June 28, 2010

Breakdown: Inside linebackers

Some eyebrows were raised back in March when it was announced that inside linebacker Darryl Gamble was being moved from his starting position at Mike linebacker to a backup role at Sam.

After all, along with Moe starter Akeem Dent, Gamble was the Bulldogs' most experienced player at the position with a history of making big plays.

That wasn't all.

Considering that new inside linebacker coach Warren Belin is such a stickler for fundamentals and doing things the right way, moving a savvy veteran like Gamble to outsiders seemed a bit of risk. But obviously, Belin doesn't see it that way.

Part of the reason is due to the progress of youngsters like redshirt sophomore Christian Robinson, who has raised his game to the point where he'll go into preseason listed as the starter at Mike opposite Dent at Moe.

"He works his tail off. He's a smart young man who understands the game and understands what we're asking him to do," Belin said recently. "That being said, there's a lot on his plate as a student athlete so we've got to go back and look and see if that's too much or is that right where we need to be with him because we're cross-training him, along with a couple of other guys, because of their athletic ability."

One of those is junior Marcus Dowtin.

Dowtin may be the most physically gifted of Georgia's inside linebackers, but as of spring, was still finding it difficult adjusting to Belin's strict and demanding ways.

Belin still has high hopes for Dowtin, who will play a key role for the Bulldogs this fall. However, because of Robinson's grasp for the fundamentals, the former Greater Atlanta Christian standout will have the inside track to start.

"Christian is improving each and every day. I've been very pleased with his progress. He's playing multiple positions for us at the inside linebacker positions," Belin said. "He's a young man who works very hard at the fundamentals and trying to do every single thing the right way. As he continues to grow in our defensive package, he's going to make a great contribution."

Sophomore Mike Gilliard is being counted on to contribute in a backup role.

Gilliard came close to transferring from Georgia back in April, but changed his mind and will go into preseason as Dent's top backup at Moe.

It still remains unclear how much Richard Samuel will fit in.

Samuel, who was moved to inside linebacker from running back has all the physical attributes to become a standout, but until he learns the system and becomes comfortable with the scheme, it's way too early to tell.

Meanwhile, senior Akeem Hebron gets one more opportunity to show what he can do as will freshman Demetre Baker and Alexander Ogletree.

Moe Linebacker

51 Akeem Dent 6-2 233 Senior
35 Mike Gilliard 6-2 218 Sophomore
37 Akeem Hebron 6-2 233 Junior
46 Alexander Ogletree 46 5-10 210 Freshman

Mike Linebacker
45 Christian Robinson 6-2 225 Redshirt Sophomore
38 Marcus Dowtin 6-2 235 Junior
22 Richard Samuel 6-2 30 Junior
Demetre Baker 6-1 208 Freshman

Is there any chance that Darryl Gamble might be moved back to inside linebacker?

It's possible. Much will depend on how quickly players like Reuben Faloughi, Chase Vasser and the rest of the true freshmen progress at Will and Sam. If they do, Belin himself admitted that Gamble could float back and forth between the inside and outside spots.

Will Marcus Dowtin live up to his potential?

We think so. Anytime there's a new sheriff in town there's a certain amount of adjustment that takes place, and for Georgia, Dowtin seems to be the linebacker doing it the most. However, there's no denying his physical attributes and ability to bring down opposing ball carriers. So long as he gets his frame of mind like it needs to be, Dowtin can become a force.

Will Richard Samuel receive meaningful snaps?

It may be difficult until Samuel can get down all the little nuances that goes along with playing the position. Time will tell. Like Dowtin, Samuel certainly has a the physical attributes, but still needs to completely grasp the system. Some have suggested that Samuel redshirt to learn the system. Although that has not completely been ruled out, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has indicated he doesn't think that will be the case.

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