Jalen Carter: Georgia’s Defensive Gamewrecker | Georgia sports

Georgia 2021’s defense has historically been dominant, with star players like Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean and Lewis Cine leading the way.

This season’s defense has produced another strong campaign despite losing eight players in the 2022 NFL draft. And a big reason the Bulldogs avoided a dropoff is defenseman Jalen Carter.

Head coach Kirby Smart said before the season Carter was just as talented as Davis or defenseman Devonte Wyatt – Georgia’s two best central defenders of the past year.

“He was overshadowed by the other two in terms of maturity [Davis and Wyatt], he was by no means overshadowed talent-wise,” Smart said. “He’s massive. He is just as talented or more talented in sports than these two. A very different guy from them both, but he’s matured.”

According to 247Sports, Carter was a 5-star recruit from Apopka High School in Florida and the fourth best defensive tackle recruit in the country. Carter committed to UGA on May 20, 2019, preferring Georgia to schools like Alabama, Clemson and Florida.

“I knew from the first visit it was going to be Georgia,” Carter told 247Sports. “Each visit got better and better. I’ve connected with players and feel at home in Athens.”

Carter has 25 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles this year, but while his numbers aren’t necessarily off the page, his impact transcends statistics. He frequently commands double teams of opponents, opening up space for other defenders to make plays.

Carter said last April that he found ways to work harder than in the past thanks to the motivation of his teammates, including Davis and Wyatt.

“I started running more after practice and all of that because these guys pushed me to do more, because they told me I could be a top 10 pick and stuff,” Carter said. “So I did a lot of things that I wouldn’t normally do in my freshman year, and I just worked harder.”

Offensive lineman Sedrick Van Pran said earlier this year that Carter also helps his teammates get better in practice, particularly other defensive linemen.

“Jalen Carter is much calmer and he likes to keep to himself and be with the boys,” said Van Pran. “I think one thing he’s done this year is push the guys around him – Tyrion Ingram-Dawkins, who helps guys like Naz [Stackhouse]Mikel [Williams], whoever they may be. Just pushing these guys is the biggest move I’ve seen as he became more of a leader.

Defensive lineman Zion Logue said Carter is a unique personality on the team.

“He’s a very quiet guy but he’s funny at the same time,” Logue said. “He has his own way of being funny and fun-loving. When it’s time for work, he knows how to flip the switch and get ready to go to work. I think that’s unique about him.”

With Nolan Smith out for a year after tearing a pectoral muscle against Florida, Carter’s return from an ankle injury was a huge win for the Georgia defense. Carter missed three games earlier in the season due to this injury but has been a force since rejoining the lineup.

Against Tennessee, Carter had his most disruptive game of the season, scoring four tackles with two losses, two sacks and a forced fumble in Georgia’s 27-13 win over the Volunteers. For his efforts, Carter was named the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week for the second time in his career.

Smart said Carter’s absence hampered defense against the pass and run as he can play well against both.

“It’s not like he’s a one-trick pony,” Smart said. “He’s really good at passing the rush, he can play the run, he’s disruptive. So he’s not — ‘well, it just affects our pass rush,’ no, it affects everything, because he’s a really phenomenal player and you’d love to have him out there.

Carter is also expected to be a top-five pick and the top Bulldog off the board in next year’s NFL draft if he chooses to do so.

While Georgia’s defensive line may not be as talented as last year’s unit, Carter’s stellar play, work ethic and leadership skills have put the group in a position to return to the College Football Playoffs.