Linebackers: Promising group despite virtual makeover since last season
Seventh in a series breaking down Georgia’s 2011 team by position . . .
Georgia is counting on junior Christian Robinson's leadership and play-making abilities at linebacker this fall. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)
- Projected starters: SAM Jarvis Jones (So., 6-3, 241), MIKE Christian Robinson (Jr., 6-2, 226), MO Alec Ogletree (So. 6-3, 236), WILL Cornelius Washington (So., 6-4, 260)
- Returning starters: Robinson started 11 games at the “Mo” inside linebacker last season and Washington started eight at the “Will” outside position. Alec Ogletree was moved to the Mo in the spring after starting five games at strong safety as a true freshman last season. Robinson moved to Mike.
- Others to watch: This is the much-anticipated debut season of Jarvis Jones, who had to sit out this past year after transferring to Georgia from Southern Cal. Jones (6-3, 241) is slated to start at “Sam,” or strongside outside linebacker, but first he has to clear some recently-raised eligibility issues. . . . Former starting tailback Richard Samuel will be playing his first season on defense for the Bulldogs. He redshirted his junior season last year while making the initial transition. He is currently second-team at “Mo” but could play outside linebacker if called upon. . . . Reuben Faloughi, Michael Gilliard and Chase Vasser will be counted on as backups.
Moving Alec Ogletree (9) from strong safety to inside linebacker was bold and potentially bountiful. (AP photo)
- Key losses: Georgia lost a massive amount of production from this unit. Gone are leading tackler Akeem Dent (126 tackles); pass-rushing specialist Justin Houston (10 sacks); No. 4 tackler Marcus Dowtin, who transferred out; and No. 7 tackler Darryl Gamble, who graduated. That’s 259 tackles, 14 sacks and 52 games played just from last season. The Bulldogs also lost linebackers coach Warren Belin to the NFL.
- Newcomers: Georgia signed five linebackers in February to shore up depth, including five-star prospect Ray Drew (6-5, 250) of Thomasville, who will be expected to contribute immediately. The Bulldogs also inked Sterling Bailey (6-5, 260) of Gainesville, Amarlo Herrera (6-1, 224) of College Park, Kent Turene (6-3, 225) of Lauderdale Lakes, Fla., and Ramik Wilson (6-2, 218) of Tampa.
- Key developments: As alluded to earlier, the eligibility issues facing Jones threaten to dog Georgia up until the season opener like those facing A.J. Green did last year. A police investigation into alleged corruption within the ranks of the Columbus parks and recreation department revealed that some of Jones’ flights to Los Angeles his first season at USC were paid for by the department’s director from state funds. Even though Jones was at Southern Cal, the NCAA could require Jones to sit out games at UGA. Georgia has launched its own investigation and will fight to get the situation resolved well before the season opener, unlike last year’s fiasco with Green, who ended up sitting the first four games.
- Key question: This is year two of Georgia’s switch to a 3-4 defense under defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. But due to all the reshuffling, three of the four projected starters will be playing new positions. How quickly and how well will the group adapt to new assignments and new inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti?
- Outlook: Uncertain but promising. If there were no issues facing Jones, it would be tempting to say this is an across-the-board improvement. But the drop from Jones to Vasser would be steep and moving Samuel back outside could be complicated. Meanwhile, moving Ogletree to Mo from strong safety was a bold move and, even though Grantham says he’s “100 percent certain” it was the right thing to do, it’s an uncertain how he’ll perform in games.
- Your turn: What’s your view of Georgia’s linebacker corps?
PREVIOUS POSITION BREAKDOWNS:
July 8 — Defensive line
July 7 — Quarterbacks
July 6 — Running backs
July 5 — Tight ends
July 2 — Wide receivers
July 1 — Offensive line