Monday, February 10, 2014
UGA position groups to improve: No. 5
By David Ching
Georgia doesn't open spring practice until March 18, so we'll use the next few weeks to look ahead to those all-important workouts and preview what to watch once the Bulldogs get started.
We begin today with the first installment in a series where we examine five position groups with room to improve. Today's first group is Georgia's inside linebackers.
5. Inside linebackers
Amarlo Herrera (pictured) and Ramik Wilson performed well at inside linebacker for Georgia, but the duo could use some help from their younger teammates.
Battling for No. 1: Since rising seniors Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera -- players who ranked first and third in the SEC with 133 and 112 tackles, respectively -- return, the starting lineup is probably set. In his first season as a starter, Wilson posted one of the biggest tackle totals in program history, while Herrera won the team's defensive MVP award after the season. The duo played nearly every significant down on defense, hence the big tackle totals, but they could stand to perform a bit more consistently -- particularly in pass coverage. Neither player wants to come off the field, but Georgia would benefit from younger players proving they deserve some playing time and alleviating the physical burden on Wilson and Herrera.
Strength in numbers: This will be an interesting group to watch this spring as the depth chart continues to evolve behind the seniors. Georgia signed a big group of inside linebackers last season, but their contributions were largely limited to special teams. Reggie Carter (one start, eight tackles, 0.5 tackles for a loss) made the biggest splash early before undergoing knee surgery, which knocked him out of the lineup for the last five games of the regular season. The other freshmen who played -- Tim Kimbrough (11 games, five tackles, one TFL), Johnny O'Neal (eight games, four tackles) and Ryne Rankin (seven games, five tackles) -- and special teams ace Kosta Vavlas (13 games, 11 tackles) barely made an impact on scrimmage downs. With a new position coach, Mike Ekeler, joining the staff to work with this group, spring will be a valuable time for Ekeler to familiarize himself with his players and begin determining who is equipped to play a bigger role in the fall.
New on the scene: After signing four inside linebackers last year -- plus a safety in Paris Bostick who converted to the position last year -- ILB wasn't a terribly high priority in this recruiting cycle. Bostick is coming off a redshirt season and will add to the depth this season, plus the Bulldogs' only inside linebacker signee, Detric Dukes, should join the team over the summer. It wouldn't be a big surprise to see Dukes redshirt in the fall. Georgia's departed coaches liked what Bostick brought to the table at his new position, so he might be a player to watch in the future.