This is not a ranking of Georgia’s best players. It is an evaluation of which players are most vital to the team’s success this season based on their own talent, the importance of their position, the depth at certain positions, and the strengths and weaknesses of the team.
So, No. 12 was freshman receiver Terry Godwin.
No. 11 was senior kicker Marshall Morgan.
No. 10 were junior inside linebackers Reggie Carter and Tim Kimbrough.
No. 9 was sophomore receiver and specialist Isaiah McKenzie.
No. 8 was senior left tackle John Theus.
And, with only a bit ado, we now bring you …
7. JORDAN JENKINS, LEONARD FLOYD and LORENZO CARTER
Senior, Junior and Sophomore
WHY THEY'RE VITAL: Earlier in this series, we lumped the inside linebackers together due to uncertainty over who will emerge. We're lumping the outside linebackers together for the opposite reason. On their own, each are potential stars. But they also provide a pretty similar skill set: They get in the backfield. Jenkins has five sacks each of his three seasons, and a total of 29.5 tackles-for-loss. Floyd has 12.5 sacks over the past two seasons, and 18 TFL. Carter, in limited action as a freshman last season, still had 4.5 sacks and 7 TFL. And if you have any doubt that Carter will play more this year, consider that he was credited with 18 QB pressures last year, more than Floyd (17) and more per capita than Jenkins (24). These three are the strength of the defense, and with uncertainty almost everywhere else on defense, they have to be good this year. Potentially, they have to be great, if Georgia hopes to have a good defense.
Lorenzo Carter is up to 243 pounds after playing at 223 as a freshman last season. He’d like to eventually get to 260. (UGA photo by John Kell
QUOTABLE: "We wanna get as many of those guys on the field as we can, in different ways. A lot of times it depends on what style of offense you're facing each week too. Last year against Auburn we played three of those guys at the same time, and on third down sometimes we had four of them on the field." – outside linebackers coach Kevin Sherrer.
BEST CASE: Jenkins and Floyd each take the step forward to All-SEC level, which has been expected of Jenkins since his strong freshman year. (Sherrer put it this way: "He's got all the tools to be as good as he wants to be, and I think he's still got untapped potential that hopefully we'll continue to develop on and make him as good as he can be.") Floyd has the most raw potential, and might be the best pro prospect, but the shoulder injury held him back last year. Healthy all year, he can be a star. Carter plays 50 percent or more of the snaps and makes very good use of them as well.
WORST CASE: Jenkins and Floyd still don't quite have the breakout seasons that are expected, and Carter doesn't play enough. The outside linebackers are also hurt by double-teams and scheming around them, as the rest of Georgia's defense isn't strong enough to get the outside linebackers in position to make big plays.
FINAL WORD: Jenkins and Floyd have to hear the time ticking on their chance to become stars. (Floyd may be a junior, but he'll turn 23 in September and it's a mild surprise he's back this season.) And to be fair, Jenkins was better last season, winning the defense's most improved award, even if the stats didn't show it. It's a decent bet that both have big seasons, perhaps north of 10 sacks and 25 TFLs, while Carter does pretty well while playing more than half the time.