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Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Post-spring position review: ILB

By David Ching

Editor’s note: Our DawgNation post-spring positional analysis continues this week after focusing on the offense last week. Today we examine the inside linebackers:

Returning players/stats: Amarlo Herrera, Jr. (Nine starts in 2012. 70 tackles, three tackles for a loss, one interception); Ramik Wilson, Jr. (6 tackles, one TFL); Kosta Vavlas, Jr. (9 tackles)

Newcomers: Johnny O’Neal, Fr. (ESPN’s No. 153 overall prospect in the 2013 class, No. 5 ILB. Expected to enroll this summer); Tim Kimbrough, Fr. (No. 289 overall, No. 11 ILB. Expected to enroll this summer); Ryne Rankin, Fr. (No. 296, No. 13 ILB. Enrolled in January); Reggie Carter, Fr. (No. 32 ILB. Enrolled in January).

Georgia
Amarlo Herrera (No. 52) will be one of the leaders of a young Georgia defense in 2013.
Key storyline: Like essentially all of the other position groups on Georgia’s defense, the Bulldogs must replace almost everyone who played a significant role last fall. Without All-SEC pick Alec Ogletree and veterans Christian Robinson and Michael Gilliard in the fold, position coach Kirk Olivadotti has a lot of teaching to do. It will help if Wilson can seize a starting job so Olivadotti will have the luxury of slowly developing the four freshmen -- two of whom, Carter and Rankin, participated in spring practice -- instead of leaning too heavily on the youngsters right away.

Breakout candidate: Despite sitting lower in ESPN’s prospect rankings than Georgia’s other three ILB signees, Carter might be the player to watch here. Some -- if not all -- of the freshmen will have to play because the depth is so shallow and Carter took a big step toward making an early impact with an interception in each of Georgia’s spring scrimmages and displaying a diligent work ethic that impressed Olivadotti and his teammates.

Reviewing 2012: The supremely talented Ogletree led the Bulldogs in tackles with 111 and also made 11.5 tackles for a loss despite missing the first four games while serving a suspension. He combined with Herrera, Robinson and Gilliard to form a serviceable rotation in the middle of the defense. But the Bulldogs’ front seven was not as consistent as it should have been and the defense’s statistical production declined from its breakout performance in 2011.

Projecting 2013: Georgia’s coaches were not ready to proclaim Herrera and Wilson as their starters at the end of spring practice, but it would be a surprise if the Aug. 31 opener at Clemson arrives and they aren’t the first two inside linebackers on the field. Regardless, we’re going to see the freshmen playing on scrimmage downs and probably some on special teams this fall. The youngsters are a talented bunch, and if they prove that they can be competent players early on, the ceiling for this position group in 2013 will rise significantly over where it will be otherwise. From a depth standpoint, Olivadotti’s group will be one of the defense’s bigger question marks entering preseason camp.