ATHENS -- Most of the time, Marcus Dowtin will offer the usual platitudes about his hopes for playing time on the Georgia football team: No demands, no complaints, just help the team win, all that good stuff.
Occasionally, however, the bravado will break through.
“I feel I can be a very dominant player in the 3-4 (scheme),” Dowtin said. “I’m just waiting on my shot.”
For the Georgia junior, the time to get that shot is reaching a smaller window: the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31 and the 2011 season.
Dowtin has reason to hope. During a disappointing season for Georgia, he was one of the few players whose play improved to the point he could be in line for a bigger role in 2011.
Senior Akeem Dent, the team’s leading tackler, is gone after the season. Junior Justin Houston, the SEC’s sack leader, is contemplating a jump to the NFL.
That would leave open spots at inside and outside linebacker. Dowtin, with his performance late this season, will be a favorite to fit one of those roles, most likely inside.
Dowtin rotated for much of this season with sophomore Christian Robinson, who started 10 games. But Dowtin still outproduced Robinson, especially down the stretch. Dowtin has 57 tackles this season, including 10 each against Auburn and Florida. Robinson has 41, although he had two sacks, to Dowtin’s one.
But Dowtin, a Maryland native, has also shown the potential to be the kind of fiery, senior leader the defense could use next year.
That was apparent at the end of the Auburn game last month. When the teams nearly brawled, Dowtin was front and center, angry at perceived late hits against his teammates.
Dowtin downplayed that, claiming he was more of a lead-by-example guy. But Dent smiled widely and said “Oh yeah” when asked whether Dowtin had a fierce streak.
“He’s always like that,” Dent said. “He’s a guy that likes to get after it. He likes to talk trash. He’s one of those guys that likes to get in your face and knock you in the dirt.”
Earlier this season, Dowtin admitted he was frustrated with his playing time. He didn’t even play against Arkansas.
But he entered the starting lineup against Kentucky, recording six tackles and became a regular the rest of the season.
“I’m always ready to make plays,” he said. “Whenever I get my shot, that’s what I do. Whenever I get called, that’s what I’m gonna do.”
So he does he expect a bigger role going forward? Dowtin admitted he had “no idea.” The competition next year will be stiff, with transfer Jarvis Jones eligible, and Richard Samuel healthy after redshirting. Robinson is still around too, and the Bulldogs could have several linebacker recruits.
“Through my career, I just keep my head down and keep on fighting,” Dowtin said. “That’s all I can do.”
Dent feels Dowtin has a great shot at emerging as a senior.
“He started off as one of those guys, he’s always been a great athlete, he’s always been a good linebacker,” Dent said. “But over time he’s gotten a better understanding of the game of football, he understands the concepts. I think from this point on he’s gonna be an outstanding linebacker.”