With All-Southeastern Conference inside linebacker Ramik Wilson sidelined for a week and a half due to a concussion, his understudy tried to make the most of the situation.
Sophomore Reggie Carter is listed behind Wilson — who led the SEC in tackles a year ago and returned to practice Wednesday — at the “Mike” linebacker position on Georgia’s defensive depth chart and is toiling to refine his approach as the Bulldogs move closer to their Aug. 30 season opener with Clemson.
“I feel I’ve got to be more of a vocal leader right now on the field and earn those upper guys’ respect,” the 6-foot-1, 235-pound Carter said. “I need for them to depend on me, and I’ve got to earn their respect with the reps I’m getting in practice.”
Outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins, noting that Carter did gain some experience in 2013, said he’s more than confident with Carter on the field.
“With Reggie out there, I don’t have to worry about him not knowing what to do after what he’s done last year,” Jenkins said. “He’s learned from the mistakes he’s made when he’s gone in. He’s eager to get out there and eager to strike somebody.”
Amarlo Herrera, the “Will” linebacker, agreed that Carter — who played in eight games last fall — will be counted on to contribute immediately.
“He’s coming along great,” Herrera, who was third in the SEC and second on the team in tackles with 112, said. “He’s been working hard since he got here, so he’s just learning and getting ready to play when it’s his chance. Everybody’s competing, so he’s competing for winning a spot or getting some playing time. He can make an impact when he’s on the field.”
Although his presence on the field in 2013 was mostly as a special teams player, Carter was able to earn a start last year — on Oct. 12 against Missouri — by being in the right place at the right time.
“It was the Missouri game and one of our players had to go do something — an equipment thing, I guess you could say,” Carter, who had one tackle in the game, said. “I was headed off the field from the kickoff and Amarlo was telling me to stay on the field. So I got the start. It was better than knowing about it days in advance and being worried about it.”
A highly decorated standout at Snellville’s South Gwinnett High School who grew up in South Florida, Carter — who will turn 20 on the day Georgia hosts Troy — admits he didn’t grow up a Bulldogs fan.
“Actually, I’m from Miami,” Carter, who last year recorded eight tackles, including one for lost yards, said. “My family is a pretty big U fan and playing in Florida was a dream, but as I got older and moved to Georgia, (I realized) you’ve got to love Georgia if you’re going to (high) school in Georgia.”
Many see Carter — who suffered a torn ACL while at South Gwinnett — as one of the Bulldogs’ top linebackers of the future, after Wilson and Herrera have departed. It may be, however, that the clock moves forward a little quicker now. Carter is more than ready to contribute in whatever capacity he’s called upon, but he also occasionally thinks of the days ahead and pays close attention to the actions of Georgia’s veterans.
“I think about the future a lot and I think about being ‘that guy’ to the younger guys,” he said. “When I was the younger guy, the (veterans) welcomed me with open arms and taught me the system and taught me life stuff. I want to be that guy for the younger guys.”
The sophomore, who has plans to study finance, was named to the athletic director’s honor roll for spring semester and shared a refreshing and effective technique for handling the academic side of his life.
“I treat every class like my mom is in there,” he said. “My mom doesn’t play about my grades, so I’ll be in (class) like she’s there and checking my report card.”