When you think of the Georgia linebacking corps, one name immediately comes to mind: Rennie Curran.
He's the 5'11" junior who plays much bigger than his size and he's won the hearts of many a defensive coordinator with his hardcore playing style.
However, we'll get to Rennie in a bit; Georgia has other guys on the roster who also add to what should be a nice group this coming season.
Akeem Dent (Redshirt Jr.), 6'2", 226 pounds
One of the first things you notice about Dent is how fast he gets off the blocks. He's an excellent pass disruptor and has the ability to get into the backfield and do serious damage.
Last season, he had two pass breakups to go along with four quarterback hurries—proof he has no problem getting to the play and making something happen.
He has keen instincts and reacts well to the ball on each play. He does not allow himself to get beat very often and knows how to make the adjustments necessary to stay on the ball and in the play.
If there is a problem to speak of with Dent's game, it may be that sometimes he's caught out of position and, at times, gets sloppy and doesn't use proper technique.
However, this is something that Dent is aware of and he has worked hard to remedy it in his overall approach to the game.
He will be the starting Mick this season, backed up by Marcus Washington (Sr), 6'0", 250 pounds.
Washington missed all of last season and this past spring because of a shoulder injury which required surgery—he is due to return this fall.
Prior to being injured in 2007, Washington tallied 40 tackles and 10 quarterback hurries in 11 appearances.
He was well on his way to living up to that four-star recruiting prospect status before the injury bug beset him and allowed Akeem Dent to slide into the starting position.
Washington is a classy guy and offers intangibles on the field as well as off—his leadership ability is unmatched and he has the respect of both the coaching staff and his fellow players.
The depth chart for the Will rounds out with Charles White (Redshirt So.), 6'1", 220 pounds. He hasn't played a snap on the field yet, but his performance in the G-Day game this past spring has given some a glimmer as to his future role with the Dawgs.
He's a big hitter with a lot of energy and plays with a ton of attitude—it should be exciting to see how he is used this season in relief or, perhaps, in a special package or two.
Darryl Gamble (Redshirt Jr.), 6'2", 247 pounds
Gamble appeared in the 2008 LSU game in relief of injured starter Dannell Ellerbe and never looked back, tallying two interceptions and two touchdowns in a Dawg win.
He would finish the season with 60 tackles and 15 quarterback hurries—he will be the no-doubt starter at the Sam come fall.
Gamble, a converted safety, brings great speed and phenomenal awareness to the linebacker position.
He has nowhere to go but up as he continues to learn the nuances of the position and his role on the field.
If last season is any indication, he will be a force this year and will wreak havoc on SEC opponents this season.
His backup will be Darius Dewberry (Sr.), 6'3", 230 pounds—a talented kid with a lot of potential who has had numerous setbacks while enrolled at UGA.
He has battled both injury and disciplinary issues over the last couple of years, but hopes to finally put it all together and contribute to the team the way everyone hoped he would when he was recruited out of Peach County High School.
His role will be limited, but that may be the case with many players at the Sam position—the spread offense dictates less of a role for this position as the increased number of receivers on the field can make the Sam linebacker a liability.
Still, Darius hopes to see some playing time this season as he has put much of the trouble behind him and is looking toward his future.
Sitting behind him will likely be Akeem Hebron (Redshirt Jr.), 6'1", 226 pounds—a hard-hitting, speedy, linebacker who has missed a lot of time due to various ankle injuries.
He's has a ton of talent but hasn't found playing time because of physical and disciplinary issues.
Rennie Curran (Jr.), 5'11", 228 pounds
Curran is the heart and soul of the Georgia linebacking corps. He came on hard and fast last season—starting all 13 games and registering 115 tackles and 12 quarterback hurries.
By season's end he had amassed numerous postseason honors and is on both the Lott Trophy and Rotary Lombardi watch lists this season.
Curran defies all probability playing the Will position—he's dreadfully small and doesn't look like he should be anywhere near the linebacking corps.
However, he continues to be a thorn in the side of opposing defenses as he flies all over the field making tackles and dismantling plays with relative ease.
He's deceptively quick and ridiculously strong for his size—he makes most of the guys on the field look like they are playing at a speed that is much slower than his.
Yet, despite all that, his best asset may very well be his ability to read and react to plays without giving away too much on the field—he plays smart and disciplined football.
Even more, he lays the hammer down on every hit—don't let the 5'11" frame fool you, he uses every bit of his 228-pound frame to make a fool out of the guys who disrespect his game and mistake him for a weakling.
His mirror at the position will be Marcus Dowtin (So.), 6'2", 226 pounds, a speedy prospect with talent on both sides of the ball, and Christian Robinson (Redshirt Fr.), 6'2", 212 pounds.
Overall, the linebackers look solid and should form a nice nucleus if they can keep the injuries at bay this season.
Next week: The Defensive Backs