When Georgia kicks off spring drill is a little over two months, defensive end will be one of those positions that will receive a long hard look.
Opportunities for playing time will be there for the taking.
The Bulldogs graduate two key players in starter Jarius Wynn and key backup Jeremy Lomax, but when spring practice gets underway the team will be without the services of Roderick Battle and backup Neland Ball, both of whom underwent respective surgeries Tuesday at St. Mary's Hospital.
Couple that with the fact virtually all of Georgia's defensive ends will be coming off some sort of injury from the 2008 campaign, it put position coach Jon Fabris in a year-long bind as far as what to do to fix some of the problems.
In many cases, he couldn't. After a year when Marcus Howard created all sorts of havoc with 10 1.2 sacks, Bulldogs defensive ends struggled getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks all throughout 2008.
"Could we have been better? Yeah, but we didn't know from one practice to the next who was going to be at practice in terms of injury-wise. Some guys were out there, they were hurt and they were trying to go full speed," Fabris said during Georgia's Capital One Bowl practice in Orlando. "You have to have Plan B, Plan C, and if this guy goes down this guy slides in. There's all kind of stuff like that. The bottom line is, you can either be a hurt winner or a hurt loser. Either way you're going to be hurt."
Fabris has his fingers crossed that there will be no more issues, although when spring practice does get underway, Demarcus Dobbs and Justin Houston are the only returning defensive ends likely guaranteed of being ready to go.
Hargraves player and 2009 verbal commitment Toby Jackson was hoping to enroll early, but did not receive a qualifying score on his ACT in order to do so.
Cornelius Washington and Jeremy Longo are a pair of 2008 signees who could get their shot, providing they are healthy, although both were hurt for most of the year and barely got any practice in to where Fabris can consider them a factor.
"We know very little about them. It's not that they haven't been watching film, but they're not doing anything on the practice field because they've been hurt," Fabris said. "They've been able to do a few things, but in some cases they haven't even been able to do certain lifts because they've been injured. There's no doubt that they're behind. It's been frustrating."
Who knows what Georgia's defensive end rotation will look like when the 2009 season kicks off at Oklahoma State?
Will it a 4-star prospect like Jackson, or will another player emerge out of the blue, much like David Pollack did when he signed with the Bulldogs as an unheralded fullback in 2001? Time will tell.
However the eventual rotation looks, Fabris just prays for good health.
"We were so beat up and worn down," Fabris sad. "I tried my best to rotate them, but it was tough with so many people hurt. We looked like the Tulane Green Wave out there with so many green jerseys. It is what it is."
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