Wilson, Stripling among OLB contenders

ATHENS, Ga. -- Saturday’s arrival meant it was exactly one month until Georgia’s season-opening game against Buffalo, so the Bulldogs’ coaches still have plenty of time to settle on a starter at outside linebacker opposite All-American Jarvis Jones.

And it’s a good thing because they have no shortage of candidates to evaluate.

“There’s still some competition there. I’m not 100 percent certain,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Saturday before mentioning sophomore Ramik Wilson as a leading candidate for the job and raving about true freshmen Jordan Jenkins, James DeLoach and Josh Dawson for the second consecutive day.

“[Wilson is] getting that work. You’ve got some young guys out there working, getting some reps. So we’re just trying to get a feel for who can do what,” Richt said. “I like the true freshman outside linebacking corps that we brought in. … They’re really good-looking football players. Really, really athletic. When you look at Dawson and Jenkins and DeLoach, they’re all 255-to-270 range, athletic, eager to just strike somebody.”

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham recently mentioned Wilson as a player likely to see increased playing time and often touts the sophomore’s ability to play both inside and outside linebacker.

Wilson said he has been splitting his time evenly between inside and outside, but was unsure how to break down the competition for the starting spot vacated when Chase Vasser was suspended for the first two games.

“I don’t know,” Wilson said. “We’ve got a lot of good freshmen in and we’ve got a lot of talent, so whoever the coach picks as the best man to help the team, I’m fine with that. So we’re just out there competing and trying to get on the field.”

Another outside linebacker who will earn consideration is junior T.J. Stripling, who is finally back to full health nearly two years after suffering a major knee injury against Colorado in 2010. Stripling struggled to return to full speed last season, but is finally out of a knee brace and has increased his weight to 235 pounds -- well above the 202 from when he first reported to campus as a freshman.

“It was a setback last year,” Stripling said. “I couldn’t get the right push off of it that I wanted to, but now I’m 100 percent and I feel good.”

Don't count out the freshmen, despite their inexperience. Richt admitted the Bulldogs "probably did" get a steal when they signed DeLoach in February alongside his higher-profile high school teammate Jonathan Taylor and said the same of Dawson, who flipped from Vanderbilt to Georgia at the 11th hour before signing day.

Jenkins, meanwhile, was somebody nearly every major program wanted.

"I don’t know if the whole world was going after Dawson or not, but he’s pretty darn good, too," Richt said. "We all know Jordan Jenkins is good. He’s as advertised."