Sophomores anchoring Georgia's defensive front [video]

Sophomores anchoring Georgia's defensive front [video]

August 25th, 2017 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Julian Rochester is among four sophomore defensive linemen for Georgia who had impressive freshman seasons.

Photo by Andy Harrison

John Atkins is the veteran and Trenton Thompson the recognized star of Georgia's defensive line, but the unquestioned nucleus of the position group is the sophomore quartet of Michail Carter, Tyler Clark, David Marshall and Julian Rochester.

It's a foursome that has been ready for this season's kickoff for quite some time.

"We're hungrier," Rochester said this week in a news conference. "We attack things differently now. We threw out all the excuses, because there are no more excuses of 'Oh, I was a freshman. I didn't know.'

"We attack every day, and the competition we have is amazing, because we just want what's best for the team."

The Bulldogs practiced Thursday afternoon for nearly two hours in their indoor facility. They will practice again today and Saturday before taking Sunday off and beginning game-week preparations Monday for the Sept. 2 opener against Appalachian State.

Georgia signed one of the nation's top defensive line classes in 2016, and it didn't disappoint. The quartet combined for 83 tackles, with all but Carter recording multiple tackles for loss.

Rochester led the way with 36 tackles and two tackles for loss in 13 games, with six of those being starts, while Marshall had 26 tackles and 3.5 tackles for loss in 12 games, including four starts. They met a definite need for the program and had little time to waste under new coach Kirby Smart and new coordinator Mel Tucker.

"I had to learn how not to be a freshman when I got here," Rochester said. "If I wanted to play as a freshman, I couldn't be young. I had to be old and have the mentality of the older guys as far as how they worked."

Smart said this week that his defensive linemen still don't have the conditioning he desires, and it's a continuing objective of the players.

"I'm trying to stretch myself to play as many plays as I can," Rochester said. "No matter how long I'm out there, I'm going to go as hard as I can for as long as I can. That has been my main focus."

Said Marshall: "We're playing a lot of spread offenses this season, and we need to be more in shape."

Georgia's sophomore defensive linemen were the newcomers last year trying to make their respective marks in practice against an offensive line that had a senior trio of center Brandon Kublanow and tackles Tyler Catalina and Greg Pyke. This month, they've been challenged by a stout group of freshman offensive linemen headed by the massive duo of Andrew Thomas (6-foot-5, 338 pounds) and Isaiah Wilson (6-7, 350).

"These O-linemen have come in wanting to play, so we had to fight those boys," the 6-5, 304-pound Rochester said with a smile. "They came in heavy and big and ready to move things. It's been a challenge, but it's been fun.

"We've all got each other's back, and we try to get the best out of every day."

Eason needing help?

CBS college football analyst Gary Danielson was on a conference call Thursday afternoon and was asked about Georgia's offense and sophomore quarterback Jacob Eason.

"I was shocked at the lack of talent that surrounded Jacob Eason last year," Danielson said. "I think quarterback is the least of their problems. They need to get better at the other 10 positions."

Danielson also had serious doubts that he and new broadcasting partner Brad Nessler would be in Sanford Stadium this year due to Georgia's less-than-sizzling home schedule.

"I mean, holy cow," Danielson said, "Appalachian State, Samford, Mississippi State, Missouri, South Carolina and Kentucky. That's tough choosing right there."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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