As stocked with talent as the Bulldogs should be heading into 2012, nearly every unit on the team still has to deal with some kind of transition, attrition or indecision as spring practice heads into the home stretch. You'll notice the word nearly in that sentence, and here's why: The linebacking corps returns every single player from last year's two-deep.
Considering the way the linebackers performed in 2011, that automatically ranks Georgia as one of the top five LB units in the country, and it puts them well on their way to maintaining their status as one of the nation's top five overall defenses (the Dawgs finished last season at No. 5 in total yardage, with only 277.2 yards allowed on average). There may yet be a couple mild position battles over the summer, but all that means is defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is having to juggle too much talent in the middle of his defense rather than compensate for too little. If he's seemed conspicuously calm over the last couple months, that'd be the reason why.
"SAM" OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
"WILL" OUTSIDE LINEBACKER
Both starting jobs look pretty solidly locked down as of right now -- Jones was a consensus first-team All-American and a finalist for the Butkus Award, while Washington developed nicely as a pass rusher over the course of the 2011 season. Behind Jones, 2011 "Dream Team" recruit Ray Drew has too much talent and drive not to figure into the two-deep; Stripling is talented but still struggling to bounce back fully from a ruptured patellar tendon suffered against Colorado in 2010. On the other side, Chase Vasser provides a nice backup for Washington, though Faloughi is experienced as well, and Sterling Bailey, another Dream Teamer, is said to have impressed the coaches.
"MIKE" INSIDE LINEBACKER
"MO" INSIDE LINEBACKER
Here's where the depth-chart battles should be the most interesting between now and September.
At the "Mike" position, Gilliard took over from Robinson last year after the latter suffered an ankle injury, and ended up the team's second-leading tackler on the season. Nevertheless, Robinson is a smart player who's good at directing traffic in the middle of the defense, and he'll certainly give his best shot at getting the starting job.
At "Mo," meanwhile, Alec Ogletree is technically the incumbent starter, but he'll miss at least two games and possibly as many as four for a "violation of team rules" last week. That's all the excuse the coaches need to give Amarlo Herrera plenty of reps in the spring and summer, particularly since Herrera proved himself a capable backup while Ogletree was recovering from a broken foot early last season. Herrera and Ramik Wilson have both played at a number of spots in the LB corps, though, so they may end up getting used as utility players while the coaches survey the rest of the backups.
One guy they'd love to have here but won't is Kent Turene, who flipped his commitment from Southern California right before 2011 signing day but had his admission held up by the NCAA clearinghouse; Turene toyed with the idea of going to Fork Union Military Academy for a year before deciding in December to enroll at Marshall instead.