Rambo returns to last year’s form for Georgia

semerson@macon.comNovember 1, 2012 

ATHENS -- Bacarri Rambo was walking to the training room in the Georgia football facility Sunday when a plaque caught his eye. It heralded the program’s all-time leader in interceptions.

“What’s his name, Jack Scott? Jake Scott? I saw one of his plaques and saw he had 16 (interceptions),” Rambo said. “That would be pretty nice if I got three more.”

Rambo, a senior, said it with a wistful smile, as if knowing his time was running out. But then he added his own asterisk.

“The only thing about Scott, he played from 66-68. He did it in what, three years?” Rambo said. “Shoot, it took me four years.”

And for a while, the Donalsonville native was sidetracked. But he appears back on track now.

Go back to the end of last season, when Rambo was on top of his game. Then a junior, he was named an AP All-American, after racking up an SEC-leading eight interceptions. He sent his name in to the NFL draft advisory committee, expecting to hear back enough to validate turning pro.

But before the Outback Bowl, Rambo didn’t get the NFL draft grade he wanted. So he returned to school, figuring his senior year would up his stock. Then came the spring, when news broke that Rambo was facing a four-game suspension for a second violation of UGA’s student-athlete drug policy.

Rambo did sit out Georgia’s first four games, and when he returned he looked rusty. The play that signified that came in his first game back, against Tennessee, when Rambo made a play for an interception. He timed it wrong, and the result was a completion for the Volunteers and a long gain.

Scott Lakatos, the secondary coach at Georgia, also points to a near-interception against South Carolina.

“Anybody that misses games is gonna take awhile to recover,” Lakatos said. “That’s the issue when people get suspended or they get injured for a long time. They don’t just come right back in and hit on all cylinders right off the bat. It just doesn’t work that way. That’s why you have practice. That’s why you play games and work yourself into a better situation.

“When he first came back, the interception he almost made against Tennessee, the interception he almost made against South Carolina. I don’t know if he would’ve made them or wouldn’t have, but he’d probably have a better chance if the same plays were to happen right now.”

And Rambo showed that against Florida.

As the first half wound down, the Gators were driving near the end zone. Rambo remains on the field for goal-line situations because in addition to his athletic ability, he is a physical player. So he was in the end zone, eyeing Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel as he rolled to the sideline, looking for a receiver. Rambo stepped in front of the pass and picked it off -- finally notching his first interception of 2012.

“He just did a good job of breaking on the quarterback and making that pick,” head coach Mark Richt said. “I don’t know how smart it was to take it out (of the end zone). But it was a good play.”

But Rambo still had another big play in him, only it wasn’t a pick. During the fourth quarter, he recorded the first sack of his career, helping derail a Florida drive. Rambo said he studied film and learned how to time it the right way. Then it was about waiting for the signal from defensive coordinator Todd Grantham to make the safety blitz.

“I was just waiting for Coach Grantham to call the play,” Rambo said. “He called it at the right time. Because it looked like they were about to run a screen, and once I got through there, there was nobody to block me.”

Rambo peppers his comments with praise for his coaches and talks about how much time he has spent in the film room and improved his technique.

“I’m becoming more of a student of the game now,” he said. “I used to do things but didn’t know why I did them. But now I can play a certain coverage, and I know why I’m playing them, because it also helps me to know where everyone else is gonna be.”

While on suspension, Rambo hung out with junior linebacker Alec Ogletree, his fellow suspended starter. Late on Fridays, while the rest of the team was either traveling or headed to the Athens hotel where it stays, the pair would go to the practice facility and work out.

“We had to stick together during that process and help one another out,” Rambo said. “When one of us was getting down, we had to have the other guy come pick us up, just know that we weren’t gonna be out the whole season, it was just a certain amount of games. We had to keep fighting, we were working out together, running, trying to stay in shape, so when the time came we weren’t missing a step.”

As it turns out, Rambo was a bit off at first. But the hope now is he’s back into the form that made him an All-American -- and could lead to him breaking that school interception record.

“I can still do those things like last year,” Rambo said.

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