Bulldogs’ Belin headed to NFL’s Panthers

ATHENS -- First, Georgia lost one of its linebackers to the NFL. Now the Bulldogs have lost one of their linebacker coaches.

Warren Belin, Georgia’s inside linebackers coach, is leaving for a job with the Carolina Panthers, UGA spokesman Claude Felton confirmed Thursday evening.

Belin was at Georgia for just one year, coming over last year as part of the overhaul of the defensive staff. He spent the previous eight seasons at Vanderbilt.

“Warren made some outstanding contributions to our team and program in his year with us, and we wish him the very best in his new role with the Panthers,” Georgia head coach Mark Richt said in a statement.

Amarlo Herrera, an inside linebacker recruit from Atlanta, said defensive coordinator Todd Grantham called him with the news earlier this afternoon. Herrera said Grantham didn’t give any indications on a replacement, other than saying “don’t worry about it or anything.”

“It’s a good move for him,” Herrera said of Belin, who he hadn’t spoken to as of 8 p.m. “But I was disappointed, because I talked to him for a long time. We got close. So it’s been kind of a surprise.”

An official announcement from Carolina isn’t expected until later. Carolina has an opening for a linebackers coach on the staff of new head coach Ron Rivera, and Belin has several connections that helped land him the job.

The Panthers’ new defensive coordinator is Sean McDermott, who worked with Belin from 1995-96 on the William & Mary staff.

Belin, 43, is a native of Marshville, N.C., and played at Wake Forest.

Belin was also in charge of Georgia’s special teams coverage, which ranked first in the SEC and 15th in the nation. He technically did not coach outside linebacker Justin Houston, who left for the NFL after leading the SEC in sacks during the regular season. But he did tutor Akeem Dent, who finished second in the league in tackles.

Belin was also involved in the signing of three inside linebacker recruits: Kent Turene and Ramik Wilson from Florida and Amarlo Herrera from Atlanta.

Georgia is now in the market for two assistants. Offensive line coach Stacy Searels left two weeks ago to take the same job at Texas, accepting a hefty raise in the process.

Richt said Wednesday that he expected to hire a replacement for Searels by next week. The head coach told fans that he had received a lot of interest for the job.

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham also carries the title of outside linebackers coach. So he could potentially drop that duty if the Bulldogs opt to hire someone just to coach linebackers. But that could take some time to iron out since the departure of Belin -- who was at Wednesday’s festivities at the Butts-Mehre Building -- was unexpected.