When assessing the strengths of the Georgia defense for 2012, outside linebacker is certainly one of the starting points.
With good reason.
Considering the Bulldogs bring back an All-American in junior Jarvis Jones, that certainly comes as no real surprise. In his first year with the Bulldogs, Jones set the SEC on its ear, collecting 13.5 sacks and creating all sorts of havoc for opposing team.
The Bulldogs also return a handful of veteran, yet relatively unproven players like Chase Vasser, T.J. Stripling and Reuben Faloughi, opening the door perhaps for a number of promising incoming freshmen in Jordan Jenkins, Josh Dawson, James DeLoach, Josh Harvey-Clemons and Leonard Floyd.
NOTE: The Bulldogs also return redshirt freshman Sterling Bailey, sophomore Ray Drew and senior Cornelius Washington, but with all three players slated for defensive end, we'll discuss all three more in-depth in our next position breakdown.
• Jarvis Jones (6-3, 241, Jr.): You could fill up the rest of this article talking about all the accolades for Jones, who is already being projected as a top five pick in next year's NFL Draft.
A consensus first-team All-American, the first-team All-SEC performer was also a finalist for the Butkus Award after a season which saw him post 70 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks.
Jones' sack total left him just ½ sack behind the single-season record set by former three-time All-American David Pollack, and it wouldn't be a shock to see him set a new mark this year.
This guy is that good. Dawg fans should enjoy him while he's here.
• Chase Vasser (6-3, 230, Jr.): With Washington working almost extensively at defensive end, Vasser saw most of the work with the ones at Sam linebacker and is expected to begin fall drills in the same position. Vasser made three starts last year, recording 16 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. A versatile player, Vasser's ability to play the run and cover backs out of the backfield enables him to stay on the field both in base and nickel situations.
• Reuben Faloughi (6-5, 255, Jr.): A former walk-on, Faloughi saw limited action as a backup in eight games for the Bulldogs last fall. Although Faloughi has made great strides since arriving in Athens, it seems unlikely with the arriving talent that he will be able to break into a starting role.
• T.J. Stripling (6-6, 230, Jr.): With Stripling, the biggest question has been whether or not he'd ever be able to put on enough weight where he could be an every-down performer for the Bulldogs. Slowly but surely, he seems to be making some headway. Stripling is up to 230 pounds, and after playing in nine games last year, appears ready to take on a larger role come fall. No, he won't supplant Jones at Will linebacker, but Stripling maintains one of the quicker first steps of any Bulldog at outside linebacker and his experience should ensure some decent playing time in a backup role this fall.
• Ricky Lowe (6-7, 258, Sr.): Winner of an Iron Dawg award, Lowe scored a touchdown off a tipped ball in the G-Day game, but has yet to play in a regular-season game.
• Josh Dawson (6-4, 235, Fr.): A former four-star performer according to Rivals, Dawson chose the Bulldogs over Vanderbilt after helping lead Tucker to the 2011 state championship. A physical player, Dawson is one of the incoming freshmen expected to get a very long look for playing time.
• Jordan Jenkins (6-3, 245, Fr.) Along with Dawson, Jenkins is physically ready to make a quick impact, most likely at the Sam position. Considered the nation's 56th-ranked player by Rivals, Jenkins will remind many Dawg fans of Justin Houston. The two have a similar build, with Jenkins probably a little bit ahead of where Houston was coming in his freshman year.
• Josh Harvey-Clemons (6-5, 215, Fr.): Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has already stated publically that the former five-star will play as a freshman. Slated for Sam linebacker, Harvey-Clemons was the nation's second-ranked athlete according to Rivals and took part in the annual Army All-American Bowl. Don't be surprised to see the former Lowndes standout see some time at WR, especially in red zone situations.
• Leonard Floyd (6-4, 220, Fr.): Another former four-star prospect, Floyd is a rangy athlete, who will get a look this fall but barring something unforeseen, will be in line for a redshirt his freshman year to add some additional weight.
• James DeLoach (6-3, 260, Fr.): DeLoach remains a little raw but coaches like his big-play potential moving forward. At 260 pounds, DeLoach won the recent Class A discus title in Jefferson, and has the potential to eventually moved down to defensive end, but will start his career as an outside linebacker, albeit as a likely redshirt his first season.
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