Maryland native ‘shocked’ by rivalry
By SETH EMERSON
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The rosters of the Georgia and Florida football teams are dominated by players from those two states. Then there is Marcus Dowtin, who comes from Maryland.
That gives the Georgia linebacker an unusual viewpoint on the annual rivalry game in Jacksonville.
“It shocked me,” Dowtin said. “When I saw that, it shocked me. Every year, it’s a shocking experience to see how much people care about the game. It definitely makes it competitive.”
This will be Dowtin’s third Georgia-Florida game. But this time, he enters as a starter amid an up-and-down career that, at the moment, is back up.
Dowtin got his first start last week and recorded a season-high six tackles.
He made four starts last year and had a few standout performances, including a team-leading eight tackles in the Independence Bowl, another eight tackles at Oklahoma State and six tackles against South Carolina.
But when this year began, he lost his starting spot to sophomore Christian Robinson. Dowtin is the bigger and stronger of the two inside linebackers, but Robinson was ahead of him in learning the 3-4 scheme.
Earlier this season, Dowtin expressed frustration with his playing time, saying the coaching staff didn’t trust him.
Upon reflection, Dowtin feels he is working just as hard now but is more comfortable in the system.
“I’m getting my wings back,” Dowtin said. “It’s definitely hard not being out there, but once you get out there, you’ve got to adjust to it. Some people adjust quicker than others.”
Dowtin was nonchalant about starting at Kentucky, noting that the Bulldogs were in a nickel package. So it’s conceivable that he might not start in Jacksonville, depending on how Georgia’s defense opens the game.
But defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Dowtin will receive more snaps.
“And he’s earned it, too,” Grantham said. “I thought he’s come on like some other guys.”
Grantham compared it to the secondary players who have earned their time, such as Sanders Commings and Shawn Williams.
“He (and) Christian (were) battling, and Christian had done a good job,” Grantham said. “I always feel like guys have got to earn their reps. I think that he has earned his playing time as of late, and because of that he has played more. And as long as that happens, he will play more. I think it’s important you make guys earn their playing time.”
Assuming Dowtin does continue to play, that means Georgia and Florida will have key players at linebacker from suburban Maryland: Dowtin grew up one county away from Florida’s Jelani Jenkins.
“It’s always been a great game,” Dowtin said. “It’s actually been a great game for me since my freshman year. I love playing in the game. These guys around here, it’s a big rivalry, so you’ve got no choice but to pick up your game and pick up that mentality.”