March 22, 2012

Drew doesn't mind change

When defensive coordinator Todd Grantham approached Ray Drew about how willing he would be to move down and give playing defensive end a try this sping, the young sophomore never hesitated with his response.

After all, Grantham's reasoning made too much sense.

"He said the reason we are doing this way is that they want to give me more opportunities to prove myself to get on the field," Drew said. "He knows what I can do at the outside position. He wants to see what I can do on the inside as well so when we switch up from the nickel to the 3-4 package so I'll be versatile enough to play in both packages as opposed to just one."

Actually, Drew isn't the only Bulldog getting on the inside after a career of playing on the edge.

Senior Cornelius Washington is as well as Grantham continues to try and find ways to make his defensive unit a more versatile one to ensure his best players are on the field at the same time.

It's not like it's a precedent in Athens.

A number of other Bulldogs have made the switch from outside to in, including one of defensive line coach Rodney Garner's earlier pupils, whose still making waves in the NFL.

"The same thing happened with Richard Seymour when he was here," Drew said. "He started outside with Coach Garner before he moved inside and now he's one of the highest-paid defensive linemen in the NFL. Anybody that can make me a very wealthy man I'm willing to follow along."

Head coach Mark Richt likes the versatility the moves bring.

"Sometimes you've got certain defensive schemes you play and a matchup might be better for a kid at end than at linebacker," Richt said. "If we're playing a team that's just going to try and hammer you and you need some beef in there, you might play Kwame (Geathers) and John (Jenkins), and all of a sudden one of those ends becomes an outside linebacker to take on a big, physical tight end. We're looking for players to have the versatility as much as we can."

Jenkins admires how the pair has come in and in two days shown they've got the desire to make the switch work.

"They've been good. That's not where Cornelius wants to be, but I can say this, he's a team player," Jenkins said. "He and Ray Drew, they're used to being out in space and for them to come in and still work as hard as they normally do at their regular position, it just shows what kind of team player they are."

Of course, to be able to play in the trenches and go against offensive linemen pushing 300 pounds-plus, other changes have to be made.

"I don't have a set weight right now, but I do want to gain a little bit of weight before the season is over," Drew said. "I've talked with the coaches and they're thinking by the time I leave, I'll be around 285 and 290 so that gives me to about 275 by this year, 285 by next and go from there."

Drew said he wouldn't mind if defensive end became his permanent home.

"As of right now my mindset is not to be a full blown defensive end. If it happens, it happens," Drew said. "But since I'm going to be playing there no matter what I would like to put on some more weight so that I can hold my own when I'm down there. You have to be a man to play in the trenches."

But Drew said he doesn't mind that.

"It's similar to what I did last year. I'm playing more five-technique which is what I did in high school - five and seven technique," he said. "The position that's a little bit new to me is the three-technique; I've never played that far down but as far as what they have me doing, I like it. It's not too big of a difference."

Having the opportunity to play with his hand in the dirt isn't a bad thing, either.

One of Drew's biggest adjustments when he came to Georgia was learning to play as a stand-up pass rusher. But now that he's able to do that as a defensive end, life is good again.

It certainly feels more like the old days.

"It does. Actually, I feel more at home when my hand's in the dirt on the outside edge but as I continue to progress and get bigger, my body change will determine where I play and what my style is," Drew said. "I'm just open to all opportunities that coaches are trying to give me."