Every year, programs must replace key players.
This is a team-by-team look at 13 SEC programs (Chip Towers and Seth Emerson have UGA covered) and a key player who must be replaced this season.
Who replaces Preston Smith? Ryan Brown (6-6, 262) started opposite Smith, who went to Stephenson, last year and could make the leap forward after finishing with 3½ sacks in 2014.
The Bulldogs will need increased production from him or A.J. Jefferson to replace Smith, who was drafted by Washington in the second round.
“(Brown) knows, it’s like baseball. He’s going into the No. 4 spot in the lineup,” defensive coordinator Manny Diaz told the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. “So he might have had good production batting fifth or first, but now he’s a guy we’re expecting to hit the home runs.”
Jefferson (6-3, 270) played in all 13 games last year, gaining plenty of experience behind Smith.
He finished with seven tackles for loss and 2½ sacks in 2014, and made one of the best plays in the spring game when he powered through an offensive lineman and dumped a running back for a loss.