That’s been the role assumed by rising junior Nakobe Dean. He’s a pretty good linebacker himself when healthy. Offseason surgery to repair a labrum injury has kept him from participating in practice.
But it hasn’t kept him off the field or out of the linebackers’ meeting room.
“For the most part, I’ve just been out there coaching,” said Dean, a rising junior and Georgia’s leading tackler last season. “I’ve been getting my mental reps and basically just seeing myself out there, making sure everybody is upholding the standard.”
Just the fact that Dean was addressing the media this week despite having to sit out practice this spring is a testament to his leadership and status on Georgia defense. The linebacker Rivals ranked as No. 1 in the country coming out of Horn Lake, Miss., did his talking with his play on the field his first two seasons. He developed as a third-down specialist behind Monty Rice and Tae Crowder as a freshman, playing in all 14 games, then led the Bulldogs with 71 tackles playing pretty much every down last season.
“I’ve never had a player in all my career of coaching who is more engaged,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “You have to stay on certain guys when they are injured to stay engaged. But Nakobe’s calling things out. He’s playing linebacker every play and is making the call from the sideline. You can hear him. He’s engaged. He’s on top of it.”
Dean’s continued recovery -- he’ll be 100% healed well before the season starts -- has allowed several other players to be on the field and assume his first-team reps. With Rice now on his way to the NFL, the Bulldogs are looking for another full-time sidekick for him. Last year, he primarily served as Georgia’s “Mac” linebacker to Rice’s “Mike.” But with a veteran group returning, the Bulldogs are seeking even more versatility at the position, switching roles constantly and keeping offenses guessing where the pressure is coming from.
“At ‘backer, both of the inside spots should be interchangeable,” Dean said. “So, the older you get and the more you learn, you should be able to play both of them. Basically you need to be able to play wherever you need to. Last year, me and Monty switched spots a lot. So it’s not really two different spots; you’ve just got to learn both.”
With seasoned seniors Channing Tindall and Quay Walker back and the continued emergence of Rian Davis and Trezman Marshall, Georgia should be able mix and match with the best of them. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs added two of the best linebackers in the country in recruiting in Smael Mondon and Xavian Sorey.
They’re hearing a lot from coach Dean, as well as their actual position coach Glenn Schumann. “We’ve all got the same central goal, and we are working for something that is bigger than every single one of us,” Dean said. “So, we communicate with each other and continue to keep everything fresh in our mind, and then we just keep working towards it every day.
“If we don’t get complacent on anything and stay lax, and put our foot on the gas, then we’ll be all good.”
Spoken like a true coach.
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