Georgia’s Akeem Dent will spend New Year’s Eve chasing down Central Florida players wearing black and gold in the Liberty Bowl, adding to his team-leading tackle total.
Georgia’s Akeem Dent is second in the Southeastern Conference with 122 tackles this season. He trails Kentucky’s Danny Trevathan by eight.
The inside linebacker’s 122 tackles are eight more than the senior managed in his first three seasons combined with the Bulldogs and only eight behind the 130 of Kentucky linebacker Danny Trevathan, the Southeastern Conference’s leading tackler this season.
Dent knows off the top of his head how much he trails.
“I’ve got to see where the competition is,” Dent said. “I’m going to try to catch him.”
Trevathan and Kentucky play Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl on Jan. 8 in Birmingham.
Inside linebackers coach Warren Belin said this summer that his goal is to always have one of his players near the top of the conference ranks in tackles.
Dent’s own goal “was just basically trying to average 10 a game. I’ve done a good job of that.”
If Dent hits 10 tackles in Memphis, he would finish with the most tackles for a Georgia linebacker since Greg Bright had 143 in 1996.
“It’s amazing,” cornerback Brandon Boykin said.
“He always had the talent to do it. That’s what everybody thought with his size, his ability, the way he can run and his strength. Especially in this scheme, he really flourished.”
“He’s in the spot where he should get the majority of the hits,” Georiga coach Mark Richt said. “He’s playing in the position where the defensive linemen protect him a good bit. I think the better our down linemen are playing, the more it’s freeing him up to make those tackles.”
Dent had a career-high 16 tackles in the Bulldogs’ 42-34 win against Georgia Tech on Nov. 27, but those down linemen got into the act as well against the Yellow Jackets’ triple-option offense.
Defensive linemen De’Angleo Tyson and Abry Jones also compiled 16 tackles each.
“I was like, ‘What in the world is going on,’ ” Dent said. “I never saw anything like it, but those guys played their heart out.”
Dent led Georgia in tackles in nine games and was a second-team Associated Press All-SEC selection.
“I love him to death,” said defensive line coach Rodney Garner, who recruited Dent out of Douglass High in Atlanta. “I think he’s been a tremendous leader for us. He’s worked his butt off to get to where he is.”
Dent will play in the East-West Shrine Bowl all-star game in Orlando next month, something that might have seemed like a long shot before the season.
“I feel like I’ve done a good job of trying to improve my stock and probably raised some eyebrows,” Dent said of his NFL chances. “Before the year, I don’t know if too many people knew who Akeem Dent was.”
Dent will end the season as the leading tackler on Todd Grantham’s first Georgia defense.
Grantham says he’ll miss him “a lot.”
“He’s a good tackler, he’s a leader, he makes the calls,” Grantham said. “He’s a good communicator with the other guys. He’s got toughness to him. He’ll be playing at the next level.”