April 8, 2011

Their time has come

Although DeAngelo Tyson and Abry Jones are the apparent choices to start at defensive end, backups Garrison Smith and Derrick Lott still figure to play key roles for Georgia this fall.

Basically, defensive line coach Rodney Garner has little choice.

Depth is an issue at the position for the Bulldogs, currently going through spring drills with just six players on scholarship, a number that will grow to eight come fall with the arrival of Johnathan Jenkins and Chris Mayes.

But until then, a lot will continue to be placed on the collective plate of Smith and Lott, two relative youngsters with limited game experience between them.

"If one of the first guys goes down, I know I'm stepping in right away," Lott said. "I feel I have a better grasp. I think the whole defensive line does in general since there are only six of us - we've been able to come together. We're working extra hard this season."

Experience is definitely not on their side.

Smith (6-foot-3, 290) appeared in seven games as a true freshman, making three tackles while Lott (6- -4, 305) saw action in even less, getting in just three games while collecting seven tackles, three coming in the Bulldogs' 43-0 win over Vanderbilt.

So far, Lott says he and Smith are working to play as cohesive as they can.

"I'm on the right side and my left hand is down," Lott said. "But if we're on the field and in the nickel, Garrison's primary position will be nose while I'll be on the outside."

That's not to say an opponent's offense wouldn't sometimes dictate a change.

"If it's a hurry-up, I'll stay in the nose and Garrison will be out there but if we have time to trade, I will go out and Garrison will play nose," Lott explained. "That's something that we both worked out together. He'd rather have his right hand down. I can play out there, he prefers playing inside. But if it comes down to it I can do either one."

Lining up over an opposing center suits Smith just fine.

"I like to be on that center because I can use my speed and power to get off the ball," Smith said. "I think I can use it to my advantage. I like being on that inside."

In the Bulldogs' base 3-4, Smith will line up as the top backup to Jones at left end. At 290 pounds, he figures to be plenty big enough.

"I want to stay right there (290 pounds); I'm good," Smith said. "It really doesn't matter how much you weigh and how much weight you lift; it's about you being a football player and beating the man in front of you. It's mental; it's who wants it more.

"If it was about who lifts the most weights, it would be a lot of weight-lifting Warriors who are great players, but that's not what it's about. It's about who's the best football player."

For Lott, the mere journey from high school star to the point where he can contribute on the collegiate level has been a difficult climb.

Nobody argued Lott's physical talents while playing at North Cobb High. As a senior, Lott posted some impressive numbers, including 111 tackles and 15 sacks.

But once he arrived in Athens he soon learned to be a successful defensive lineman in the SEC, there's a little technique that needed to be involved.

The fact he had to miss his entire freshman year after undergoing ankle surgery slowed his progress. But after finally getting healthy, Lott got to the point prior to the Bulldogs' Liberty Bowl game against UCF, where head coach Mark Richt suggested during practice, that the redshirt sophomore could see his decent share of snaps.

As it turned out, Lott didn't get into the game at all, but that didn't keep him from working hard in the winter to put himself in prime position for PT this fall.

"Honestly, I was still kind of iffy, plus we still had Demarcus Dobbs, DeAngelo Tyson, plus their backups and I was still probably one of the weakest links," Lott said. "But the biggest thing I can say now is I'm making progress; I'm on the second team for sure and just ready to do my part. I'm much stronger, a lot faster and my progress on the field has been great."

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