Buried underneath the 566 yards of offense that Auburn posted against Georgia is a pretty impressive statistical line for one Bulldogs defender: 18 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack and two quarterback hurries.
Those numbers don’t belong to Josh Harvey-Clemons or Tray Matthews, the two Bulldog safeties who notoriously collided and tipped a football, fortuitously allowing Auburn’s unlikely final score. It wasn’t a well-known defensive stalwart like Jordan Jenkins or Ray Drew who threatened 20 tackles, nor was it a ballyhooed newcomer like Leonard Floyd.
The 18-tackle performance belonged to junior middle linebacker Ramik Wilson.
In some regards, that may be surprising. The 6’2”, 232-pound junior, after all, is rarely a topic of conversation when Georgia’s defense is discussed. Critics and fans alike dig into the merits and schematics of Todd Grantham’s 3-4 defense. Most observers are quick to point out the vast improvements of players like Drew and the yet-refined coverage skills of the defensive secondary.
Nobody talks about Ramik Wilson. He opened the season as a first-time starter on a defense that was-and is still defined far too often by youth and inexperience. Although not as young as other contributors on the squad, Wilson certainly fit the bill as an unknown quantity.
As one of the less-heralded members of Georgia’s 2011 “Dream Team” recruiting class, Wilson spent the majority of his first two years in Athens watching from the sidelines and contributing on special teams. Stuck behind a host of linebackers like Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, Michael Gilliard and Christian Robinson, he was all but forgotten on the depth chart. Case in point: On a defense that boasted loads of NFL talent, Wilson registered just 10 total tackles over his first two seasons.
|Year||Games Played||Total Tackles||Tackles for Loss||Sacks|
As recently as early August, Wilson was in a position battle with true freshman Reggie Carter. Heading into the season, Georgia coach Mark Richt told Seth Emerson of the Macon Telegraph that Wilson was among a group of defensive players that “need to step up.” He added, “It’s their time to play, their time to shine for Georgia.”
Wilson certainly took those words to heart. In his first game as a starter he surpassed his previous two years’ worth of production with 11 total tackles against Clemson, and he hasn’t let up. Wilson currently leads the Southeastern Conference in total tackles with 110 (teammate Amarlo Herrera ranks second with 91) and has notched double-digit tackle figures in five of 10 Georgia games this season.
As poor as Georgia’s defense has been at times—and make no mistake about it, Saturday was one of those times—Wilson has served as a catalyst in stopping the run and a pillar that has filled the void of a versatile star like Ogletree with consistency.
For all the weaknesses of Saturday’s display, Wilson was pivotal in keeping Georgia in the game. Auburn had tremendous success on the ground, but 25 times Auburn ran the ball for three or fewer yards. More often than not, Wilson disrupted those plays.
Aaron Murray orchestrated one final scoring drive to give the Bulldogs the lead with 1:49 remaining in the game. Obviously, that lead would not stand. But it was Ramik Wilson who gave the Dawgs the opportunity to move ahead by a 38-37 margin thanks to a five-yard sack of Auburn quarterback Nick Marshall on 3rd-and-10.
Like Murray, Wilson’s efforts were ultimately for naught. But unlike Murray, Wilson’s efforts went largely unnoticed. Fortunately, those with a keen eye for talent and production are beginning to express a little more interest in the emerging star.
According to Emerson, NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. thinks Wilson could be a fine prospect in the 2015 draft, saying, “I think he has a chance to be a real good player. He is right now, and certainly moving forward to next year.”
If his meteoric rise this year is any indication, then Wilson's continued hard work will serve him and the Bulldogs well as this year closes out and the 2014 defense looks to improve.