ATHENS, Ga. --- Bacarri Rambo needed a strong ending to 2009 to carry momentum into this season.
A severe concussion against Auburn -- suffered while making a touchdown-saving pass breakup in the fourth quarter -- ended Rambo's regular season, but the Independence Bowl win against Texas A&M gave him a chance to show that he was ready to take on a bigger role this year.
Rambo delivered one of the best games of his Georgia career against the Aggies, which has vaulted him into a major contender as a starter at safety.
"I just have to thank God for not being seriously hurt from that Auburn game," Rambo said. "I had to come out and show everybody that I was fully healthy and ready to make plays. We needed to show that we were going to come back as a defense, too."
Rambo needed about two weeks to recover from the concussion, which occurred when he blasted Auburn's Mario Fannin at the goal line as Fannin attempted to make a game-tying touchdown catch. Rambo was carted off the field that night, but returned in time for the bowl game and tied a career high with four tackles and blocked a punt against Texas A&M.
"It was very important for him to have a big game in that bowl game," Georgia safety Nick Williams said. "It was huge. It showed that he could still play even after that injury and it set him up for this year. He could have gotten down after that play, but he didn't. He worked that much harder to come back and he's playing great right now."
Georgia's defensive statistics slumped for two consecutive seasons, which cost defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Willie Martinez his job.
Georgia lost starting safeties Bryan Evans and Reshad Jones, so Rambo became one of the elder statesmen at the position despite being a redshirt sophomore.
"He's like my brother," said safety Jakar Hamilton, a former Strom Thurmond standout and transfer from Georgia Military College. "He's not older than me, but he carries himself like he's an older-type person, like a leader."
The playbook changed dramatically when new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and new defensive backs coach Scott Lakatos took over.
Rambo took the initiative to digest the new scheme and help his teammates. He feels like this should be a season of redemption for the defense after two consecutive sub-standard seasons.
"We've got to have everybody get out and work hard and take leadership because we've had some bad seasons," Rambo said. "We want to get back out there and make plays and create turnovers and get back to playing like the junkyard dogs used to."