Back in August we published a couple of pieces about the positions that would be keys to the success for Coach Grantham’s 34 defense and we purposefully did not include the linebacker position in that series. We omitted this unit because it is the most obvious choice due to the fact that outside linebacker is the glamour position in the 3-4 scheme. In doing this, we inadvertently did an injustice to the “other” linebacker position, the inside linebacker.
After watching the game against the University of Louisiana Lafayette, we wanted to use the glow given off from the success of the defense to illuminate the position that is and will remain critical to the DAWGS defensive success in 2010.
Akeem Dent, Christian Robinson, Akeem Hebron and Marcus Dowtin all played very well at ILB for the DAWGS on Saturday. Dent finished tied for the team-high with six total tackles including a sack and Hebron also added a sack for Georgia. Robinson made his first career start in the game and responded with three total tackles, while Dowtin finished with four total tackles (3 solo) including a tackle for loss.
Looking deeper than the headlines and highlights, we find what really makes this group so vital to the DAWGS success this season. Coach Richt spoke out after the game about how extremely pleased they were that Dent was able to answer the bell for the season opener and play well because he is one of the players that has emerged as a real team leader and is someone that the coaching staff hopes the defensive unit can rally around. Dent’s performance on Saturday and his ability to provide senior leadership will surely strengthen his ability to fill that role for the defensive unit and the team as a whole. Digging further we find that there seems to be more to the reports of Hebron flashing during summer camp. The Georgia senior consistently drew praise from CMR and the defensive staff in the final scrimmages leading up to the season and it is fantastic to see him carry that onto the field on game day for the DAWGS.
When we look at Robinson and Dowtin we see two players that bring different strengths to the field with them, but find that both are very capable of getting the job done. In his first career start, Robinson proved to be in control when asked to play the role of “quarterback of the defense” and showed a willingness to stick his nose in the hole and take the attack to the ball-carrier without reservation. Dowtin showed once again that he is a physical specimen and reminded us that he has all of the tools to become a dominant player at the position. The only questions about Dowtin in the past have crept in due to a (self-admitted) lack of focus at times and a less-than-adequate attention to fundamentals. His play on Saturday serves as a very promising sign that those days are behind the talented Georgia junior. Both Robinson and Dowtin exhibited great technique and form-tackling at the point of attack whenever in the game and the importance of that cannot be overstated. These young players may benefit the most from the addition of their position coach Warren Belin to the coaching staff as well as the tutelage of Coach Grantham.
The initial results from the ILB unit are outstanding and if they can maintain or hopefully improve on this level of play as the season progresses, the Georgia defense will certainly be a force in the Southeastern Conference in 2010.