Competition at nearly all spots for Dawgs

ATHENS – Akeem Dent, welcome to the 2007 Georgia Bulldogs.

Dent, a redshirt freshman linebacker, started at strong side linebacker two weeks ago against Western Carolina and then played six snaps at the position against Alabama last week.

Georgia's football team has more game-ready talent than it has in Coach Mark Richt's seven years, Richt said. In many cases, the first-team player is barely better than the second- or even the third-teamer. Richt said.

It's not true at every position. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, fullback Brannan Southerland, safety Kelin Johnson and the offensive linemen don't have much to worry about, but everybody else has to be ready for changing lineups and changing roles on a weekly basis.

"We have more than one guy who can play well, so now it's, ‘Who's going to play the best? Who's going to practice the best?'" Richt said. "That should be very good for us on down the line."

But is it good for the No. 15 Bulldogs in the present? There's a long-lived theory about quarterbacks that holds if a team has two quarterbacks, it doesn't have one. The suggestion being one player is not good enough to win the job outright, but there's no drawback to Georgia's shuffling, many of its players said this week.

"I think it helps having depth at every position, that way if a guy goes down, you'll have a guy come in and not lose anything," middle linebacker Marcus Washington said. "When guys are competing for a position, guys are always getting better."

Rotating players liberally creates better morale, healthier players and more rested players late in games, Richt said.

"It's exciting even in recruiting to say, ‘Look how many guys we play,'" he said. "You're not doing to it strictly for recruiting, but it's a byproduct."

The Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 SEC), who play Ole Miss (1-3, 0-2) on Saturday at 1 p.m. in Sanford Stadium, used 54 players against South Carolina and 56 against Alabama.

"The reality is if you know you're going to play you tend to practice better," Richt said.

No position has been juggled more than linebacker. The Bulldogs have started three different combinations in the first four games at that position.

"It's a positive for me because I've got more than one player who can go in there and play," linebackers coach John Jancek. "Competition is key in getting the best out of people. I think we're doing that right now, and the players are in a good rhythm. I see that as a positive, being able to play more than one guy."

Dent was tied for the team lead in tackles in the one game he started and didn't do anything to disappoint the coaches, Jancek said. It's just that Brandon Miller won the job back in practice the next week and played well against the Crimson Tide.

"Sometimes it's real hard to hold onto a main position," Dent said. "It really pushes us in practice every day because you never know what can happen."

Linebackers aren't the only ones fighting for their job on a daily basis. Junior tight end Tripp Chandler was considered a mainstay in the lineup two weeks ago. Then he dropped three passes against Alabama and had to battle all week to hold onto that spot. He appears to have done it, but the message is getting through to Chandler and his teammates.

"I don't think (starting) is a slam dunk for him or anybody else," Richt said. "Our guys just have to keep fighting hard and competing."

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