ATHENS, Ga. — Darius Dewberry has only a few months left in a Georgia football career that has seen him battle his way into the starting lineup but also slide down the depth chart.
With so much depth at linebacker, it’s hard to forecast Dewberry returning as a starter this season or even how much time he’ll get on the field.
“I don’t worry about it because we have a good rotation going on,” Dewberry said. “A lot of us are going to get a chance to play no matter what happens. I have no idea how the rotation will go. That’s a coach’s decision, and I think he’ll make the best decision for the team. “
Rennie Curran, Darryl Gamble and Akeem Dent used spring practice to solidify their starting roles, while Dewberry nursed shoulder surgery.
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Thoughts of taking a redshirt crept inside Dewberry’s mind before making good in summer workouts.
“Talking to him, he had a great summer because at one time he was thinking about maybe redshirting and waiting until another year,” coach Mark Richt said. “But he knows he’s physically ready and mentally ready to go.”
After starting five games in 2007 and securing the strongside linebacker spot the following spring, Dewberry made a mistake.
He was given a two-game suspension, the first two of the 2008 season, for his role in damaging a parking gate and several planters at an Athens hospital, where two of his teammates had been taken after a fight.
“I was angry that my two teammates were hurt, and I just overreacted,” Dewberry said at the time.
Dewberry accepted his punishment and went to work knowing he’d lose time and possibly his starting spot.
“That’s definitely frustrating to miss games for anybody,” Curran said. “It just takes a lot of character to admit when you do something wrong and then come back and do the right thing. That speaks a lot about him as a person.”
Returning to the mix behind Dent, Dewberry impacted the Bulldogs’ 24-14 win over Vanderbilt, intercepting one pass and almost another.
Success had been reaffirmed, but unfortunately it didn’t last.
Hip flexor and shoulder injuries hampered Dewberry. During the Bulldogs’ loss to Florida, the pain superseded his play. It was decided it was better to shut his season down, with shoulder surgery necessary.
Dewberry was forced to watch the remaining five games and spring drills.
“It was pretty tough having to watch everybody playing — wishing I could be out there,” he said. “I mean, even though I couldn’t be out there I kept the guys up and kept talking to the guys. I was there. I just couldn’t be out there in the game.”
Cleared for activity in time for summer workouts, Dewberry went to work determined to get back in the physical and mental shape needed to compete at a crowded position.
“I feel like Darius is a great player, and one thing about him, he is mentally tough,” Dent said. “That’s his strong point. If a guy has a good head and good heart, nobody can take that away from him.”
Teammates took note of Dewberry’s intense weight room sessions, saying he “dominated” workouts and kept a good attitude.
“I think he’s taken on the challenge,” Gamble said. “He knows it better than the younger guys so he has an advantage over everybody else. Just the fact he’s trying to stay injury free. That’s pretty much plagued his career already. I think he’s off to a good start, and he’ll be a factor this season.”
Dewberry is still behind Dent on the depth chart but said he doesn’t mind. With a team-first mentality, Dewberry said he was open to any role.
“It’s a team goal,” he said. “One team, one goal, just trying to go out there and win games.”