Georgia linebackers have some tough acts to follow

UGA sophomore Jamon Dumas-Johnson, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound linebacker, has been standing out with the No. 1 defense through the first two weeks of spring practice. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

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UGA sophomore Jamon Dumas-Johnson, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound linebacker, has been standing out with the No. 1 defense through the first two weeks of spring practice. (Photo by Tony Walsh)

ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart revealed an interesting bit of new information when he spoke to the Macon Touchdown Club on Monday. Actually, he offered a few pearls, but his revelation regarding Nakobe Dean was particularly eye-opening.

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Smart told that august group, which he has spoken to at the Methodist Home for Children and Youth each of the seven years he has been at Georgia, that the Bulldogs’ star linebacker set a Smart-era record last season that he’s not sure will be broken. The intriguing part is it had nothing to do with tackles, pressures or any on-field statistics.

Smart said he had the team vote on team captains later than usual last season. When they did, on the night before the Orange Bowl matchup, Dean received 115 of a possible 130 votes from his teammates.

“Most we’d ever had before was 105, which was Azeez (Ojulari, in 2020),” Smart said. “That told me that these guys want discipline, because the one guy that was the most disciplined on our team was Nakobe Dean. This young man was different.”

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Later, Smart shared another story on another linebacker. He told the group about a call he got from an NFL coach who had interviewed linebacker Channing Tindall at the NFL combine earlier this month. The coach, whom Smart did not name, told him that Tindall blew away his interviewers and impressed them with his answer to one trap question in particular.

The coaches pointed out that Tindall had never started in his UGA career and asked him how he felt about that.

“All of those guys, collectively, have talent, but they don't have experience. The only way to get experience is time."

- Georgia coach Kirby Smart, on his current linebacking group

“The response they were looking for was jealousy, envy, ‘too many really good linebackers,’ the coaches or ‘I should’ve been,’” Smart relayed. “Instead, he said, ‘Actually I started every game all four years. I started on punt team, I started on kickoff, I started on kickoff return, I started on punt return. At our place, the University of Georgia, special teams mean so much if you start on that, you’re more honored than if you’re an offensive or defensive starter.’ Everybody was like, ‘Wow.’ It meant more to those coaches and general managers that he had the wisdom to answer that train wreck of a question the way he saw it.”

Smart’s anecdotes to the TD Club illustrate two things: One, including senior Quay Walker, Georgia had some really good linebackers last year who are going to be rewarded in next month’s NFL draft; and, two, that the Bulldogs are going to be missing some really good linebackers this year.

Fortunately, Georgia has recruited the inside linebacker position hard the past couple of years. And one name, in particular, keeps coming up in the daily discussions of who is looking good in Georgia’s spring workouts: sophomore Jamon Dumas-Johnson.

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The 6-foot-1, 235-pound linebacker has been standing out with the No. 1 defense through the first two weeks.

“He goes by ‘Pop’ for us,” Smart said. “Pop has done a good job. He’s getting opportunity, that’s the biggest thing I would say. You could make a case that he is probably where all those guys, Quay, Channing, Nakobe, were in their second year.”

Teammates have been even more emphatic of their praise for “Pop,” who played in 14 of the Bulldogs’ 15 games last season and finished with 22 tackles, two sacks and an interception for a 20-yard touchdown.

“Jamon is definitely one of those ball guys,” senior safety Christopher Smith said. “He’s always looking to get the ball. He probably gets more shots on (the) ball than probably anybody. He’s always running on the field, like, ‘Chris, get a punch-out! Get a punch-out!’ So, he’s keeping that in my mind. And to see a guy that young have that kind of mindset about the ball, the ball, the ball, it’s definitely amazing.”

Georgia will look to Dumas-Johnson, Smael Mondon, Xavian Sorey, Trezmen Marshall, Rian Davis, Jalon Walker and C.J. Washington to try to fill the voids left behind by that exceptional trio of linebackers led by Dean.

“All of those guys, collectively, have talent, but they don’t have experience,” Smart said. “The only way to get experience is time.”

Dumas-Johnson, for one, would seem to be in line to get some time.