ATHENS — Rising star Lorenzo Carter is helping to make outside linebacker perhaps the strength of Georgia's 2015 defense.
Carter's emergence is especially noteworthy since Georgia returns two respected and productive starters, Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins.
Floyd, a junior, is missing spring practice as he recovers from shoulder surgery. Floyd led the Bulldogs with six sacks last season and already is projected as a possible first-round pick in next year's NFL draft. Jenkins, a senior, has provided consistent production for three straight years.
Carter may prove to be more than just the most talented player of this year's unit. Jenkins opened a recent interview session by predicting Carter is destined to become one of the Bulldogs' all-time greats.
"Right off the bat I just want to say Lorenzo Carter is going to be one of the greatest defensive players to come through this university," Jenkins said. "He's a young man who is gifted athletically, gifted mentally, he just has all the tools you want in a kid. If he stays focused and commits to the offseason and commits to getting better, the sky is the limit for that guy."
Carter smiled on Tuesday when told of the compliment and then said, "You can't let it sink in."
Carter (6-6, 243) has heard predictions of stardom before. He was a Parade magazine All-American at Norcross (Georgia) High and was rated the top prospect in the state by Scout.com.
He earned increased playing time as a freshman in 2014 and delivered nine tackles and 2 ½ sacks in his first start at Kentucky. He finished with 4 ½ sacks, and led Georgia with eight tackles and a sack in the Belk Bowl win over Louisville.
He finished second on the team with 18 quarterback pressures.
Now he has added more muscle after playing at about 230 pounds last year.
"Lorenzo is absolutely a great-looking player, no doubt," said coach Mark Richt.
"We want him to continue to gain weight because he is so long we think he can put more on his frame. ... If he's 243 right now, he could be 260 pretty easily, in my opinion, and still be athletic and a lean-looking guy. I think he is keeping his speed and his agility and all that. I don't think that will be a problem. I think he will only get faster and quicker and stronger as he grows."
Jenkins has recorded five sacks in three straight years. The unit also returns Davin Bellamy and James DeLoach.
"We feel like as an outside linebacker unit, we're pretty experienced right now and we have a lot of talent so we have to help lead the defense and keep us motivated," Carter said.
"The outside linebacker room is so tight, close-knit. We call ourselves a wolf pack. We're just that type. When one person slips up in a play, we'll all jump on him. We won't let anybody slack off."
Carter said the linebackers respect Jenkins' experience.
Even so, the young wolf wants to lead the pack.
"Who is the lead wolf? There are multiple alpha wolves," Carter said before adding with a laugh, "Of course, I would have to say myself, because I am the best out of us."