Georgia returns no starting linebackers in 2003. The unexpected departure of Chris Clemons along with Tony Gilbert and Boss Bailey completing their senior seasons leaves Georgia in linebacker limbo. But Tony Taylor is one of two returning players with starting experience at linebacker and appears to have the inside track to starting in 2003.
"If we put in the hard work that this year's seniors did in the offseason, then I think that we have a very good chance to be a good group of linebackers," said Taylor when asked next year's linebacking corps.
But being as good or better than the linebackers of 2002 will be a difficult task. Gilbert, captain of the defense for most of the season, lead Georgia in tackles for three of his four seasons at Georgia. His counterpart, Boss Bailey, made several key plays on defense and special teams and lead the team in tackles this year with 109 total tackles. Clemons, who surprisingly turned pro one year early, was a solid starter that recorded 49 tackles and 4.5 tackles for loss.
How can a group that recorded a total of 264 tackles, which is over 20% of the team's tackles, be replaced? Taylor said that one of the best ways to achieve what the 2002 linebackers did is to work hard in spring football as well as in off-season weight training programs.
Mat drills, a brutal way that Georgia possible conditions in the spring, is one way that Taylor feels the new group of linebackers can get ready for the task of replacing three starters. He said that Georgia's conditioning program, specifically the matt drills have been critical to the Dawgs' success.
"We look at (mat drills) as we are working harder then our opponent does,'" said Taylor. He went on to add that the hard work in the off-season spills over onto the gridiron in the fall. "We take a certain attitude into the games with us because of the work that we do in the off season," he said.
But Taylor, a product of Oconee County High School, did not let the 2002 starters leave without watching them closely. He wanted to find out what they did to achieve personal and team success.
"You can learn a lot from them because their technique and the experience from what they've done while they have been here," he said. "It's hard not to pick up on the little things that they did."