Dent Nearly Back

ATHENS – Akeem Dent was walking around barefoot on Saturday, which would have been unusual enough for anybody.

But this was also a month after Dent had toe surgery that forced him to miss a month of practice.

"I walk around barefoot at home, in the locker room, stuff like that," Dent said. "Everything's going well. I'm just happy to be back out there, happy to play football again with my teammates."

Dent's return is critical to the revamped Georgia defense, which is switching to a 3-4 scheme. As an inside linebacker, Dent is basically the captain of the front seven, so missing three-to-four weeks of preseason camp could have set him and the Bulldogs back in preparation.

But the senior said he kept up, hanging around the group during walk-throughs, watching the first-team defense go through plays and studying formations.

Saturday was Dent's second practice out of a non-contact jersey.

"I'm close to getting back to where I was before the injury. But I still have a little ways to go," he said. "Right now I'm trying to keep working, just keep getting reps, and we'll see what happens."

Dent said it would be a coaches' decision on whether he starts the opener. Either way he will likely be in a rotation at the two inside spots with Christian Robinson and Marcus Dowtin.

Saturday was also the first time Dent was available to speak after his surgery. He didn't want to specify what caused his injury.

"It was just something happened off the field," Dent said, smiling.

Gamble "for good"?

Darryl Gamble was awarded a starting outside linebacker spot this week, in what most viewed as tentative, to start the season. Most except the senior.

"Oh, for good, I think," he said, with a laugh.

Sophomore Cornelius Washington, whom Gamble beat out, didn't practice on Saturday. Gamble thought it might be a back injury but wasn't sure. (No coaches were available after the practice.)

Gamble estimated that he had eight sacks over the team's three scrimmages. Most of that was against backup or scout-team offensive blockers, but the point stands that Gamble's aggressiveness has impressed coaches.

"I've been putting forth the effort," Gamble said. "I've been making plays. My production is going well. I think it's just like second nature for me out there. It just feels comfortable for me being on the outside"

Smith at nickel

Cornerback Branden Smith said he has mainly been working at nickel back, while Vance Cuff and Brandon Boykin seem ahead of him. But Smith said he and Boykin switch occasionally.

"You never what the depth chart is going to be," Smith said. "We'll just see in game time."

Other corners in the mix are Derek Owens, Jordan Love and Sanders Commings.

He said it

Smith, on what people will see out of the Georgia defense in the opener:

"Speed. A lot of pressure. And they're gonna be like, ‘Oh, Georgia's back.' You know, we're gonna be back."

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