Apologies for the brief absence. I had the matter of a 20th wedding anniversary to attend to. Thanks for your patience. Now, back to football. . . .
Georgia lost another linebacker on Thursday. The Bulldogs announced that Brandon Burrows, a 6-foot-3, 240-pound redshirt freshman from Marietta, will undergo shoulder surgery Tuesday morning at St. Mary’s. The procedure is meant to repair what they’re calling “chronic instability” in Burrows’ right shoulder. As one might expect, surgery on a linebacker’s shoulder the day players report for camp rules out any chance to play this season. It is not, however, expected to be a career-ending injury for Burrows.
Not to ring the panic bell or anything but the linebacker position is beginning to look perilously thin. By my count, Burrows’ loss means the Bulldogs are now down to six eligible and healthy scholarship lettermen for their four linebacker positions.
That, of course, is not counting sophomore Jarvis Jones, who is slated to start at strong-side outside linebacker. But Jones’ eligibility is in question due to his relationship with a Columbus parks and recreation administrator recently convicted of theft and fraud. A new report out of Columbus this week alleges there may be more issues raised.
So assuming Jones is not available at least for a game or two, that leaves Georgia with three experienced inside linebackers and three experienced outside linebacker. That’s not ideal.
Junior Christian Robinson is a team leader with All-SEC potential at the “Mike” inside linebacker position. Sophomore Alec Ogletree also has all-conference potential, but he has never played a snap at the “Mo” inside ‘backer spot. He was moved there after excelling as a freshman at strong safety. Junior Michael Gilliard backs up Robinson and Burrows was behind those two on the depth chart.
Georgia’s not any deeper out on the flanks. Without Jones in the lineup, redshirt sophomore Chase Vasser is the only letterman left at Sam. Sophomores Cornelius Washington and Reuben Faloughi (a former walkon) man the “Will,” or weak-side position. The availability of sophomore T.J. Stripling (knee) and Dexter Morant (shoulder) remains unclear. Junior Richard Samuel, who was working at both inside and outside linebacker, moved back to tailback recently to shore up depth problems there.
What’s all this mean? Chiefly that the Bulldogs’ are going to need significant contributions from freshman linebackers. Georgia signed five in February. Two of those are currently unavailable. Sterling Bailey is still recovering from surgery last spring and Kent Turene has yet to receive the blessing of the NCAA Eligibility Center for freshman eligibility.
That leaves five-star prospect Ray Drew of Thomasville to shore up depth at outside linebacker and four-star prospects Amarlo Herrera of College Park and Ramik Wilson of Tampa for the inside positions. After that at least nine walkons stand at the ready.
Robinson met with reporters on Wednesday and I asked him about the depth issues at his position.
“People think we have depth issues,” Robinson said. “I just think we need guys to step up. That’s at any position. We have enough guys here at Georgia to get it done. Richard’s going to step up and help us at the running back position and somebody’s going to step up at linebacker and make those plays. They may not have as many reps, but it’s a matter of guys realizing they have shoes to fill.”
In the meantime, the Bulldogs might want to bubblewrap their remaining linebackers when camp gets underway late next week.
So who do you expect to step up at linebacker for Georgia this fall?
* Sophomore Jarvis Jones is expected to start once the NCAA addresses his eligibility issues.
** Turene has not yet been granted freshman eligibility by the NCAA.