ATHENS, Ga. - Georgia continued to learn the 3-4 system implemented by new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham as preseason practice started Monday, and the Bulldogs did so with senior inside linebacker Akeem Dent sidelined.

Dent, who often was praised this spring for his knowledge and production in the scheme, underwent toe surgery last week and is projected to miss at least a month. The 6-foot-2, 233-pounder from Atlanta is questionable for the Sept. 4 opener against Louisiana-Lafayette.

"We're expecting him to come back as soon as he can get back and contribute in both our base and our sub packages," Grantham said after Monday's first preseason practice. "It's obviously unfortunate that he can't come out and get the work, but that's part of football. Nobody feels sorry for us, and they're not going to stop the season, so the next guy has got to step up and perform."

The Bulldogs will work in upcoming days with Christian Robinson and Marcus Dowtin as the two starting inside linebackers, with Michael Gilliard and former tailback Richard Samuel in relief.

Dent ended the 2009 regular season with an 11-tackle performance at Georgia Tech, and he ended this spring by recording a sack at G-Day and earning the defense's True Grit Award.

"He's still the quarterback of the defense," defensive end Demarcus Dobbs said. "When he first got his crutches, he was out there with us in the hot sun calling out plays when we were in our 11-on-11 drills. You can tell he still wants to be out there. It will take a lot to make up those reps, but we still see him as the No. 1 guy on our defense."

Said nose DeAngelo Tyson: "Us not having Dent for this camp is going to hurt us at the linebacker position, because there is not that much depth there right now."

Before Monday's afternoon practice, the Bulldogs held a morning walk-through. The fact it was their 16th workout in the 3-4 and not the first was a relief to everyone involved.

"Everything we went over just came naturally," Dobbs said. "This first day is more of a review for basic plays, but having that under our belt was a bit of a relief. Now we can get more in-depth in our playbook."

The early birds

The Bulldogs were the first SEC team to begin camp, which coach Mark Richt said was by design.

"I wanted to start as early as we could," he said. "When you have one practice a day, you can still have a walk-through in the morning, so it gives you more time to install. Because we have a new defense, I thought it would be wise to get as many teaching opportunities as possible."

Georgia will take every Sunday off and has one two-a-day practice, with that set for next Monday. Players are fine by that.

"We love it," junior tight end Aron White said. "It seems like every year a heat wave is coming in when camp starts, and this year is no different."

Odds and ends

Offensive line coach Stacy Searels said junior tackle Trinton Sturdivant will be eased in slowly after tearing his ACL the past two seasons and that he's working hard to play in the opener. ... Richt did not have an update on the NCAA investigation but said everyone can practice. ... Outside linebacker Darryl Gamble said the defense blitzed three or four times a game last season but will blitz "two a down" this year. ... Freshman tackle Kolton Houston (foot) was not able to practice Monday.

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