ATHENS, Ga. — For the third time in four years, Georgia is having to replace its most productive defensive end.
Unlike the recent past, however, the Bulldogs aren’t hurting for experienced candidates. Georgia entered last spring with Charles Johnson and Quentin Moses having just ended their college careers, but Marcus Howard made the most of his one season as a starter by leading the Southeastern Conference with 10.5 sacks.
“I think we’ve got the bodies,” Jarius Wynn said. “I think it’s early just to be saying this, but I think we’re going to get the job done.”
Wynn (6-foot-5, 273 pounds) is competing this spring with fellow senior Jeremy Lomax (6-4, 247) for the starting end opposite junior Roderick Battle (6-4, 261), who started all 13 games last season. Howard started all 13 games at the other spot and capped his Georgia career with three sacks of Colt Brennan in the 41-10 Sugar Bowl victory over Hawaii.
Georgia had eight sacks of Brennan and led the SEC last season with 42.
The Bulldogs countered Hawaii’s pass-happy offense by rotating seven defensive ends, including six in the first half. Returning ends Demarcus Dobbs (6-2, 266) and Michael Lemon (6-4, 274) also played against the Warriors, while Neland Ball (6-6, 232) and Justin Houston (6-3, 240) join the mix after redshirting last season.
“We definitely have some numbers at the defensive end spot, but we’re just trying to establish the guy who can be the difference maker out there,” defensive line coach Rodney Garner said. “From that standpoint, I think that will be a little more like starting over, because we don’t have a guy who has distinguished himself to be in that position right now.”
Georgia’s returning ends combined for eight sacks last year, with Lomax tallying 4.5, Battle 2.5 and Wynn the other. More productivity will be expected from those three this fall, but they will have help around them.
The Bulldogs return their top six defensive tackles, who combined for 10 sacks last season, and their top six linebackers, who combined for 10 more.
“I think we’ll have plenty at the end position,” Richt said. “Hopefully one or two guys decide to really step up. If they all step up, we’ll roll them around and do it by committee. I don’t mind that. I like it better when more guys play.”
The more Georgia rotated its front seven defenders last season, the more sacks the Bulldogs amassed. Georgia had 12 sacks in its first six games and 30 in the last seven.
Racking up eight in the Sugar Bowl was the season high, but the Bulldogs also took down Florida’s Tim Tebow six times in their most meaningful win.
“It’s like what we did against Florida and Hawaii,” Battle said. “You put yourself in situations where you rise to the occasion, and I think that’s what makes this all so much fun. We always feel like we’ve got a good opportunity to make something happen, and I don’t think this year will be any different.”
Odds and ends
New tight ends coach John Lilly will miss today’s practice in order to attend his rehearsal dinner in Tallahassee. ... Derek Rich, a 6-4, 257-pound tight end who played sparingly at Connecticut last season as a redshirt freshman, has joined the team as a walk-on.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...