March 2, 2011

Size matters for defensive line

Rodney Garner's words turned out to be prophetic after all.

Back in December, Georgia's defensive line coach spoke about the need for the Bulldogs to somehow find a big, space-eating nose guard to anchor the team's 3-4 defensive scheme.

"I think it's critical. You like to have a stout guy there who is going to command a double-team, who can hold the point versus the double-team," Garner said at the time. "I think if we're able to get that kind of guy it will actually make us better and move some guys around to make us stouter at the defensive end position."

Although Garner didn't know it at the time, his wish came true after Johnathan Jenkins signed his letter-of-intent almost a month ago.

Jenkins won't get to campus until early June, but as Georgia prepares to kick off spring practice March 10, Garner does so at least knowing he'll finally have the pieces he needs.

As UGASports continues its pre-spring position breakdown, we examine the defensive line and the impact Jenkins' arrival is expected to make.

Other than Garner, DeAngelo Tyson was probably the happiest person to see Jenkins sign on the dotted line.

Tyson started all 13 games for the Bulldogs last fall, but by his own admission prefers to play defensive end in the 3-4 as opposed to the nose. With Jenkins on board, he'll now get that chance, leaving Kwame Geathers and redshirt freshman Mike Thornton to potentially see most of the backup reps.

It's still unclear where Justin Anderson will fit into the picture. It's been rumored that Anderson will move back to the offensive line, but coaches have yet to officially make that announcement public.

Regardless, the spring figures to be huge for Geathers, who coaches would like to see assert himself more when he's on the field.

Geathers has shown flashes, but lacks the consistency Georgia's defensive coaches would like to see from the redshirt sophomore from Carver's Bay, S.C.

Jenkins' bulk alone should help the Bulldogs inside.

"I hear people talk about that. I think in general you need size inside. I don't care if you play a 4-3 or a 3-4. If you look at all the good 4-3 teams, they're going to have some physicality inside," defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said recently. "Because you're a 3-4, you've got just the one guy inside. But to be good on defense in general, you've got to have some stoutness inside."

Garner agreed, especially as far as Jenkins is concerned.

"All the teams that run the 3-4, that's the commodity," he said. "I hate to sit there and say it, but it is a commodity. It's the missing piece, the missing link to us being able to take this defense to the next level. I think they improved as the year went on, but they still miss that clog."

Garner is counting on Jenkins making the rest of the defensive line's job much easier than it's been.

Besides allowing Tyson to move to an end, it will also take some of the pressure off of returnees Abry Jones, Garrison Smith and Derrick Lott, who head coach Mark Richt praised toward the end of bowl practice as someone who has made great strides and could compete for playing time.

Freshman Chris Mayes will also get a look come preseason.

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!