STACY ROST

Seahawks Draft: What to know about Jalen Carter’s time at Georgia

Apr 14, 2023, 9:22 AM | Updated: 3:33 pm

Seattle Seahawks Jalen Carter...

Jalen Carter of the Georgia Bulldogs reacts in the National Championship versus TCU on Jan. 9, 2023. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

There are plenty of questions facing Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter, one of the draft’s top prospects and a player oft-mocked to the Seattle Seahawks at No. 5 overall.

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Earlier this year, Carter was considered a near-universal pick for the most talented player on the board, with some mocks seeing him go No. 1 overall to Chicago, though there were always expectations that Chicago would trade back and there would be a run instead on quarterbacks. Yet there were the Seattle Seahawks at No. 5 with a chance to snag a player of a caliber they hadn’t had a shot at before. He’d only need to get by Chicago and Arizona, a reason most early mocks had Seattle landing Texas Tech edge Tyree Wilson.

Then came a series of questions.

Really, it started late last year with a vague fear from draft analyst Todd McShay, who reported there were lingering character issues with Carter — a report teammates and Georgia head coach Kirby Smart vehemently denied. But there now was a red flag; hardly enough to pass on his talent at the time, though.

Then in March, Athens police issued an arrest warrant for reckless driving and racing stemming from a January accident that resulted in the deaths of a Georgia football player and team staff member, both of whom were in a vehicle racing alongside Carter (Carter plead no contest to charges). At his pro day, he showed up nine pounds heavier, reportedly looked winded during drills, and didn’t speak with local media.

With questions swirling, Carter’s agent later announced he’d be interviewing only with teams holding a top-10 pick.

More flags, real concerns, real questions.

Who is Jalen Carter?

Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy threw a few of those questions to someone who knows Carter well: Chip Towers, who covers Georgia football for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Towers began by explaining that reporters didn’t have a ton of insight into who Carter was prior to more public character questions. The reason? Kirby limited player availability, particularly for Carter, late in his UGA career.

“First off, for being such a frontline player such as Jalen Carter was, we didn’t really know a ton about him heading into this past season because he just simply wasn’t made available to us,” Towers said. “We’ve known Jalen Carter to be a fantastic player ever since he arrived at Georgia, but Kirby Smart, kind of like Nick Saban, keeps very tight control on players and access to players. So in terms of the first two seasons, really the first three seasons, we had very little access to him. We just hadn’t had a chance to interview him until kind of postgame locker room situations at the end of the 2021 postseason. And then obviously coming into the 2022 postseason Todd McShay made his vague comment coming into that.

“So (Carter) was available, as is the requirement for the college football postseason, and I was among the scrum around him. ‘Hey Jalen, what did you make of those comments Todd McShay made?’ We had asked teammates a lot about it and they all came vigorously to his defense. And I found him that particular day to be pretty disarming; he was saying it didn’t bother him, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter, he’d let his football speak for him, and all that kind of stuff.”

Was limited availability unique?

“It was unique to Jalen Carter from the standpoint of his status on the team … because of his status, he was clearly a star, the fact that you didn’t speak to him on the regular was odd.”

Towers said he didn’t agree with criticism that Carter took plays off in games, though did admit that his appearance at his pro day highlighted a separate knock.

“If there is a knock on him, that’s what you hear, is that maybe keeping him in shape is a problem,” Towers said. “He likes to eat. But if you think about the drills themselves they were running that day, he was impressing the scouts. I think one of the problems might’ve been Nolan Smith, who is just off the charts in condition, was running a lot of those drills with him and I think he was trying to keep up with Smith and it wore him out.”

A high pick brings high stakes and the Seattle Seahawks — and any other team — can’t afford to use it on a player who’s character questions with trump his ability. But the decision with Carter is made difficult by that very ability, a reality for any NFL draft pick: Elite talent is very, very tempting, and Carter is among the draft’s best.

“Just turn on the tape and watch him play,” Towers said. “Watch him dominating LSU’s offensive line in the SEC Championship Game and lifting the quarterback and one hand into the sky. He’s just really tough to block. His quickness, his quick twitch, and his five-yard and 10-yard speed. Never mind the 40 (yard dash) or any of that stuff. He’s quick with his hands, he’s insanely strong, and he just wins those one on one battles all the time. Not sometimes. All the time. Last time I checked that’s pretty popular in the NFL to have an interior defensive lineman who can win well over 50 percent of the time.”

More Seattle Seahawks draft coverage

Seahawks Draft Profile: GT edge Keion White could be perfect fit
What Seahawks wanted out of Jalen Carter visit
• Bumpus: BYU QB Jaren Hall has Russell Wilson traits
• Rost: Seahawks don’t need to trade back from 5, and they shouldn’t
• Huard: UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet has the traits Seattle Seahawks like at RB

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