- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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To get ready for the start of Georgia’s spring football practice Tuesday, DawgNation will do a position breakdown each day. Today we will analyze the linebackers. On Monday we will look at the secondary.
2011 starters: OLB: Jarvis Jones, Jr. (70 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss, 13.5 sacks); Cornelius Washington, Sr. (17 tackles, 6 TFL, 5 sacks); ILB: Mike Gilliard, Sr. (65 tackles, 7 TFL, 2 sacks); Alec Ogletree, Jr. (52 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 3 sacks)
Key losses: None
Reserves: OLB: Chase Vasser, Jr. (16 tackles, 3.5 TFL); Ray Drew, So. (8 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 0.5 sacks); T.J. Stripling, Jr. (2 tackles); Reuben Faloughi, Jr. (3 tackles, 1 TFL); ILB: Christian Robinson, Sr. (47 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 1.5 sacks); Amarlo Herrera, So. (37 tackles, 3 TFL); Ramik Wilson, So. (4 tackles); Brandon Burrows, So. (missed season with injury)
New faces: The Bulldogs signed several outside linebackers, highlighted by heavily recruited Jordan Jenkins (Hamilton, Ga./Harris County) and Josh Harvey-Clemons (Valdosta, Ga./Lowndes), who could contribute immediately. None of the linebacker signees are on campus yet.
Spring goal: It’s amazing how much different this position group’s situation has changed since last year. The linebackers might have been the least experienced position on the roster entering last season, but the Bulldogs developed incredible depth over the course of the season and didn’t lose a single key player.
The situation was fairly desperate early last season, when starters Alec Ogletree and Christian Robinson both suffered injuries in the first two games that kept them out for a while. But that opened the door for Mike Gilliard and Amarlo Herrera to step in, and both players exceeded expectations.
Georgia doesn’t have to worry about linebacker depth this spring so much as continuing to progress and develop the young talent that will take over when the veteran starters depart.
Worth watching: Who will impress linebackers coaches Todd Grantham and Kirk Olivadotti this spring? The linebackers are largely settled into their roles already, but it’s possible that the Bulldogs will lose all four starters plus Robinson before the 2013 season. Jenkins and Harvey-Clemons figure to elbow their way into the rotation when they arrive, so if some of the players on campus want to prove they deserve to play, they need to make their case before the talented freshmen arrive.
Area of concern: Injuries have been a problem for some of Georgia’s backups, namely T.J. Stripling and Brandon Burrows. Neither player has been able to help the team much thus far, so it would be convenient for Grantham and Olivadotti to see them healthy and able to compete for playing time.
Position grade: A. Two potential all-conference performers in Jones and Ogletree -- Jones was not only an All-SEC player, he was a first-team All-American last year -- are the cornerstones of this group, but Georgia’s linebackers have both depth and star talent at their disposal. It will only get better when the freshmen arrive this summer.