August 12, 2010

Belin focused on the present

You'll have to pardon middle linebackers coach Warren Belin for having tunnel vision.

When asked about the Bulldogs' middle linebackers as they pertained to Tuesday's scrimmage at Sanford Stadium, Belin was at a momentary loss for words.

"I was actually just focused on today," Belin apologized, before gathering his thoughts. "We did some good things I think. Christian Robinson has had a real good camp; he's making a lot of plays. We had a couple of banged up guys and were limited but I thought Akeem Hebron stepped up and made some plays so that was nice to see."

Belin just wishes the injuries wouldn't be playing such a big role with who he's able to put on the field.

Already without Akeem Dent who is still recovering from a foot injury, Georgia is also minus Marcus Dowtin (out for the past two days since suffering a minor scooter accident), Richard Samuel (leg) and Michael Gilliard (undisclosed injury).

Dent could possibly be back for the opener against Louisiana-Lafayette while Samuel is expected to miss a few more days. The injuries to Gillard and Dowtin are not considered serious, although the fact that all four are missing valuable reps has Belin somewhat concerned.

However, he adds that he'd be more worried if summer workouts had not gone well.

"Our guys did a great job over the summer working with the strength coaches, Dent, Robinson and Dowtin took the leadership with those guys in some of the drills they were doing," Belin said. "I thought they came in with a great understanding of the fundamental things you need to know as a linebacker, and getting them again now I get the chance to fine-tune those skills."

Belin's particularly excited about the development of Robinson, not only from a physical standpoint but also regarding his leadership role.

With Dent out, the responsibility of calling the defense's plays now falls to Robinson.

"As soon as we heard about it, Coach (Todd) Grantham and I talked amongst ourselves that Christian Robinson was going to step in and he has. He's solid," Belin said. "He's a very, very smart football player, he knows how to play both inside linebacker positions, he's a leader, he's not afraid to step up and make the calls. We really appreciate that."

Belin said he's not surprised that Robinson has taken to the role so quickly.

"From the very beginning, he and Akeem (Dent) have that ability, the command, the leadership, the command in the huddle," Belin said. "I'm excited about where he's going with that, and when Akeem comes back we'll have two linebackers who can call our defense and know our defense inside and out. Those are things that Christian has shown our staff; He's a very, very smart football player."

According to Belin, he's not worried with Dent missing reps as he would be with any of Georgia's other middle linebackers.

Part of that reasoning is due to Dent being a senior, but also the fact he, like Robinson, is such a stickler for what Belin believes is required to be a successful middle linebacker in the 3-4 scheme.

"The thing about Akeem, mentally he is so sharp right now. Every opportunity gets to watch film, to be in a meeting, to be on the field, he's learning," Belin said. "Even though he's not on the field, his mental reps are tremendous right now. Hopefully, when he does come back, we feel very good that he's going to be in good shape to help us."

Of course, with so many walking wounded, it's opened up opportunities for other players like freshman Demetre Baker and Hebron.

Hebron's Georgia career has been well-documented, one which due to off-the-field incidents and injuries have thus far kept him from reaching his full potential.

Perhaps Hebron's fortune is about to change.

Hebron led the Bulldogs with six tackles in Tuesday's scrimmage, numbers Belin said are indicative of the work the Maryland native has put in.

"Akeem has worked extremely hard this summer. He and I have talked several times over the course of the summer by phone, and he really wants it," Belin said. "I told him what he had to do to get those opportunities, that he's got to continue to compete for playing time this year and I think that he has worked hard."

Meanwhile, Belin said Gilliard has re-focused his responsibilities. Over the summer, Gilliard pondered if a change of scenery might be in order before deciding to stay in Athens. Belin's glad that he did.

"Michael's been good. He's recommitted himself to being a Bulldog and he's excited about being here. I'm excited about him being here," Belin said. "He's a great talent and I'm looking forward to him contributing, but we've got to get him healthy."

Ditto for Samuel, who continues to try to carve his niche at linebacker after moving over from tailback.

But his leg injury isn't doing him any favors.

"It's been a step back for him from the physical reps he would need but mentally Richard knows it," Belin said. "It's now a matter of going through the transition from the classroom to the field. That's what he was working on before he got hurt."

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