Ramik Wilson had much more to deal with during his freshman year than making the transition from high school to college, balancing classwork with practices and learning both outside and inside linebacker for Georgia.
Wilson was forced to cope with the death of his father, Robert Wilson, in March, from heart failure.
“It was pretty tough, but I have great teammates and a great coaching staff to support me,” Wilson said. “They helped me through my tough times and prayed for me and talked me through things. They got me through it and I’m feeling a lot better and just ready to come out here and compete and help the team get better.”
Wilson, who will turn 20 on Aug. 20, missed the fist two spring practices to return home to Florida to be with his family.
Now, he’s the leading candidate to start opposite Jarvis Jones at outside linebacker when Georgia opens its season Sept. 1 at home against Buffalo.
“Oh, yeah, he’s good,” said defensive coordinator Todd Grantham, who coaches the outside linebackers. “He’s explosive off the edge, he’s instinctive, he’s got power and, as an inside guy, he’s got very good cover ability. He’s athletic. He’s a good player.”
Wilson, who had four tackles in eight games last season, doesn’t sound overly concerned about whether he’s the guy who wins the job that has opened even wider since junior Chase Vasser is suspended two games following a May DUI arrest in Atlanta.
“It’s up to the coaches,” Wilson said. “We’ve got a lot of great talent, so anybody could be playing now. We’ve got a lot of good freshmen. Whatever number they call, we’ll be there to support them.”
Those freshmen — Jordan Jenkins, James DeLoach and Josh Dawson — have drawn daily praise from coaches.
Wilson is joining in the chorus.
“They’ve all got a high motor and they’re all making plays — big hits and all that out there — and getting the defense excited,” Wilson said. “They’re going to contribute a lot.”
Wilson is capable of contributing not only on the outside but on the inside.
“He can kind of be an either or guy for us,” inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti said. “Ramik did a nice job in the spring handling that and I think the plan that we had between coach Grantham and myself, we managed it. Ramik did a heck of a job managing the whole thing. He’s a special kid. He really is. He had a lot of clutter with his dad dying that he managed through and really had a nice spring. He’s a unique kid. I really like Ramik.”
Ramik said his father was responsible for his start in football at the age of 6. Robert Wilson didn’t play the sport but encouraged his son to play.
“He used to come to all the games and watch me play,” he said.
Robert Wilson and Ramik’s mother, Regina, were with Ramik on signing day in 2011 at Jefferson High in Tampa when he made his commitment official, choosing Georgia over Texas Tech, Florida and Arkansas.
Georgia receiver Chris Conley, who played with Wilson in events for elite high school prospects, urged Wilson to give Georgia a hard look. Conley, an early enrollee last year, hosted him on his visit to Athens and was among teammates there for him this spring.
“It was a very rough time for him,” Conley said. “He was very quiet. He’s a quiet guy already. The team did a really great job of coming around him and supporting him and getting Ramik back to where Ramik was. He’s recovered and we pray for the best for him. He’s playing well.”
Wilson said he thinks about his father all the time.
“I know he wants to see me do great,” he said. “I go out there fighting and grinding each day just for him.”