February 13, 2010

Changing of the guard on defensive line

For the past three years, three names have been synonymous when talking about Georgia's defensive line - Geno Atkins, Jeff Owens and Kade Weston.

Together, "The Three Amigos," as referred to by Owens, were considered one of the few consistent parts of the Bulldog defense which certainly endured its share of problems in 2008 and 2009.

But that was then.

When Georgia begins spring practice on March 4, not only will the Bulldogs be replacing the three former standouts, but they'll also be learning the finer points of the position from the standpoint of Todd Grantham's new 3-4.

That's where DeAngelo Tyson, Abry Jones, Kwame Geathers, Brandon Wood and Derrick Lott come in.

In the 3-4 defense the nose guard plays an integral role. Although neither Jones nor Tyson have played nose guard before, both players believe they could adjust to the position just fine.

Tyson said he would welcome the opportunity.

"I think I could be the one in the middle," the 295-pound Tyson said recently. "If I am, I guarantee you I'd work hard to learn it, and play it to the best of my ability."

Neither player believes they would need to put on much weight - if any - to make the transformation work.

"I know when a lot of people think of the nose guard, they think you have to be a big space eater," Jones said. "If I had to gain some weight, I'm pretty sure I could and keep my athletic ability. It shouldn't be much of a problem."

Tyson feels he would just need to get stronger.

"I'd just need to do that," he said. "I don't want to get too big so I can't move, but I can definitely get stronger so that's what I'm going to try and do."

Whatever happens, both players say they're looking forward to the change.

According to Jones, he's watched numerous NFL teams run the defense with considerable success and believes it will translate well to Sanford Stadium come fall.

"The 3-4 scheme, when you see it on TV, seems like it a dominant defense, a defense that gets numbers around the ball, makes plays for your team. The way they talk about it is very appealing and it seems like you do a lot of blitzing; that's always fun," Jones said. "It might be a little transition, but should also be fun to get into."

Jones said he watched with admiration as Alabama used Nick Saban's version of the 3-4 to wreak havoc on opposing offenses, particularly the job the Tide did against Florida in the SEC Championship game.

In fact, it got him to thinking - why couldn't the Bulldogs enjoy similar success?

"Alabama was great on defense. You watch them run to the ball, causing all those turnovers, it looks like it's (the 3-4) a great defense," Jones said. "I'm seeing Alabama run that defense against the same teams we play and having so much success. It kind of makes you feel like you can have the same success they can."

Tyson agreed with what Jones had to say.

"I'm very anxious to learn it," he said. "We have good athletes on this team. It should work out just fine."

Incoming freshmen Garrison Smith and Mike Thornton will join the fray come June.

A four-star performer, Smith was the nation's seventh-best defensive tackle according to Rivals.com, and projects to play any one of the three down lineman positions for Grantham this fall.

Ditto for Thornton, who silently committed to Georgia a week before Signing Day.
At 6-foot-2 and 285 pounds, Thornton's versatility will enable him to play either the nose or both 5-technique positions.

Both players should add quality depth for the Bulldogs their respective freshman years, but coaches will still be looking improve the depth even more come 2011.

Tops on the wish list is Carver defensive tackle Gabriel Wright.

At 6-2 and 260 pounds, Wright already has offers from a number of big-time programs, and recently returned from a trip to Alabama where he spoke glowingly about the Crimson Tide program.

However, Wright has also developed a close bond with Bulldog defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator Rodney Garner so don't rule out Georgia getting its man.

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