When Georgia begins spring practice on March 17, it officially begins the post-Amarlo Herrera/Ramik Wilson era. It’s hard to tell at this point whether the team will opt for a smooth transition, or choose to blow it up.
Herrera was a starter for most of the past three years, and part of his freshman year too. Wilson was the starter the past two years, earning an All-SEC selection along the way. The two were not always spectacular, though Wilson occasionally was, but they were mostly reliable, especially Herrera. They will not be easily replaced.
But Georgia must do so. There are two rising juniors who have served their apprenticeship the past two years. Perhaps they will simply step into the new starting roles.
Or perhaps a transfer from UAB, a junior college transfer or a celebrated freshman will crash the first team. You also can’t rule out a player being moved there from another position.
Let’s delve into things:
Returning players: Reggie Carter (Jr.); Detric Bing-Dukes (R-Fr.).
Early enrollees: Chuks Amaechi (Jr.); Jake Ganus (Sr.).
On the way: Roquan Smith (Fr.); Juwan Taylor (Fr.).
Early favorites: Carter and Ganus.
The skinny: Carter would have been a heavy favorite after his freshman year, or early on last year, as he was basically the third linebacker. He started one game when Wilson had an, er, equipment issue just before kickoff.
But Carter was passed slightly by Tim Kimbrough (more on him in a moment) as last season went on. There are two starting spots to win, so that may not mean much, but if someone else emerges from the pack, then Carter and Kimbrough could end up fighting for only one spot.
Carter (listed at 6-foot-1 and 231 pounds) is known for his football IQ and his nose for the ball. He also made some big plays in scrimmages as a freshman, gaining notice. He still probably enters spring as a tentative first-teamer.
But the presence of Ganus makes things interesting. He has good size (6-2, 225), and he proved at UAB that he can make tackles too. Georgia didn’t sign him out of charity. He’s going to get a shot.
Amaechi (6-3, 220) is enrolled early, along with Ganus, so the coaches will get a good look at both. And don’t forget Bing-Dukes (6-0, 230), who spent part of last year at fullback but is expected back at his original spot.
Returning players: Tim Kimbrough (Jr.); Ryne Rankin (Jr.).
Early enrollees: Amaechi, Ganus.
On the way:Smith, Taylor.
Early favorites: Kimbrough and Amaechi.
The skinny: Kimbrough (6-0, 230) is described often as a “thumper,” as in he’s a guy who can come in and lay down a hit. In that way he and Carter could complement each other very well. Plus they’ve been working together for two years.
That doesn’t mean Amaechi, Ganus or one of the freshmen won’t crash the party. Rankin (6-1, 215) is also still around, having gained experience on special teams and occasionally on defense the past two years.
Smith and Taylor, the two freshmen, don’t arrive until the summer. Smith is the most highly-rated, and while Georgia famously held a spot for him after signing day, it can’t hold a starting spot. Smith eventually is going to be a factor, and could even contribute right away, but the inside linebacker corps is very crowded all of a sudden.
Final disclaimer: While we don’t have any inkling of this happening yet, don’t be shocked if other players are shifted to inside linebacker. It’s less likely because of the newfound depth at the spot, but more likely if the coaches feel they’re overloaded at another position. (Like, say, outside linebacker.)
Next up: Defensive backs.