ATHENS, Ga. — Linebacker Akeem Dent responded to his first collegiate start by leading Georgia in tackles Saturday. Brandon Miller responded to his benching by doing the same thing.
Dent, a redshirt freshman, replaced Miller at strongside linebacker, and both finished with six tackles, joining safety Reshad Jones on the top of the list.
Miller has gone from being called the key to the defense at middle linebacker by coach Mark Richt to being moved to strongside linebacker to now losing his starting job.
“I’m cool with it,” he said, but “I’m going to fight for the position to the end.”
Miller was happy for Dent, who “showed out” in Miller’s estimation, he said. Miller could be back in the starting lineup next week against Alabama, Richt said.
“I think Brandon is going to play an awful lot of ball for us,” Richt said.
Senior offensive tackle Chester Adams also was replaced in the lineup, by true freshman Clint Boling, but his benching is less clear cut. Adams said afterward he doesn’t think he has lost his starting job. He said the coaches merely wanted to get Boling more work against a lesser opponent.
Richt said Adams was in offensive line coach Stacy Searels’ doghouse and probably will be back in the starting lineup this week. That doesn’t necessarily mean Boling will go back to the bench, though.
“The more Boling plays, the more we like him,” Richt said. “He may have a better shot stating at guard than at tackle after this ball game.”
There was another lineup change as well, with senior Mikey Henderson starting at wide receiver ahead of redshirt freshman Tony Wilson.
Davis on sidelines
If Boling does start at guard, it probably will be at the expense of Chris Davis, who was yanked from Saturday’s game twice.
The first time came after it appeared he allowed quarterback Matthew Stafford to be sacked, a play that resulted in a lost fumble, however offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and Richt both said Stafford was at fault on that play. Stafford called the wrong protection for the defense, Bobo said.
Still, Davis was on the bench the next drive.
In the third quarter, Davis was flagged after shoving a Western Carolina player well after the whistle. He was immediately taken out of the game by Searels.
Georgia’s special teams continued to struggle. The Bulldogs allowed Western Carolina’s Mike Malone to average 26.1 yards on seven kickoff returns. They also had to call a timeout because they had too many men on the field on a Catamount field goal and had an illegal procedure penalty on a punt.
“You can’t have that,” Richt said. “There’s an issue.”
Junior receiver Demiko Goodman made a dramatic return to Georgia’s receiver corps. Goodman, who tore his ACL last year, didn’t have a catch in the first two games, but led the Bulldogs on Saturday with 51 yards on two catches, including a diving 34-yard touchdown catch, his first scoring catch.
“It just felt good to be on the field today,” said Goodman, who estimated his knee is 90-95 percent back to full strength. “When you get an opportunity to make a play, it builds your confidence.”
2,000 and counting
Senior running back Thomas Brown now has 2,006 career rushing yards. A 4-yard touchdown run Saturday made him just the 12th Bulldog ever to eclipse 2,000 yards on the ground.
“I had no idea I was that close,” he said.
Brown needs 26 more yards to move into 11th place all-time.
Starting safety Kelin Johnson (ribs) and starting cornerback Bryan Evans (knee) each sat out but said after the game they could have played if needed. Both expect to be back at practice early this week.
Tight end NaDerris Ward sat out due to a groin injury but also expects to be back soon.
Defensive tackle Corvey Irvin suffered a left ankle injury but said he’ll be ready to play Alabama.