Vanderbilt's Jared Hawkins gets tackled by Georgia's Darryl Gamble from behind as Reshad Jones comes across in front of him as Vanderbilt University takes on the University of Georgia in Athens, Ga. on Saturday, October 18, 2008. At right is Georgia's Akeem Dent. Georgia won, 24-14. (Photo/Mark E. Johnson)
Darryl Gamble insists he doesn't gamble, though his big plays continue to suggest otherwise.
Gamble was named national defensive player of the week last October when he returned two interceptions for touchdowns in Georgia's 52-38 win at LSU. On the first day of preseason camp earlier this month, the 6-foot-2, 250-pound junior linebacker from Bainbridge tallied two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
"I'm a chance-taker, but I think I know when it's the right play," Gamble said. "If I see something that's happened before, then I'll react to what I've seen from film study. I know I've made mistakes here and there, but I stick within the framework of a defense."
Georgia linebackers coach John Jancek agrees, stating Gamble's knack for the ball is the result of hard work on and off the field.
"Darryl has great anticipation prior to the snap," Jancek said. "He gets in position, and when he's in position he's been able to deliver. Darryl understands offensive football and formations, and he understands the strengths and weaknesses of our calls. I think that separates him from a lot of players."
Gamble's first impact play in 2007 remains one of the biggest in the Mark Richt era.
The Bulldogs had just been massacred by Tennessee in Knoxville and were on the verge of losing to Vanderbilt in Nashville when Gamble, then a redshirt freshman, forced Cassen Jackson-Garrison to fumble at Georgia's 10-yard line. Georgia recovered at the 7 with 2:43 remaining and drove 73 yards in 10 plays to win at the horn on Brandon Coutu's 37-yard field goal.
Georgia followed that triumph with six more wins, including emotional ones over Florida and Auburn and a humbling of Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl, to finish 11-2 and No. 2 nationally.
Gamble played in 12 games last season, making four inside starts and two strongside starts, before breaking his leg against Georgia Tech.
"I think Darryl really is a middle linebacker and is our starter there right now, but he could play all three positions," Jancek said. "His primary position is the Mike with the idea that he can get a series or two at the Sam or a series or two at Will."
Said Gamble: "I like being in the middle. That's where I originally started."
Rennie Curran is entrenched as the weakside starter, while Darius Dewberry holds the strongside spot ahead of Akeem Dent, who also is backing up Gamble. None of the four played in Wednesday's scrimmage, which allowed Marcus Dowtin, Nick Williams and Mike Gilliard more reps.
Gamble may not be into gambling, but he's hoping his four-turnover showing on the first day of camp is an omen.
"They say if you start strong, you finish even stronger," he said, "so hopefully that works out for me."
Samuel new No. 1
Richard Samuel, who had five carries for 108 yards and two touchdowns in Wednesday's scrimmage, has replaced Caleb King as the top tailback for now. King's sore hamstring has worsened, and Richt said he could miss the next week to 10 days.
"It's hard to compete when you're not there," Richt said.
Odds and ends
The knee woes continue for junior safety Quintin Banks, who has cartilage damage and is questionable for the opener. With Reshad Jones resting (hamstring), Bryan Evans, Bacarri Rambo and Makiri Pugh are getting the reps at safety. ... Blair Walsh leads junior-college transfer Brandon Bogotay in the race to kick off. ... Richt was disappointed Thursday, saying, "They were hot and they were tired, and I thought they gave into that more so than any other day in camp."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...