A mack truck of a linebacker built on a foundation of a powerful lower half and an alpha-dog mentality, if you haven’t seen the powerhouse anchor of the country’s top defensive unit perform yet, it’s time to make your way out from under your rock. The next second-level talent out of the University of Georgia who will immediately make waves at the NFL level, Nakobe Dean has all the fundamental traits to become one of football’s most impactful defenders once his name is announced by the commissioner this spring.
Roquan Smith, Leonard Floyd, Alec Ogletree, Justin Houston, the list of high-profile talents that called Athens, Georgia home during their collegiate tenures have paved the way for Dean and his fellow Bulldogs defenders into a group as dominant as we’ve seen in college football in some time. With just six offensive touchdowns allowed through eight games, five less than the next closest program, Georgia’s formula for success hinges on their ability to completely shut down opposing offenses. With wins over Auburn, Kentucky, and Florida this fall, their 13 points allowed to the Wildcats represents the top output from any offensive unit so far this season.
Dominance is an understatement when it comes to head coach Kirby Smart’s unit, and it starts with the former 5-star recruit in Dean. While there are many skill sets to highlight when watching two SEC squads square off, the instincts of the Horn Lake, Mississippi native jump off the page unlike any linebacker in the collegiate game.
Saturday’s performance against the uber-talented signal-caller in Anthony Richardson solidified any doubts you could have toward Dean’s ever-improving game. Whether he aligns in the box, near the LOS, or out-wide when tasked to run man on opposing running backs or tight ends, there are no glaring weak spots in Dean’s game. And while his pick-six against Florida highlighted his day, his motor and willingness to play special teams tells you all you need to know about the individual desire and hunger Dean has to make plays—and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Ranked No. 30 on our TDN100 and the No. 3 overall linebacker prospect behind Penn State’s Brandon Smith (No. 18) and Utah’s Devin Lloyd (No. 23), Dean’s stock has rocketed skyward since the start of the fall. A modern-day linebacker with the ability to play downhill in the run game and compete sideline-to-sideline coupled with outstanding awareness and pop in space, Dean is everything scouts desire in a second-level green-dot defender, despite some concerns about his 6-foot frame.
According to TDN’s Drae Harris, Dean:
“is a very good reactive athlete with regard to quickness and agility. He can blitz inside and demonstrates very good closing quickness to the quarterback. He gets good depth in his zone drops while also showing the ability to cover running backs with ease. In the run game, he plays downhill and quickly diagnoses runs. He uses his good quickness to defeat linemen and beat them to the spot. He also does a good job shooting gaps to disrupt plays in the backfield. He is an ideal fit in a 4-3 defense and projects as an excellent core special teams player as well.”
The lead dog in a defense littered with day-one draft talent—including Jordan Davis, who’s become the most impactful 1-tech defensive tackle in the nation—the Bulldogs defense captained by Dean will continue to be must-watch TV for all of you throwback, defensive-hungry fanatics. A unit that looks primed to earn its ticket to the CFP for just the second time since the event’s inception in 2015, Georgia has quickly become the country’s team to beat. Behind a brick wall of a defensive group that brings their lunch pail to work on each and every snap, Dean has become the driving force for the nation’s premier unit.
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