If you were to look back and find the last time the University of Georgia had a true defensive lineman get drafted into the first round of the NFL Draft, you would be going all the way back 16 years, to 2005, when David Pollack was the 17th pick of the Draft by the Cincinnati Bengals.
Sixteen years is a long time for a program the stature of Georgia’s not to have a single defensive lineman selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. It is especially shocking considering the talent that sits in the Peach State.
That very same fact is used viciously against the University of Georgia on the recruiting trail. High-profile head coaches and position coaches walk into a defensive linemen’s living room and use the line of “Georgia hasn’t developed a first-round defensive lineman since David Pollack.” That very same line has been instrumental in luring away some of the best defensive line prospects in the state of Georgia and beyond.
For a head coach like Kirby Smart, who learned from arguably the greatest coach of all time, Nick Saban, recruiting is one of the most important aspects of his job.
Smart wants great coaches and even better recruiters. That means consistently missing out on top in-state talent like Derrick Brown is unacceptable, especially to a coach that saw the importance of what an elite line could make on both sides of the ball.
The firing of defensive line coach Tracy Rocker following the 2017 season due to Rocker’s recruiting violation, brought current coach Tray Scott to Athens. In Scott’s first season in Athens, he would help the Dawgs land five-star defensive end Travon Walker, part of the 2019 class.
Walker recorded 15 total tackles with 2.5 sacks along with eight quarterback pressures. A tremendous freshman season earned him honors as a member of the Freshman All-SEC Team. Walker is now slated to take over as a starter after the departure of longtime starter Malik Herring, now a member of the Kansas City Chiefs after signing as an undrafted free agent (UDFA).
While recruiting and developing five stars does not impress them all. Scott recruited Jordan Davis. The former lowly touted three-star out of Charlotte, North Carolina is now one of the top defensive linemen entering the 2021 season. Not to mention the man lining up next to Davis at defensive tackle, Devonte Wyatt, was also brought to Athens by Tray Scott.
Scott followed up the recruitment of Travon Walker in 2019, with the signing of defensive tackle Jalen Carter in 2020. Carter is already garnering first-round attention after an impressive freshman year in 2020.
In recent months, the narrative has changed from ‘Georgia isn’t developing NFL linemen’ to just waiting for Jordan Davis, Travon Walker, and Jalen Carter to enter the NFL Draft. Davis’s development has most certainly helped Georgia in the long run as two four-star defensive tackles, Tyre West and Bear Alexander, are currently committed to Georgia’s 2022 class. With the potential of landing more high-profile targets at that position in the coming weeks.
For all the flack given to Tray Scott and this Georgia program in the past for missing out on top-end prospects, credit is due to the work that Coach Scott has done so far in Athens. And his resume will likely benefit more moving forward in the 2021 season.
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