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June 10, 2009
MACON, Ga. - The 2008 season could not have been more frustrating for Georgia defensive end Roderick Battle.
Neck and shoulder injuries ruined what most would consider a forgettable year for the Atlanta native, who only saw action in nine games after starting all 13 contests in 2007.
In a way, the 6-foot-4, 262-pounder was the poster child for all that went wrong injury-wise at end in '08.
But that was then. As the Bulldogs dive into their summer conditioning drills, Battle is right there with them hoping to leave last year's season of disappointment behind.
"I've come a long way," said Battle, who underwent surgery in his labrum in January. "Right now I'm doing everything in the weight room. I'm almost there."
With two months remaining before the start of preseason camp, Battle says there will be plenty of time to iron out whatever kinks remain.
"I don't expect to be limited in August at all," he said. "I assume if we were actually practicing now I would probably be cleared."
Battle admits sitting out hasn't been easy. Prior to injuring his neck early last year, Battle said he had never been seriously injured playing football.
"It was ... probably the first time I had ever missed any practice," Battle said. "It was different having to get used to the training room."
Assuming he's healthy, Battle figures to be competing for a starting role. With Justin Houston suspended for the first two games for violating team rules, Battle and junior Demarcus Dobbs (foot) would appear to have a leg up to start against Oklahoma State. Kiante Tripp, Neland Ball, Cornelius Washington, Jeremy Longo and incoming freshman Montez Robinson also figuring into the mix.
Georgia's defensive ends combined for just 9.5 sacks last fall. That number has to improve.
"That [getting pressure on the quarterback] is going to be a big part of it [the defense]," Battle said. "We're going to have to rattle the quarterback because when you do that you're going to get more interceptions."
Could Battle be that man? He comes into the 2009 season with five sacks, but he has never been thought of as a pass-rushing specialist.
"I'd like to say that I can, but I've still got to go out and make it happen," he said. "But it's not just me. It's the same as last year; somebody's going to have to step up, whether it be me or somebody else. That's what we're all working on. There's not a defensive end here who doesn't want to make something happen."