Freshman linebacker catches Richt's eye

ATHENS — Mark Richt already knew Jarvis Jackson could play.

The Georgia coach is finding out that Marcus Washington can, too.

Washington, a true freshman linebacker from Burke County, has been getting substantial practice time while Jackson continues rehabilitating a shoulder after surgery that kept him out of spring practice.

The linebacking unit is one in some flux personnel-wise because of early departures. Two-year starter Odell Thurman gave up his senior season for the NFL while , expected Arnold Harrison exhausted his eligibility. Senior Derrick White was dismissed a few months ago and freshman Josh Johnson was released before that. Tony Taylor and Jackson have health issues, Taylor's a continuation after sitting out last year.

Richt then was understandably happy to see Washington show up ready to play.

"Marcus Washington has been making plays," Richt said. "Today, he ended up scooping up a fumble and scoring. He just seems to be around the ball."

Washington and Jackson are similar in size, Jackson about two inches taller than his freshman colleague. But Washington, a Class AAA all-stater who had 79 solo tackles as a senior, is making his transition from high school to college a smooth one so far.

Washington's emergence in the middle is big. Taylor missed last year with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in a knee and has been plagued the last few days with a sore hamstring. Jackson hasn't been completely cleared for full contact.

While Taylor and Jackson are proven, moreso than Taylor, the Bulldogs are quite young at linebacker with nary a senior to be found.

Taylor has started 13 games and Danny Verdun Wheeler 11. Jackson started five times last year. Verdun Wheeler was sixth on the team in tackles with 51. Sophomore Brandon Miller (12 games, 9 tackles) is the only other linebacker with experience.

Perhaps most impressive about Washington's progress is that he's not simply looking to hit a tailback coming through the hole, but that his game is broad.

"In the passing drills," Richt said, noting a Washington strength, "he's knocked down two or three passes the last few days. He seems to just have a real good feel for the game."

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