December 16, 2007

Houston, we have no problem

As a prep standout at Statesboro High, Justin Houston was ranked by just about every recruiting service out there as one of the country's top defensive ends. considered him the nation's 21st-best at the weakside position.

So, what did Georgia coaches do upon Houston's arrival? They moved him to Sam linebacker.

Houston has been there ever since.

"They changed me to linebacker at the last second, right before the preseason started," Houston said. "It was pretty tough at first. It wasn't until the middle of the season that I started getting used to all the different coverages and all the plays."

Positioning himself correctly to make plays was Houston's biggest issue.

"Just knowing where to go and what to do at the right time, that's my biggest problem," Houston said. "It's still the thing I need to work on most today."

Houston hasn't had to worry about putting on pounds.

One of the challenges coaches issued the freshman when he first arrived was to put on more weight.

Not a problem.

A scant over 220 pounds when he arrived in Athens, Houston has bulked up to 245.

But according to Houston, the added weight and muscle hasn't hurt his maneuverability in the least.

"I don't think it has," he said. "I'm pretty athletic and think I can move around pretty well for my size."

As far as he knows, Houston is at Sam linebacker to stay.

While his size, ala Brandon Miller, one might suggest a switch back to defensive end might one day in order.

If so, nobody's told Houston.

"Nobody's said anything about that," he said. "Right now, I'm just focusing on (Sam) linebacker."

Anyway, laughed Houston, he's put in too much work at the position to change back now.

"I think I've come a long ways. Coaches aren't having t to tell me every play what to do anymore," he said. "Used to, they'd be telling me where to line up every play. Now, I think I know more what to do."

Houston credits his fellow linebackers for helping through the tough times, of which there were many.

"They mentored me throughout this whole time. We're really close, and they motivated me to keep going, even when I messed up," he said. "They told me not to worry about the coaches yelling at me. They told me to just go out and do my best. That's what I've tried to do."

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