Ramik Wilson can’t remember getting on the field for a defensive snap in his first two Georgia-Florida games.
“All special teams,” he said.
The Bulldogs’ junior inside linebacker returns to his home state Saturday as the Southeastern Conference’s second leading tackler and may not get off the field until the Gators’ offense does.
He’ll have plenty of family making the drive of about three and a half hours from Tampa, Fla., to Jacksonville, Fla., to watch him play at EverBank Field.
“I’ve got everybody coming — my uncles, aunties, mom, brother,” Wilson said. “Everybody’s coming.”
The 6-foot-2, 232-pound Wilson was a three-star recruit out Jefferson High in Tampa who practiced at both outside and inside linebacker his first two seasons as a reserve when Georgia had Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree making plays all over at linebacker.
“I’m getting better,” Wilson said. “The game’s slowing down for me. I’m just ready to make a big impact on this team and start making some big plays.”
Wilson’s 69 tackles trails only Kentucky Avery Williamson’s 74 in the SEC. He’s third on the Bulldogs in tackles for loss with 5.5 and fourth in sacks with two.
“He’s making a lot of plays out there,” junior Amarlo Herrera said. “I think he’s surprising a lot of people with his athletic ability because he hasn’t been playing until this year, really.”
Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti said Wilson needed to understand what it took “to play a 60-play game” after being a reserve last year. He said his tackle totals shows how hard he’s playing because “he’s going to get four or five extra tackles a game by running to the ball. … He’s getting to the point where he’s going to continue in the second half of the season to hopefully make more and more impact plays.”
Wilson’s name is more known in college football circles now than the last time Georgia played on CBS a month ago at Tennessee. He was called for targeting against Vanderbilt two weeks ago.
The hit on wide receiver Jonathan Krause was overturned by replay, but the 15-yard penalty was still assessed and the Commodores scored a key fourth-quarter touchdown and went on to get the upset win.
The replay made the highlight shows and put the targeting rule under further scrutiny. The SEC plans to push in the offseason for the penalty yardage not to be applied if the replay shows the call was incorrect.
“I’m just trying to make an impact and help this defense out,” Wilson said.
Georgia leans heavily on Wilson and Herrera in the middle of its defense and that should continue now that top backup Reggie Carter is sidelined for a couple of weeks with a minor knee injury.
Wilson and Herrera’s backups now are three other true freshmen: Tim Kimbrough, Johnny O’Neal and Ryne Rankin.
“We met as an inside linebacker group and we said they’ve all got to step up now,” Wilson said. “Reggie’s out and Reggie did both double duties with me and Amarlo backing us up. All of them have got different roles. All of them are backing us up now. They’ve got to be ready now. Anything happen to me or Amarlo and one of them got to play now.”
That probably will be the only way someone other than Wilson or Herrera aren’t on the field at inside linebacker.
Wilson “has been pretty consistent, he’s worked hard to be a complete linebacker,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “He’s made some tackles, done well in coverage and he’s tried to be a complete linebacker. He’s a young player and he’s going to continue to get better.”
Wilson can go 3-0 against the Gators, but said the game doesn’t have a special meaning to him because it comes against the school from the home state.
He didn’t know much about the rivalry growing up in Tampa.
“But I learned quick though when I got here,” he said
He’s taking the game just like any other, he insists.
“I see every game the same,” he said. “We’ve got to win. That’s the only thing on my mind right now. We’ve got to win a ballgame.”