January 7, 2010

Youngsters must step up at defensive tackle

Whoever becomes Georgia's new defensive coordinator, no doubt one of his initial concerns when scanning the Bulldogs' roster will be the hit being taken at defensive tackle.

Unless you've been living deep inside a cave, then you're aware that the Bulldogs will be having to replace the graduated trio Jeff Owens, Geno Atkin and Kade Weston, each of whom appear destined for the NFL.

Fortunately, the cupboards aren't exactly bare; a little slim perhaps, but not void of talent by any stretch of the imagination.

Rising junior DeAngelo Tyson and rising sophomore Abry Jones have already played integral roles.

A Statesboro native, Tyson was in the regular rotation at defensive tackle, seeing action in all 12 of Georgia's games going into Monday's Independence Bowl against Texas A&M. Jones, meanwhile, played in 11 games as true freshman, collecting eight tackles (including one sack) in limited action.

"Abry's is already a very good player," Tyson said. "He competes hard, he studies the playbook, he watches film; he does everything you need to do to become a good player."

Jones has been pleased with the progress he's made.

But he's not satisfied.

"I knew I was going to play a limited role, but I know next year that's going to change," Jones said. "I'll be one of the guys out there every Saturday, trying to help set the tempo."

He can't wait.

"It's something all freshmen go through. I knew I had to wait my turn, but I accepted my role, the limited snaps," Jones said. "I tried to make the most of my time, but now I see my time is really coming and I plan on being ready for it."

But could Jones and or Tyson's position change?

Head coach Mark Richt has he would not be opposed to Georgia's new defensive coordinator installing a new defensive scheme, for example, a 3-4 with a noseguard over the center sans the basic 4-3 set the Bulldogs have used the previous nine years.

While Tyson and Jones would certainly be candidates, redshirts Derrick Lott and Kwame Geathers also figure to be in the mix.

The freshman Lott missed the entire season after undergoing ankle surgery, while Geathers was late arriving to camp after finally getting the OK from the NCAA Clearinghouse, but has worked hard to get his weight down from 349 pounds to 310.

Although he's a rising junior, Tyson won't be the oldest member of Georgia's defensive interior.

That title will go to Brandon Wood.


A senior-to-be, Wood was moved to defensive end midway through the season, but according to Richt is slated to move back inside next fall.

Verbal commitment Garrison Smith from Douglass High is also expected to fit into the mix.

"We're all going to work as hard as we can," Tyson said. "We'll see what happens, but we're going to go out and work as hard as we can."

Leadership will be important.

Although he'll just be a true sophomore, Jones believes the experience he gained this fall will enable him to adjust to that role just fine.

"I think it really helped me to go ahead and get that experience this fall," Jones said. "I think if I didn't have it, I might come in (next fall) a little bit nervous. I'm not saying I won't be a 'little nervous,' but since I did play as a freshman It's helped me be a little better prepared."

Even against the kind of players he'll be lining up against in the tough SEC.

"It's definitely different than anywhere else," Jones said. "When you play against SEC guys for the first time, you see real fast what they mean about how tough the SEC is. It's tough, but I think we're we'll do fine and be ready to roll."

UGASports Take: "The Bulldogs will obviously be a lot younger and lot more inexperienced at defensive tackle than they have in recent years, with Tyson, Jones and rising senior Brandon Wood the only players with any considerable game experience. Jones has a chance to be an All-Conference player before his days are through, but the Dawgs will need Geathers, Lott and quite possible the freshman Smith to play integral roles, especially if Georgia does wind up moving to a 3-4."


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