ATHENS Ga. – Georgia lost some of its most talented players from last season’s team, like Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Isaiah Wynn, Dominick Sanders and Roquan Smith. The Bulldogs also lost a lot of leadership.
Mostly lost in the shuffle of outbound talent and production is that players such as Chubb and Smith led not only on the stat sheet but also in the locker room.
Coach Kirby Smart is confident that there are players capable of leading still on the roster.
“We’ve got some good leaders on this team,” Smart said. “They’ve just got to learn how to step up and be vocal.”
Smart singled out a few players who have already seen trying to take on a leadership role, pointing to seniors-to-be Jonathan Ledbetter and D’Andre Walker. The players say they are eager to step up to the challenge.
Walker sees leading by example as perhaps the best way to lead the team. He said he hopes to develop into “one of those guys that my coaches can depend on every down and every play.”
For Ledbetter, leadership is about passing on the knowledge of players who influenced him as he was developing. Ledbetter said he still uses advice he picked up from players such as Leonard Floyd to influence the younger members of the team.
“It’s pretty cool because I got opportunities to look up to a lot of older guys, and now people are looking up to me,” Ledbetter said.
Junior safety J.R. Reed said he prefers to take a more hands-on approach, with the end goal being to develop the underclassmen, enhancing both their skills and knowledge on the football field.
“My goal is to really mold these young guys and really get them up to almost be where I’m at, and try to get these guys that don’t know a lot to learn a lot more,” Reed said.
While it’s certainly a positive for Smart to hear his players talking about stepping into leadership roles, that’s all it is: talk. Smart said he welcomes those wishing to lead to step forward. All he asks is that they back up the words with actions.
“It’s time to go out on the field and actually find out when adversity hits and you have pads on and you have a helmet on and you’re tired and it’s not just an offseason conditioning program – how are you going to respond, and how are you going to help the other guys around you?” Smart said. “We need as much of that as we can get.”
(You can follow Nathan Berg on Twitter @NathanxBerg)
© 2016, gridironnow.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.