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July 29, 2008

Good Problem to Have

There are a lot of coaches who would like to have Georgia's problem when it comes to shaking out its rotation at defensive end.

Truthfully, it's not a problem at all. A question, yes: Problem, no way.

"It's just going to be a matter of finding the right combinations, I think" Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We think we've got some great young players. We lost a great one in Marcus Howard, but we've got some very good talent who we feel will be able to step in and do a good job."

With apparently so many options at defensive end, it might be a little difficult for Georgia fans to keep up with whose in the game at a given time this fall.

Even with the loss of backup Michael Lemon, who was dismissed from the team recently, Georgia appears to have so much depth at the position that his absence should not make much difference at all. However, exactly how position coach Jon Fabris elects to use his players remains one of the preseason's biggest questions.

Junior Roderick Battle believes he has a very good idea. Battle said Georgia's Sugar Bowl win over Hawaii gave the Bulldogs' defensive ends a favorable taste of what life might be like this fall as Fabris rotated players in and out to keep them fresh against the Warriors' run-and-shoot offense. "I think the Sugar Bowl motivated lot of people who might have been in the back of the depth chart," Battle said. "Our coaches want to give us the best opportunity to win and I think that they want to rotate us a lot. You've got a chance to play, that's a big motivator."

The Bulldogs won't go as far as rotating defensive ends out every single play. But with teammates like Jarius Wynn, Jeremy Lomax, Demarcus Dobbs, Neland Ball, and Justin Houston and each listed among the four-deep at both spots, Battle said the depth will definitely be a boon for the team come fall. "It wouldn't be anything that extreme but with a lot of the spread offenses out there where it's their goal to tire out the defense, I think that's a big thing that you have depth to roll guys in and out it gives you an advantage," Battle said. "I definitely think we're in good shape."

Whichever way the Bulldogs decide to go, look for Battle to lead the way.

With preseason workouts now less than a week away Battle, along with senior Lomax, have taken it up themselves to make all the defensive ends are on the same working page.

"I try to lead by example because I think I'm a hard worker. I try to show people that I'll work hard. I want them to know that if I can do it, you can do it," Battle said. "I had great leaders when I was here, Will Thompson my freshman year and Quentin Moses. I just try to take what they taught me and give to somebody else. Obviously, we've got a lot to work hard for, but we've got a pretty good tradition in our position. Even just that should be enough motivation for us as we move forward."

Battle said incoming freshmen Jeremy Longo and Cornelius Washington have also made some early strides.

"They're just eager to learn, eager to do," Battle said. "That's definitely a good sign. It's easy to see that both of those guys are ready to work."

Physically, Battle said Washington looks like he's ready to play now. Listed at 6-4 and 220 pounds, the former Burke County standout reminds Battle of a young Lomax, and someone who could make a significant impact at defensive end before his career is done.

"He's a pretty athletic dude," Battle said. "He and Lomax do look alike; same body shape, same everything."

But like every first-year player, Battle says all freshmen obviously have much yet to learn. That's why summer workouts were such a key.

"It was important, just by everybody getting here and being with each other, the older guys helping out the younger guys and even the younger guys helping out the older guys," Battle said. "It was important just getting to know each other before we hit the field in August."



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