Ohio State, Georgia recharged after losing NFL Draft stars
ATLANTA (AP) — Just months after Georgia defensive linemen and Ohio State receivers combined to take five first-round spots in the NFL Draft, those positions offer new top talent for teams preparing to meet in the College Football Playoff Peach Bowl Semifinals.
Georgia had three defensive linemen, including first overall pick Travon Walker, selected in the first round of the NFL Draft this year. Ohio State picked wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave with the 10th and 11th picks, respectively.
Despite those significant losses, Saturday night’s Peach Bowl will show proof that No. 4 Ohio State and No. 1 Georgia have reloaded with more star players.
The wide receiver is again a strength for the Buckeyes as two players, Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka, have over 1,000 receiving yards. Quarterback CJ Stroud said Harrison and Egbuka showed their talent even when they had to play behind Wilson and Olave.
“I’m not saying they’re better than Garrett and Chris, but they were playing really good football to be freshmen,” Stroud said. “And I think when you come in with that type of attitude, I’m not just going to be here to learn. I’m going to be here to dominate. That’s where you learn and that’s where you become a great player. football, so it didn’t happen overnight.
The ability to reload with two 1,000-yard receivers is particularly impressive as Ohio State lost AP preseason All-American Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who will miss the game as he recovers from a leg injury and is preparing for the 2023 NFL Draft. Smith-Njigba is slated as a possible first-round pick even though he was injured in the Buckeyes’ opener against Notre Dame and didn’t play just two more games.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Stroud was key to Ohio State’s success as a wide receiver.
“He’s a great quarterback, great system, great coaches, great receivers,” Smart said Thursday. “They came under… early rounds. These kids watched these guys play before them.
Harrison Jr. was a first-team AP All-American. The second player leads the Buckeyes with 72 catches for 1,156 yards and 12 touchdowns.
“I think what makes Marvin special is his discipline and his skill,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “He’s built a massive amount of discipline into his life, taking care of his body, preparing for a high level, incredible discipline, the way he walks his routes. His work ethic is incredible.
Meanwhile, Georgia recharged after relying on their defense to win the 2021 national championship. After having Walker and two defensive tackles, Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt taken in the first round of this year’s draft, the front Bulldogs’ 2022 defensive end is led by Jalen Carter, also projected as a first-round high pick.
Carter was also named to the AP All-America team.
“Very good player,” Day said when asked about Carter. “It disrupts the game, and their whole front is really good, as is their back. They really have no weakness in defense. They are very, very good, and you can see why they are ranked among the best in the country. They do a good job, and he’s very good too.
Carter helped Georgia rank second in the nation in point defense, allowing 12.8 points per game. Ohio State ranks second with 44.5 points per game.
“I’m very confident in the talent we have in attack, and I feel like when it comes to playing any team in the country, I feel confident with our guys and our ability to throw. stone,” Egbuka said.
Georgia had a record five defensive players selected in the first round and 15 players selected overall in the 2022 NFL Draft. Linebacker Quay Walker, selected by Green Bay, and safety Lewis Cine of Minnesota were the other picks first-rounder for the Bulldogs.
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Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88) speaks during media day for the NCAA Peach Bowl college football game against Ohio State, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett (13) is interviewed by Georgia defensive lineman Warren Brinson (97), left, and Peach Bowl mascot Huddles during media day for the Peach college football game NCAA Bowl vs. Ohio State, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (18) speaks during media day for the NCAA Peach Bowl college football game against Georgia on Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)