ATHENS – Tim Kimbrough kept the highlight on his phone: That time he stuffed Todd Gurley.
It was at practice two years ago, and Kimbrough was a freshman linebacker trying to make an impression. Gurley had run outside and spun, and Kimbrough was right there. He nailed him.
“But I held him up,” Kimbrough said. “Because it was practice, and it was Todd Gurley.”
He got the memory, though: The play appeared on the team’s practice film, which goes to the Georgia’s player’s iPads, and Kimbrough put his phone up to the iPad and recorded it. The play stayed on his phone until recently, when he had to switch phones.
No matter. Kimbrough may finally be verging on highlights and big hits beyond just practice.
There’s still a ways to go, but Kimbrough has the track at one of the starting spots at inside linebacker. If it happens, it’s a reward for perseverance, big hitting, and preparation.
A crazy amount of preparation, to hear fellow inside linebacker Reggie Carter tell it. The team puts more than just practice highlights on iPads, it also puts the playbook and film of other teams.
“Tim carries that iPad everywhere, like it’s his cell phone,” Carter said. “I’m talking about everywhere. And he’s always watching film. Always.”
Kimbrough was a highly-regarded, four-star prospect when Georgia signed him out of Indianapolis. But there were two impediments to seeing the field: Ramik Wilson and Amarlo Herrera, who started the past two seasons and each went on to be drafted this year.
Even then, Carter appeared to have the edge, at one point being listed first-team last year in the preseason when coaches were unhappy with Wilson. Through it all Kimbrough tried to make a name on special teams and practices, mainly with his big-hitting abilities.
He was labeled a “thumper,” by coach Mark Richt. And indeed, Kimbrough delivered some big special-teams hits.
But off the field Kimbrough was trying to be a complete player, studying the iPad incessantly.
“I love football, so all I think about is watching film, making sure I know formations and stuff,” Kimbrough said. “And now that I know formations and stuff it’s making me a better player.”
This spring proved important for Kimbrough. The new options at inside linebacker – UAB transfer Jake Ganus and freshman Natrez Patrick – got most of the press, but Kimbrough quietly made his move.
“When Amarlo and Ramik left, we had to step up,” Kimbrough said. “That’s when I knew I had to make sure I had to be a great leader, had to be in the playbook, and had to make sure I knew everything, so I could lead the defense.”
Not just start, but “lead the defense.”
During Georgia’s first week of preseason practice, Kimbrough has been working first-team in both the base 3-4 and nickel defenses. He’s joined by Leonard Floyd in the base defense, and by Carter in the nickel, with Floyd at the star. But the situation is fluid.
In any case, Kimbrough appears to be in good shape.
“He’s working hard. He’s getting a lot of reps with the No. 1 unit and he’s taking that responsibility serious,” Richt said. “I don’t know if you could compare it to Ramik, but one year Ramik was outside linebacker and not getting much playing time, and then his time came to at least seize the moment, and he seized the moment. Ramik did. And I think Timmy’s trying to do that as well. But there’s a lot of good competition and he’s just gotta keep working.”
The evidence is that he will.
“Tim, his will is something special,” Carter said, smiling and shaking his head. “It’s something special.”