2006 depth problems.
Grade vs. Needs: B+ if Wood qualifies
Grade vs. Needs: C- if Wood doesn't qualify
Hebron is on the left. Click to enlarge.
Personally, I think this our best LB recruiting class since the '98 group that included Boss Bailey, Tony Gilbert, Charles Grant (non-qualifier), Kawika Mitchell and Will Witherspoon. I'm trilled. We return Brandon Miller (JR/possible DE), Ellerbe (they'll drop the ridiculous stolen car charge, but not the DUI so he'll stay. With a hefty suspension), Jarvis Jackson (SR), Tony Taylor (SR), Danny Verdun-Wheeler (SR), and Marcus Washington (So). Last year, this group suffered from injuries and an overall lack of speed.
The incoming group will help immediately in the speed and depth departments. Darius Dewberry headlines the group. Scott Kennedy at Scout.com gushes about Dewberry's ability to cover WRs out of the backfield and to move in space. He'll play SLB for us. Akeem Hebron comes in at MLB. Both are 5 star guys with tons of potential; although, Hebron's weight would suggest a redshirt year. Darryl Gamble and Akeem Dent bring talent, speed and depth to this LB class. Now we have to coach them up better than we did last year to shed blockers and take better angles. Plus, we actually have to play some of these young guys instead of wearing our starters out.
Grade vs. Need: A+
No. The other Miller. At 5'8" maybe it's Miller Lite. I joke.
The Bulldogs lose two very solid and underrated performers in Tim Jennings and Demario Minter. Paul Oliver (JR) showed flashes of really stepping up his game last year. Thomas Flowers (JR) looked good on special teams, but I question his speed for full time duty. Mikey Henderson (JR) is the Shetland Pony of defensive backs. Bryan Evans (RFr) looks to make a competitive run at the starting job opposite Oliver. Remarcus Brown (So) is listed as a CB, but his game and weight room numbers scream MOVE ME TO WIDEOUT. Unfortunately, Richt hasn't asked me yet on this topic. Antonio Sims could also be moved back to CB in theory. He's bounced between safety and CB quite a bit.
Joining those returning guys is Prince Miller and Asher Allen. Allen enrolled early and returned a kickoff for a TD during Sugar Bowl practices. Miller is in the Tim Wansley / Tim Jennings mold size wise.
Grade vs. Need: B+ (I worry about Miller's size)
What we need is a Thomas Davis / Sean Jones combo. One big hitter and one ball hawk.
The Dawgs have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to young safeties. Conversely, they have little in the way of proven safeties. Tra Battle (SR) returns to lead this group. Tra has made some big plays for us, but he is what he is. An undersized guy without great speed who doesn't play the run well. CJ Byrd (So) has all the talent in the world. Sims (So) is also blessed with ridiculous physical abilities. Kelin Johnson (JR) looks a bit slow to me, but he's been in the system long enough to step up and start if needed. Donavan Baldwin (RFr) and Coates (RFr) should get a look here too; although Coates might be destined for a move to LB in the future.
With Byrd and Sims as young exciting players, the Dawgs add Reshad Jones who Scott Kennedy called "arguably the best pure Safety in the South" and Quentin Banks another 4 star blue chip safety.
Grade vs. Need: A
It comes down to who qualifies and who doesn't. We need all the defensive linemen to make it. We're paper thin there.