As we preview the 2013 football season, we are counting down Georgia's 10 most important players. This is not a ranking of the team's best players, rather a look at the players who are most vital to the team's success. That takes into account the team's strengths and weaknesses, the depth at certain positions, and the importance of each position.
And now for No. 3 ...
3. Amarlo Herrera
WHY HE’S VITAL: He’s the only inside linebacker with significant playing time, unlike the past few years, when this spot entered the year with plenty of experience. Remember Shawn Williams said Herrera should never leave the field? Well this year he might not. Now Herrera, with 17 career starts, and 70 tackles last year, moves into the unofficial role of captain of the defense. He’s been preparing for this for awhile now. Herrera has a mean streak, and will inherit that “bad cop” role from Williams. Herrera will have to show that not only can he recognize offensive looks, but he can relate well to his defensive teammates, get them in the right positions and ready to go at the snap. Of course, Herrera also needs to play well, which isn’t quite a given either. Did he benefit the past few years from the talent around him, or will he now be able to shine? The other inside linebacker spot is still a bit unsettled, with junior Ramik Wilson the incumbent but some freshmen coming for his spot. So Herrera first needs to be as dependable and consistent as he was last year. But for the defense to succeed this year, it also probably needs Herrera to shine.
QUOTABLE: “We’re looking for leadership, and Amarlo is trying to provide that. He’s still got a way to go to be a dominant football player. You want your middle backers to be really physical and dominating in the way they go about their business, but he’s still got some work to do in my opinion on that area. But as far as knowing what to do and getting people lined up, he’s certainly doing a good job of that.” – head coach Mark Richt
BEST CASE: Akeem Dent’s senior year in 2010, the first year of Todd Grantham’s tenure, is a good model. While that year’s defense was only average, it gets forgotten that Dent had an outstanding season, making the all-SEC second team, racking up a team-high 126 tackles and just overall being a good player. If Herrera can have a year approaching that, he will have done his part.
WORST CASE: Herrera proves to be a very good complement to Alec Ogletree, but without a playmaking star beside him, Herrera struggles. Georgia’s run defense is a sieve, and Herrera’s rough edges don’t translate well to a leadership role.
FINAL WORD: It was a bit interesting, perhaps worrisome, that near the end of spring practice Richt refused to concede Herrera a starting spot, while conceding it to other veterans like Jordan Jenkins and Damian Swann. Perhaps Richt was just making sure Herrera went into the summer with the right amount of hunger. The expectation here is Herrera will prove to be a dependable player, with flashes of stardom, and lead the team in tackles.