This week being a bye week couldn't come at a better time for Georgia. Several key players are banged up and several others that have sat out games are due to come back. Two offensive linemen, Burnette and Gates, have been playing through injuries after each missed games earlier in the season. Tyson suffered a mild knee injury against Vandy though he was able to return to the game. Wooten has been out several games with a concussion and Mitchell missed the Vandy game with a hamstring pull he suffered against UT. Brown had the best game of his career despite his ankle still not being at 100%. Boykin while not having missed any games due to injuries has limped off the field several times and had his teeth wired after being knocked lose. Smith was limited early in the year as he healed up from a pre-season injury. Crowell has been banged up with one issue or another most of the season.
The hardest hit was the linebacking corp. Ogletree has not played since breaking a bone in his foot in week 1 against Boise. He is expected to return this week and should be a full go for the UF game. Robinson missed several games and has been working his way back the last two weeks in a limited role. Not exactly an injury but a third starter, Washington, from the linebacking corp missed the last two games due to suspension.
Barring any set backs in practice the next two weeks Georgia should have everyone back and close to 100% for the Florida game. For most of the positions it is obvious that the returning players will return to the exact role they were in before, i.e. guys like Mitchell and Crowell will be starring at their positions. The question is how to handle the linebackers. I think Washington is way ahead of the other outside linebackers and even if he does not start he will play the majority of downs opposite Jarvis Jones. Drew is starting to come on but is not up to the level of Washington yet. Jarvis Jones will no doubt remain in his starting position. That leaves the two middle linebacker positions to be filled by four players. Robinson is the most seasoned at the position and Ogletree has the most raw talent. The (good) problem is that in their absense Herrera and Gilliard started to play lights out defense. Gilliard is leading the team in tackles and Herrera is 7th. I expect those two to start with Robinson and Ogletree providing depth, at least for the Florida game.
The fun part is that if Coach Grantham and Coach Olivadotti can find the right combinations these four could be a deadly force in the middle for Georgia. First there should be little chance of fatigue as they can rotate in and out to stay fresh. Second they can mix and match the 4 based on strength's and weaknesses. Finding the right combinations will be key. Ogletree was once a safety and could be used to match up with a good tight end or to drop into a deep zone. Herrera and Ogletree are the two bigger guys. Gilliard is a tackling machine and is second on the team in tackles for loss. Robinson lacks the size and speed of the others but knows the defensive play book better than any of the others.
Here are a few combinations I could see. Third and long, going into primary coverage, only 3 or 4 rushers, then use Robinson for his knowledge and Tree for his experience in the secondary. Want to bring an extra man in the blitz package mix Tree or Robison in for coverage with Gilliard bringing the heat. Wanna go big, you can put Tree and Herrera in together. There are more combinations and reasons to use them but these were just used to make a point. The best part is that at least for a week or two Grantham can use certain packages for each set of MLB's and the other teams won't have much tape to tip them off to what is coming from which package. This position has gone from one of the thinnest to possibly the deepest outside of tight end. The coaches ability to exploit that depth and talent will be a key factor going forward.