2005 Starter: Quentin Moses (13 career starts, 102 total tackles, 19.5 sacks)
There are several talented defensive ends in the SEC, but Moses leads the charge of all the pass rushers. Moses decided to come back to Georgia instead of going to the NFL. It’s hard to really know if Moses’ decision to come back was a good one this early in the season, but if the spring sessions are any indication, Moses made the right call.
Moses will likely be a pre-season All-American selection. I know that my ballot for All-SEC will have his name on it. There is an outside chance that Moses will be the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, but he’s got to handle all the problems that come with being the top-target for the opposition’s game plan. Moses’ pressure on the quarterback will be critical in 2006. Georgia’s secondary will be getting its feet wet at the start of the season, and the offensive lines Moses and his fellow pass rushers face in September are not the best they will see all season long. South Carolina’s main problem may, in fact, be its offensive line. Moses is 15 sacks shy of the Georgia career sack record – he won’t get that, but he’ll record more than his fair share of sacks next season.
Marcus Howard’s (27 total tackles, 1.5 sacks) move to defensive end from linebacker is no longer an experiment. Howard had six quarterback pressures in 2005, and he’s still trying to add weight. Howard will make his impact on third-and-long situations because he’s a speed rusher. Jeremy Lomax (1 total tackle, 4 quarterback pressures) sat spring practices out with a shoulder injury. He expects to return in the fall, but will be pressed to find playing time with Moses and Howard in front of him.
2005 Starter: Charles Johnson (29 total tackles, 5 sacks, 1 interception)
Johnson and Moses form the most formidable tandem of pass rushers in the SEC. What makes each so good is the other’s ability to rush the passer. It seems Georgia gets a fair number of tight end-protection looks (with the tight end staying in to help with blocking). That’s one less player the linebackers and safeties need to concern themselves with, and that matters.
Johnson had 28 quarterback pressures last season, second best behind only Moses’ 38 for all returning players. This may be the season Johnson fully lives up to his recruiting hype. Consistency used to be a problem with Johnson, but no more. Frequently during the spring Johnson was mentioned by Mark Richt as a force during practices. He has a very good chance of being named pre-season All-SEC.
Roderick Battle, who redshirted last season, was not totally happy with his performance this spring. Near the end of spring practice he told me that he would grade himself with a “C”. He’s ready to make more of an impact on the program. If the old saying about a player improving most from their first year to their second is true, Battle may be grading himself higher in the fall.
All-American Candidate: Quentin Moses
All-SEC Candidates: Quentin Moses and Charles Johnson