Georgia’s most important players of 2017: 10. A ‘Jolly’ good fellow
By @sethemerson - DawgNation
ATHENS – The first impression of Trent Thompson, at least for this reporter upon meeting him for the first time three years ago, was his waistline. Or the Georgia football player’s lack of it.
Which told me all I needed to know about why the hype was probably real.
Thompson, who was rated the No. 1 overall recruit in the country coming from Albany, Ga., in 2015, was listed at 6-foot-4 and close to 300 pounds. And yet upon closer inspection he was rather svelte. Not svelte like a wide receiver, or svelte like a linebacker. But not tipping the scales like William “Refrigerator” Perry, and that was a good thing.
The game of football is changing, with fast-paced offenses that run plays quickly and don’t run up the middle that much any more. That means defensive linemen need to be quicker and athletic, less like Refrigerator Perry and more like, well, Thompson.
Over the past two years, there have been plenty of glimpses of Thompson’s potential. On occasion he will burst through the backfield for the kind of play you don’t see often see from a defensive lineman, such as the sack at South Carolina that was 11 yards behind the line of scrimmage. The crowning moment of his career, so far, is the 3-sack game against TCU in the Liberty Bowl last Dec. 30. He earned defensive MVP, and the man nicknamed “Jolly” danced to his and his coach’s delight afterward.
BEST CASE: Thompson has a true breakout season, approaches the 10-sack number, gets close to 75 tackles and proves a force for the defense. The defensive front seven is lifted as a result, and Georgia – which last year ranked fourth in the SEC in run defense and sixth in sacks – finishes top three in both categories.
WORST CASE: The shoulder surgery and/or the spring issues have a lingering effect, and Thompson struggles to be consistent. Georgia’s defense suffers as a result, not making that move from good to great in 2017.
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