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Raylen Wilson among nation's top breakout candidates for 2024

Palmber-Thombsby:Palmer Thombs05/20/24


Raylen Wilson was a key contributor for Georgia as a true freshman in 2023, and in 2024, ESPN is highlighting him as a player they expect to break out. Ranked No. 2 in the nation just behind Tennessee quarterback Nico Iamaleava and ahead of the likes of Jeremiah Smith (Ohio State WR), Justice Haynes (Alabama RB) and Suntarine Perkins (Ole Miss LB), Wilson could become a household name with the cards he’s been dealt.

First in the hand is his incredible amount of talent. Becoming one of the Bulldogs’ top linebackers isn’t possible without it, and there’s no doubt, Wilson is more than capable because of it. He came to Athens as the nation’s top ranked linebacker according to On3 and was considered a five-star by three of the four recruiting rating services.

During both his junior and senior seasons at Lincoln High School (Tallahassee, Fla.), Wilson posted over 100 tackles. He came to Georgia alongside a pair of other freshmen linebackers – CJ Allen and Troy Bowles – and was looked at as the one to stand out from the rest. However, an injury during fall camp set Wilson back and opened the door for Allen, who played in all 14 games for Georgia last season including five that he started down the stretch.

Allen was moved into the lineup as a result of an injury to Jamon Dumas-Johnson. It also opened the door for more playing time for Wilson, who was playing some already but saw his snap count upped another notch. With that, there were moments he shined and others he looked like a freshman. Totaling 15 tackles in 14 games with a sack coming against Kentucky, his performance during the season was enough to earn Freshman All-SEC honors, although most believe Allen was the more deserving of the two.

Wilson started his first career contest in the Orange Bowl against Florida State. That came with Dumas-Johnson departed already for Kentucky by way of the transfer portal and Smael Mondon sidelined due to injury. While Mondon returns for another year alongside Allen and Wilson – giving Georgia the nation’s best linebacker unit – there will be more than enough opportunities for Wilson to make his mark.

“They’re here for a reason. They’re really mature. They go about their business the right way,” Georgia defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach Glenn Schumann said when asked about Allen and Wilson, deflecting away from the departure of Dumas-Johnson some to focus on the two talented youngsters. “I know that when you have faith in how people prepare and do things, in addition to their ability, you know that they’re going to constantly improve. They’ve improved throughout the year. There’s nothing that beats experience. Sometimes they’ve learned from mistakes. Sometimes they’ve gained confidence through plays they’ve made. I’ve really seen really solid growth the last couple of weeks. I’m looking forward to watching them play.”

“They approach their preparation the right way. They didn’t start preparing differently when they got opportunities to play. They prepared that way really starting in spring ball when they got here, going back to bowl prep last year when they were able to come in early,” he added. “So I think that’s ultimately the mark of a young player that is able to help you. A lot of times it’s relative to their maturity level and how they prepare because nobody gets to Georgia without ability.”

Of course, Wilson isn’t alone in his ability to emerge as the next great Georgia inside linebacker. There are others in the room including junior Jalon Walker, who led the team in sacks last season, and freshmen Justin Williams and Chris Cole – among others. There’s a reason why On3’s Jesse Simonton ranks the unit No. 1 in the nation. Wilson is a part of that reason, and if he can live up to ESPN’s expectations, it’ll go a long way towards the success of the unit as a whole.

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