August 1, 2006

UGA has stockpiled DE talent

If you've watched any SEC football during the past four seasons, you've likely noticed that Georgia has a pretty good defense. Countless times during the Mark Richt in Athens, we've seen the Dawgs' defensive unit change the momentum or just flat-out take it over.

That kind of ability to dominate has its roots in excellence along the defensive line. Big-play defensive ends like David Pollack and most recently All-American Quentin Moses, along with stout performers on the interior like Kedric Golston have formed the nucleus of the Georgia defense.

With the recruiting classes of 2005-08, Richt and staff have put themselves in a position to have that nucleus remain strong for the foreseeable future.

The young talent that is already on campus or that will arrive in the near future at defensive end is staggering.

Roderick Battle, a four-star prospect out of Atlanta's Douglass High School, signed with the Bulldogs in the Class of 2005 and currently is listed at second team behind Charles Johnson at one of the defensive end spots heading into fall camp. Battle was the nation's No. 9 weakside defensive end prospect coming out of high school and will be a redshirt freshman this year.

Class of 2006 standout Kiante Tripp was projected to be an offensive tackle coming out of Atlanta's Westlake High, but he will be a 6-foot-6 defensive end in Athens. Though his frame and footwork were enough to see him as potentially being special at offensive tackle, one has to be intrigued by the possibilities of Tripp at defensive end given his athleticism and size.

The star of the 2005 Athens NIKE Camp, defensive end Brandon Wood from Buchanan (Ga.) Haralson County, also joins the Bulldogs program this season. Wood is a high-energy prospect with a quick first step. He's the type of player that through effort and speed will make his share of big plays during his career.

Named by many as the sleeper of the 2006 class, Michael Lemon has the raw skills to develop into an excellent pass rusher in college. The 6-foot-4, 255-pounder played against low-level competition in high school and once he adjusts to the speed of the college game, he has the chance to really make some noise.

As if the talent currently on campus wasn't enough, the Bulldogs are off to a tremendous start in terms of defensive end recruiting for the class of 2007.

Rivals250 prospect Conrad Obi has tremendous upside and could move into the Rivals100 with a big senior season. The 6-foot-4, 240-pounder from Loganville (Ga.) Grayson is the No. 2 defensive end prospect in the Peach State.

Like Wood the year before him, Statesboro (Ga.) prospect Justin Houston emerged at the 2006 Athens NIKE Camp. The 6-foot-3, 228-pounder displayed a quick first step and tremendous tenacity during the one-on-one drills. Houston has the potential to be an excellent pass rusher at the next level.

Jackson (Ga.) prospect Neland Ball is the most recent defensive end commit for the Dawgs in this year's class. Ball has a tremendous frame and is very athletic and smooth. He has very intriguing upside.

The defensive end haul likely isn't complete for the Dawgs in this year's class. Five-star Allen Bailey of Darien (Ga.) McIntosh Academy, the nation's No. 2 prospect at his position, Rivals100 prospect Cliff Matthews from Cheraw (S.C.) and Rivals250 prospect D.J. Stafford from LaGrange (Ga.) all have the Dawgs among their top choices and it wouldn't be a surprise to see all three end up in Athens when all is said and done.

That would be six elite prospects at that position heading to Athens to go along with the three the Bulldogs signed in 2006 and Battle. That's quite a group, but not the end of the story. Georgia already has gotten a leg up on the Class of 2008 as well. Waynesboro (Ga.) Burke County defensive end Cornelius Washington, who stood out at UGA's prospect camp during the summer, has given an early commitment to Georgia. The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder runs a reported 4.51-second 40-yard dash and is expected to be one of the top defensive ends in the Peach State for the Class of 2008.

Another interesting fact about Georgia's defensive end recruiting during this four year span is that with the exception of Matthews, every one of the players on campus and in the two-deep, committed or targeted is an in-state prospect. That speaks to the quantity of quality prospects at that position that the Peach State puts out year-in and year-out. That means that one can reasonably expect the Bulldogs to continue to stockpile homegrown talent at that position.

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