It Didn't Take Long For Kirby Smart To Realize The Potential Of This Georgia Defense

It didn't take Kirby Smart very long to realize what he had this season on the defensive side of the football. Heck, it didn't take two games. As we have all noticed this season, especially in the SEC, the Georgia defense has caused havoc for opposing offenses for ten games now, with no end in sight. The interesting part about it all is how the Dawgs coaching staff first realized how good they could be.

For Kirby Smart, his thought process was focused on how good the offense could be, especially with the weapons they had returning. Unfortunately, the Dawgs were dealt a blow when they lost WR George Pickens for the season, due to an ACL injury. To make matters worse, Jermaine Burton struggled to get out of spring practice without problems, causing Smart to question things.

“I don’t really know. I’ve never been overconfident. If anything, I’ve been the opposite and concerned. I don’t remember much about the spring. I felt like we were going to be high powered on the offense, then George (Pickens) went down, and Jermaine (Burton) didn’t make it through the spring. So it was like, ‘Man, are we really getting tested?’ I don’t remember the front dominating like this. Maybe they did, I just don’t remember."

But Smart felt like he finally got a sense of the defensive unit around the opening game of the season against Clemson.

"When I first realized, it was the Clemson game," Kirby added. "They were really good. You know our coaches on staff, Will (Muschamp) included, said it was just a really good front. He thought it was going to be special and he was right. He’s been around a lot of really good ones and seen them and it was just a combination of Jalen growing up, those two coming back, Travon (Walker), Nolan (Smith). There’s just a lot of good players up there. That front has really helped us."

If there was a game this season where the Georgia secondary was tested, it came last week against Tennessee and quarterback Hendon Hooker. The Dawgs are ranked 6th overall in pass defense, giving up an average of only 168 yards per game, but the Vols passed for 332 yards, and Tennessee WR Cedric Tillman had 200 yards on his own.

The Georgia head coach believes last week will build up the confidence of the unit, especially with how fast the Vols like to run their offense.

"They were tested. You know what I mean? They had good players, and they had the ball in the air. You go back to the previous weeks. You can't go back to the previous weeks and say where we made a lot of plays down the field and made plays on the ball. We definitely got tested, and we gave some plays up. We gave some plays up, but when you play the style of play that we played last week, you're going to give plays up, and they're tough to defend. So, I was really proud of them. If anything, I think last week gives them some more confidence because they went out and played against good people."

Who knows how good the defensive line would've been this season if it weren't for Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt returning this season, especially given how high they were most likely graded. There is a reason this defense is ranked No. 2 in rushing defense, allowing only 78 yards per game on the ground. This starts upfront, with Davis and Wyatt leading the way. Kirby Smart is thankful they decided to return.

"They have very different personalities, almost opposite ends of the spectrum. But they both respect each other and love each other so much. They’ve grown to be really good friends and have very different backgrounds. They’re great competitors, they’ve been great for Georgia. Their decision to come back was probably the most impactful of everybody’s because they probably had the highest grades of those juniors that came back because it’s so hard to find defensive linemen. Those guys coming back kind of put everything in motion.”

So, here we stand, with Georgia leading the SEC on defense and clobbering up opposing running backs, looking for their next opportunity to wreak havoc on an opponent. It's safe to say that the Dawgs' biggest challenge will come in three weeks when they play in the SEC Championship Game.

Kirby Smart had a good feeling two months ago when the Dawgs stuffed Clemson to open the season that his defense would be good. Now they are inching closer to a national title. Not many would've predicted how the next nine games would turn out for Georgia, but Kirby had a sense it could be special.

Written by
Trey Wallace is the host of The Trey Wallace Podcast that focuses on a mixture of sports, culture, entertainment along with his perspective on everything from College Football to the College World Series. Wallace has been covering college sports for 15 years, starting off while attending the University of South Alabama. He’s broken some of the biggest college stories including the Florida football "Credit Card Scandal" along with the firing of Jim McElwin and Kevin Sumlin. Wallace also broke one of the biggest stories in college football in 2020 around the NCAA investigation into recruiting violations against Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt. Wallace also appears on radio across seven different states breaking down that latest news in college sports.