Senior outside linebacker D’Andre Walker is getting the first starts of his college career, and he’s making the most of it, most notably last weekend at Missouri where he was a major disrupter, recording four tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles, one broken-up pass and one quarterback hurry.
Smart said he felt the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Walker had the best game of the season last Saturday and praised his leadership.
"I think D’Andre has grown into this role,” said Smart. “I thought he had his best game of the four he's played last week. I would have expected nothing less because he's a leader on our team. He's a very motivated kid. He plays so hard. It's important to him. … Overall, he had a very productive game, mainly because of how hard he plays…But he had a good game the other day, certainly appreciate the production he had in the game because he's hard to block.”
For the season, Walker has eight tackles, four sacks, three tackles for loss and seven quarterback hurries.
“He’s doing a pretty good job on pass rushing and stuff,” said Marshall. “He’s the best pass-rusher we have and he’s been practicing every day hard on it. It pays off in the game."
Monty's back: Although sophomore inside linebacker Monty Rice practiced all last week, he did not play last Saturday against Missouri because of the lingering effects of an MCL injury sustained in the fall. On Tuesday, Smart offered a progress report on the 6-foot-1, 235-pound Rice, although he said he wasn’t sure he would be available this Saturday against Tennessee.
“It would be a big bonus for us,” said Smart of Rice, who is among the team’s leading tacklers with 17. “He’s practiced every day, but he did that last week. He’s definitely moving around better, much better than last week, which was rough on him. I don’t know what percentage you would say he was at. I certainly hope he plays because he’s physical and we need him because he brings a mentality of toughness that we need.”
Rice also provides an important depth component to Georgia’s rotating cast of inside linebackers that also includes Juwan Taylor and Tae Crowder, as Natrez Patrick, who might have had some extra work against Missouri, helpfully pointed out.
“I can’t recall the last time I played 60 to 70 plays,” said Patrick on Tuesday. “That rotation helps a lot and I’m so glad he’s back. More legs on the field, fresh legs with guys you can trust. He’s a trustworthy guy and does everything he’s supposed to do.”