December 7, 2007

Ball pulls his weight

When Neland Ball walked into the interview room at Georgia's Butts-Mehre Building, the reporters who were gathered there did a double-take.


Was this really him?


Ball weighed just 218 pounds when he arrived on campus in time for preseason drills. No longer. Dedication in the weight-room and a high protein diet has enabled the freshman to pack on 22 pounds to his 6-4 frame.


As a result, Ball has himself in position to make an impact with the Bulldogs' defense next fall.


"I weigh 240 pounds now," said Ball, breaking into a smile. "I've been working hard, working on my technique, just like everybody else. I've been living in the weight room, getting faster, getting stronger."


Ball doesn't plan on stopping there.


The former Jackson High star hopes to be somewhere between 255 and 260 by next fall as he makes a push for playing time in Georgia's rotation at defensive end.


"I've been very surprised that I've been able to gain that much weight," Ball said. "Obviously, I wanted to add some pounds, but I never thought it would be quite this quick."


Ball is equally elated with the fact that the extra weight has not affected his speed.


"Not at all, even with all those squat lifts I'm still maintaining my speed," he said. "The thing is, now I've gotten a lot stronger to go my speed. I really think I'll be ready to contribute next year."
Unlike a lot of freshmen, Ball fully expected to redshirt his first year in college.


At 218 pounds, Ball knew he wasn't big enough to compete in the SEC. But now that he is, the Jackson native is ready to test himself against the best.



"When I'm on the scout team I've told those first- and second-team guys not to take it light on me," he said. "I want those guys to push me because that's the only way that I can get better."


Ball believes that he has.


"You can't help but get better when you go one-on-one on the inside drills," he said. "You get bumped around pretty good, but I started seeing myself competing better with those guys. I really think I'll be able to step in and help out next year."


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