May 10, 2006

Wanted: Linebackers in Athens

The Bulldogs situation at linebacker was pretty thin this spring with only four scholarship players available. Still, with one player out injured and four freshmen expected over the summer, the team should be okay for the 2006 season, but there is another problem--four of them are seniors. Here is a quick look at what the Dawgs have right now, what they will get over the summer, and who might be the next crop of young linebackers next signing day.

LINEBACKER

UGA's current situation: While there are technically only three starters, the Bulldogs have four players that have started at some point in their career and each has plenty of experience. The leader of the group is senior Tony Taylor who played the Mike position last fall, but swapped positions with senior Jarvis Jackson and will play at the Will spot in his final season with the team. Meanwhile, junior Brandon Miller holds down the Sam position with senior Danny Verdun, who missing spring injured, able to play either of the two outside positions. Sophomore Marcus Washington played in 12 games last season as a true freshman and backs up Jackson in the middle. Head coach Mark Richt said earlier this week at a Bulldog Club meeting in Augusta that chances are good that sophomore Dannell Ellerbe will be allowed to rejoin the team once his off-field issues are resolved--something that could happen by the end of May. The return of Ellerbe would give the team a solid two-deep depth chart headed into fall camp.

Looking down the road: For all the questions about depth at the position, the linebacker corps will get a big infusion this summer when four highly regard prospects join the team. While recruiting rankings don't always mean a whole lot when the player show up on the college practice fields, Maryland's Akeem Hebron is the highest rated of the bunch. Darius Dewberry, who spent the last year at Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia, made the Dean's List while having a very productive season on the football field, and that experience might give him a bit of an advantage over Hebron and the other two newcomers, Akeem Dent and Darryl Gamble. Regardless, with three seniors some or all of these players will need to get some experience in 2006 to get ready to fill out the two-deep depth chart this time next year.

Top Targets

Rennie Curran (5-10/202/4.48, Snellville, GA) - COMMITTED TO UGA - Curran became the Bulldogs' third commitment for the Class of 2007 when he cast his lot with UGA on April 8th. Since that time, he has talked extensively about his choice and appeared on a special edition of UGASports LIVE. Brookwood head coach Mark Crews says that Curran may be the best defensive player he has ever coached, and that is saying something coming from a guy who has been around one of the top high school football programs in the state for a long time. Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell says: "As far as pure inside linebackers in the Southeast, it's a thinner year that usual which makes a guy like Curran stand out even more. He doesn't have linebacker size and that's the big question about him when it comes to coverage and taking on bigger players, but he has excellent instincts and reads plays well. He's also very physical and plays bigger than his size. He could also play strong safety so he's versatile, although his best position is on the inside."

Charles White (6-0/212/4.5, Blythewood, SC) - COMMITTED TO UGA - The Bulldogs latest commitment, White turned in an impressive performance recently at the Athens NIKE Training Camp and walked away with an offer. He did not have to think about it long and quickly called back to Bulldog headquarters to tell the Georgia coaches he wanted to wear the red and black. Recruiting analyst Chad Simmons traveled to Blythewood earlier this week to meet with White and his coaches and had the following the say: "Charles is a class act all the way. He is a humble young man that works extremely hard on and off the field. Georgia didn't only get a great football player, but a great student-athlete. You couldn't ask for a better combination of speed, strength, work ethic, intelligence, and attitude than what Charles White beings to the table." Farrell adds: "White is also a tad undersized, but he has all the skills needed to play outside linebacker in the SEC due to his speed, ability to anticipate and get in the offensive backfield and his potential as a blitzing pass rusher. He's an athletic guy who is best at running plays down, but he can also cover in the slot with his speed. With some coaching, he will play lower and not waste as much movement and he could be outstanding. Very good potential and only a handful of guys in SE better."

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