In college football, opportunity assumes many distinct forms.
UGA Sport Communications
Georgia linebacker Reuben Faloughi may see more playing time after the suspension of Cornelious Washington, who was arrested for a DUI last week.
Georgia linebacker Reuben Faloughi, already the happy recipient of several opportunities in his career, may have his biggest chance yet in the coming weeks.
The two-game suspension of outside linebacker Cornelius Washington due to a weekend DUI arrest (and on the heels of a two-sack performance against Mississippi State) presents a potential break in Faloughi’s bid for increased playing time for the Bulldogs, who play at 7 p.m. today at Tennessee’s decidedly unfriendly Neyland Stadium.
“It will probably be a little bit by committee to decide how to handle the loss of Cornelius this week and next week,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Tuesday. “It will definitely provide more opportunities for Ray Drew, and there are other people we might move around to help us. We’ll know better after practice. … Reuben’s certainly going to get an opportunity, too. Those two guys are in position to get the most work right now.”
“Reuben is a guy who has worked hard, and because of his work ethic has earned a scholarship,” defensive coordinator Todd Grantham added. “He’ll be a guy on our depth chart and he’ll contribute in various ways during the game, both in our base package and our nickel package. The playing time he gets is a credit to his hard work.”
The Augusta native — of Nigerian descent — is well aware of the weight of tonight’s Southeastern Conference game, which matches the league’s No. 2 offense (Tennessee averages 447.5 yards and 37.8 points per game) against its No. 2 defense (Georgia has allowed 258.6 yards and 20.6 points per outing).
“I’ll take what I’m given,” said Faloughi, who in limited play this season has recorded five tackles. “An opportunity has opened up and if this is my opportunity, I’m going to do my best to capitalize on it.”
The 6-foot-5, 255-pound Faloughi — who came to Georgia in 2009 as a walk-on defensive end — sees the chance for increased playing time as the latest opportunity in his career. Invited by former assistant coach Jon Fabris to walk on the team, Faloughi later earned a scholarship at the end of spring practice in 2010, weathered Fabris’ subsequent dismissal and began contributing on gameday as a special teams player.
“My position coach, coach (Jon) Fabris, ended up getting fired and I was devastated,” he said. “It was the low point of my career because I felt like none of the coaches here but him thought I could play. A blessing came out of that with coach Grantham and I got an opportunity to shine. He was just looking for the best talent, whether it was a walk-on or not. I worked my tail off that spring, to try to do everything right. And then I was rewarded (with a scholarship).”
Grantham, who also coaches the Bulldogs’ outside linebackers, said after spending the 2010 season playing behind Justin Houston (a third-round pick of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs), Faloughi has displayed his potential value by learning several positions.
“He was a 4-3 (defensive) end and we evaluated him and felt the best thing to do would be to put him at outside linebacker,” Grantham said. “So that’s where he’s played the last couple of years. He played behind Justin (Houston) last year and this year, he’s played both the Will and Sam positions and both positions in nickel, so he’s kind of played, really, four different positions for us.”
Faloughi’s teammates are delighted he’s moving into position to make a bigger contribution.
“I’ve known Reuben since our freshman year; he was a walk-on and he was my roommate,” defensive end Abry Jones said. “He’s always had a tremendous work ethic and I know whatever role he’s put into he’ll always give 100 percent. I know having this opportunity, he knows what he has to do and the role he’s stepping into. I know he’s really going to attack. I feel very confident with him in there.”
“He’s a really good pass rusher — he can put pressure on a quarterback and that’s the main thing we need,” inside linebacker Mike Gilliard added. “He’s ready and I’m excited to see him out there.”
Both an SEC and Athletic Director’s honor roll student, Faloughi said he’s eager to do what he can to push the team going forward.
“I’m a developing pass rusher,” he said. “A lot of people haven’t seen what I can do yet. But I think before my career is over here, I’ll have a breakout season. I feel my time isn’t going to be in vain. I may not be playing much now, but I’m here to help the team and when my time comes, I’ll have to capitalize on it. It’s not on my terms or my time.”