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Tuesday, April 23, 2013
UGA ILB to watch: Ramik Wilson

By David Ching

ATHENS, Ga. -- Predicting a player with 10 career tackles will be one of the key performers on Georgia’s defense this fall is risky business.

However, that might be the case with Bulldogs junior Ramik Wilson, whose performance at one of the starting inside linebacker positions could have a big impact on how the rebuilding defense functions in the first several games.

Georgia signed four talented inside linebackers in its most recent recruiting class, but leaning too heavily on the youngsters might be a problem in the early going with the Bulldogs facing Clemson, South Carolina and LSU in the first month of the season. That leaves the onus on Wilson and fellow junior Amarlo Herrera -- the team’s top returning tackler with 70 stops a season ago -- to perform capably while the freshmen learn on the job.

Ramik Wilson
After appearing in 10 games in 2012, Ramik Wilson, left, has worked his way into a starting job at inside linebacker this spring.
Wilson has split time between inside and outside linebacker in his first two seasons, but concentrated solely on playing the “mike” position during spring practice. He believes narrowing his focus to one spot accelerated his progress -- and the Bulldogs certainly hope that continues into the fall.

2012 review: Wilson played a fairly limited role as a sophomore, playing mostly in specialty packages like goal-line defense. He made his biggest play of the year in such a situation in the SEC championship game, forcing Alabama’s Eddie Lacy to fumble at Georgia’s 1-yard line to thwart a probable touchdown before Crimson Tide quarterback AJ McCarron tossed an interception on the next play. Wilson made only six tackles all season, and that was his first career forced fumble.

2013 preview: It would be a small surprise to see one of the freshmen -- Reggie Carter, Ryne Rankin, Johnny O’Neal or Tim Kimbrough -- start ahead of Wilson or Herrera in the opener at Clemson, but that won’t necessarily remain the case throughout the season. Wilson hasn’t proven himself to this point, so he must make good use of his early opportunity to stay on the field ahead of the newcomers as the season progresses.

Spring prospectus: Wilson led the starting defense with eight tackles in the G-Day game and also led all tacklers in the team’s first spring scrimmage with seven stops according to the unofficial stats released to the media. He picked off a Hutson Mason pass in the second scrimmage. Clearly Wilson flashed some playmaking ability at inside linebacker this spring, which he concluded by winning the defense's Coffee County Hustle Award for exhibiting the most desire during spring practice. The question is whether he can carry it over to Saturdays in the fall.

Career potential: Without question, Wilson possesses impressive athleticism. He started at linebacker, tight end and punter in high school, for instance. That should come in handy as he attempts to carve out a niche at inside linebacker in his final two seasons of eligibility. We expect Wilson to be on the field more frequently than he was in his first two college seasons, but it’s still too early to know exactly how much since the freshmen could prove themselves worthy of playing time, as well.