Outside linebackers: Rising star Houston leads Grantham’s group
(Eighth in a summer series looking at Georgia’s football team by position.)
TODAY: OUTSIDE LINEBACKERS
- Returning starters: In last season’s 4-3 alignment, Justin Houston started 10 games at defensive end and Darryl Gamble 11 games at middle linebacker.
- Depth chart: In the new 3-4 defense, there are two outside-linebacker positions — the “Will” and “Sam” linebackers. Houston, a junior, and Cornelius Washington, a redshirt sophomore, will enter preseason practice as the first-teamers. Reuben Faloughi, a former walk-on who was put on scholarship this spring, is No. 2 behind Houston at “Will.” Gamble, a senior who moved from inside linebacker to outside late in spring practice, is No. 2 and Chase Vasser No. 3 behind Washington at “Sam.”
- Key facts: Houston has the credentials of an ascendant star –- second-team All-SEC last season; the SEC’s top returning player in tackles for loss (15 last season) and sacks (7.5); on the watch list for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, which goes to the nation’s best defensive player each season; Georgia’s defensive MVP in spring practice. You get the idea.
- Key questions: Will Houston be the dominant player the Dogs expect him to be in new defensive coordinator (and OLB coach) Todd Grantham’s pressure-the-QB 3-4 scheme? Will Washington, who seems to be a good fit for the 3-4, thrive in his first shot as a starter? And will lack of experienced depth at the position prove problematic?
- Recent developments: The move of Gamble from ILB was a response to the OLB depth concerns, which were exacerbated when Montez Robinson was kicked off the team during the spring. Three incoming freshmen who arrived this summer –- Brandon Burrows, Dexter Morant and T.J. Stripling –- eventually will help. “Those guys are the body types we think will fit into that role,” said Mark Richt, adding: “I hope we don’t have to rely on [them] as they’re trying to figure it out. Some of them have to grow a little bit physically.”
- Outlook: Promising … provided Houston, Washington and Gamble stay healthy.
- Your turn: What say you about the outside linebackers?
Links to previous entries in this series:
Tomorrow: Defensive backs.
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