March 8, 2013

Time is now for Drew

Ray Drew said he hadn't heard the recent comments defensive coordinator Todd Grantham made about him during a teleconference with reporters.

When told, a wide smile became etched across his face.

"Ray has shown himself in our off-season workouts to be a man," Grantham said of Drew, who coaches are counting to help balance a defensive line chock full of new faces for the 2013 campaign.

While appreciative of the kind words, Drew isn't about to rest on any laurels.

Although the former five-star performer has shown flashes his first two seasons in Athens, in the eyes of some, Drew hasn't progressed the way many expected.

He wouldn't necessarily argue with that.

After injuries slowed his freshman campaign, a position switch to defensive end was basically a start-over point for the 6-foot-5, 290-pounder, who despite Grantham's praise, knows there's a lot of work yet that needs to be done.

"It is, a really nice thing to hear coming from Coach Grantham, but I certainly don't feel I've gotten there yet," Drew said. "I've still got room to improve like everyone else. I'm just going to keep working."

But there have been signs that he may be turning the corner.

In the regular-season finale against Georgia Tech, Drew racked up a career-best eight tackles before finishing the year with 25, which ironically was the fourth-most among the Bulldogs' interior linemen.

"The more you play, the more comfortable you get," Drew said. "After my game against Georgia Tech where I had eight or nine tackles, it gets you thinking, 'OK, let's go.'"

Coaches are apparently liking what they've seen from Drew so far.

The Thomasville native is currently working at the No. 1 spot at right end, the position held down last year by Cornelius Washington.

"Last year it was all about learning a new position, learning the different looks at that position," said Drew, who added he's working exclusively at defensive end. "It's lot easier this year. They say experience is the best teacher. You get the test first and then the lesson later. I feel pretty good."

Along with his on-the-field duties, Drew said he's trying to play more of a role off of it, too.

With so many new faces on the defensive line, he feels it's his job to do so. With Clemson and South Carolina first up on the 2013 docket, he knows it's important he and the rest of his position mates are ready to go.

"It's very crucial. The schedule is tough but I think with the people we have in place now, everyone's capable of running the plays," Drew said. "We just have to go out and execute so as long as we can keep everyone safe, healthy and out of the media, we'll be just fine."

So does head coach Mark Richt/

"We think we might be able to create more depth than we had a year ago, if guys step up. We've got guys like Ray Drew, Sterling Bailey and Mike Thornton who are waiting for an opportunity. We've got some young players who are going to get their opportunities to show that they can play the game," Richt said. "If all these guys come through for us up front, even though we lost some very good defensive linemen, we might even have more depth if we have a bunch of guys that can all prove they're ready to play. So instead of one guy playing 50 or 60 snaps, we can have a couple of guys playing 30 apiece and maybe be as effective or even more effective. We're looking forward to seeing that all throughout the defense."

So far, Drew said he's seen some positive signs, especially from a pair of his new teammates - John Atkins and Chris Mayes.

"Chris and John bring a lot of power, a lot of size. I think by the time the season rolls around, we get done with spring, those guys are going to be monster," Drew said. (Mayes) from my understanding is 325, but he can move great. I believe he's going to be very vital to this defense being able to play the nose, and help us stop the run."