The dust has settled from UGA football’s momentous recruiting win last week when Paulding County’s five-star linebacker Smael Mondon pledged to join coach Kirby Smart’s defense.
It was a big win to keep the state’s top ranked player home. What does it mean for the roster going forward?
What does Mondon bring?
Look up modern-day linebacker and a picture of Mondon should pop up. He’s listed at 6-foot-3 and roughly 220 pounds.
He’ll surely add weight once he hits the college training and nutrition plan.
Mondon has the ability to track sideline to sideline as a Mike linebacker. He plays on the outside in high school, but its clear his future is inside in UGA’s 3-4 scheme. That’s a perfect home for him.
He won’t be overmatched by running backs or slot receivers in space because of his speed and elite ability to change directions. And Mondon is big enough to split out and match with tight ends. He appears physical in high school. He brings thump to ball carriers when he arrives for a tackle.
Playing off blocks at the college level will be different. On the edges Mondon can outrun the tackles, backs or tight ends that attempt to block him. As an inside backer, Mondon will have to deal with life in the triangle (the space between the two guards and center with only a nose tackle to keep him clean).
His speed will help him initially, but Mondon’s added size could be the key to playing through the traffic at the next level and beyond.
Mondon will help UGA’s inside linebacker group immediately.
Monty Rice’s college career is coming to a close. UGA’s longest-tenured starter will be playing on Sundays next fall.
Quay Walker, who played a key role as a reserve the past two seasons, will likely replace Rice next to current sophomore Nakobe Dean.
From there, creativity is needed to see what the rest of the rotation looks like. Mekhail Sherman, a five-star from the class of 2020 will likely be in the mix next season after playing sparingly this season.
Sherman and Mondon could form the second pairing behind Dean and Walker for 2021 and slide up in responsibility once those two players either graduate or move on to the NFL.
Depending on how UGA rounds out the rest of the class, the middle linebacker spot is set with multiple future All SEC caliber players.
A taller Patrick Queen (LSU, Baltimore Ravens)