ATHENS – Reporters covering UGA talked to freshmen and first-year defensive players for the first time this morning. I think I may have interviewed a half-dozen in all. I will be slowly rolling them out here as I get around to transcribing them and writing them up.
Let’s see, there was Ray Drew, Damian Swann, Corey Moore, Amarlo Herrera, Chris Sanders, Quintavious Harrow. Oh yeah, and some big guy named “Jenkins.”
Below is a little taste of my interview with junior college transfer nose guard Jonathan “Big John” Jenkins. Jenkins said he’s down to 342 pounds after first reporting to UGA at 357. This is not the whole interview, just part to get you started. I’ll add the rest as soon as I can get it down in print for you.
Now, here’s Big John:
Are you able to handle the heat better since falling out that first practice?
“Yes sir. Coach Richt and the rest of the guys believe in me and they feel like I’m capable of doing to job they’re asking me to do. To be honest with you, when I fell out, the heat got to me. But I had enough time to gather my thoughts and I felt like I let those guys down that day. I don’t want to be that guy to let my teammates down. . . . It’s been better. I’m taking the reps I need to take since then. These guys believe in me and I don’t want to let them down no matter what the situation is.”
Are you surprised you’re working with the second team?
“No, it doesn’t surprise me. You’ve got to think about it, Kwame [Geathers] has been here for a while. I’m still learning. This is a harder defense than junior college. There’s a lot of things to be accoluntable for. They want to make sure I’m able to handle that pressure. With Kwame being ahead of me, I’m learning from the all guys in front of me. And it gives me a chance to go against Ben Jones and the first-string offensive line. Ben Jones is a heckuva player. Everytime he beats me on a play, I get angry and want to fight back. But I also ask him what I did wrong, because he’s been playing SEC football for a while and I’m learning from him. I’m learning from every experience.
“I didn’t come here with any expectations. I’m came in here just thinking I’m going to learn. With that type of mindset, nothing can surprise you.”
Are you getting signs or feedback that tells you you’re going to be an impact player?
“As long as I keep working and Ben Jones keeps coaching me and the offensive keeps coming at me like they’re doing, I believe when my times comes I’m gonna be ready to go.”
Is it harder than you thought?
“It’s been like that. I’ve been looking at is as a challenge. It’s the Southeastern Conference. You can’t take anything for granted down here. It’s the best of the best down here. I didn’t think I was going to come in here and dominate. No-o-o-o-o. I just came in thinking, ‘this is not junior college. I’m not going to dominate like I did before and I gotta work.’ It’s just that simple.”
What must you improve on?
One thing that holds me bnack is the playbook. Trying to get used to the system, that holds me back. Once I learn what to do, I’m able to react to the situation. As the days go on, I’m studying, I’m studying, I’m studying. This is camp. As I get acclimated to it I’m going to be able to go faster and go harder every snap. The heat and all that, I’m trying to do it all right. I’m trying to do everything right.”
How are you doing on learning the playbook?
“I’m getting comfortable with it. I’ve got no choice, no choice. I’m got to get comfortable with it.”
How much are you weighing these days?
I’m like 342, 343. I came in at like 357 during the summer. But I was always able to run. When I came in everybody always made the assumption that I wasn’t going to be able to run. I went out there right away and started doing 220s and conditioning drills and was getting through them.”
What do you want to play at?
“It really doesn’t matter, as long as I play dominant and keep my pads low and do my job, it doesn’t matter.”
Have you been working with UGA’s new noutritionists?
“Oh yeah. That’s helping me beat the heat. Getting the right foods in me and getting the right energy and stuff like that is helping me a lot. They’ve got me eating a lot of carbs, a lot of complex carbs, so I can build the energy for the next day. And I’m drinking a lot of fluids, a lot of fluids.”
Did they ever get the new No. 6 jerseys for you?
“They’re ordering that right now. It’s in the process.”
Have they talked about you doing anything on offense at all, fullback or something?
“I haven’t been working on going down that road yet because I’ve got to work on doing my job and my job is playing on teh defensive line. As soon as I get every thing situated with that, maybe some time down the road. Who knows? That’s Coach Richt’s job.”
What have you been doing around town?
“I try to stay low [key], try to chill with the fellas. I try to go out here and there but not too much. I try to stay away from things mostly. I’ve been recognized a couple of times. But you know where you can go and expect certain things, so I stay away from them. I want to stay focused. I don’t want anything to draw from my focus.”
What kind of shape are you in?
“Coach T got us right, you know what I mean?. I’d never [benched] more than 500 [pounds] and, with the help of Ben Jones I got 535. I’ve gotten 515 and 525 on my own. I’ve been running a lot and just getting right. Coach T and the strength and conditioning program is getting us right.”
Have you bonded with fellow Northeasterner Arthur Lynch?
“Oh yeah, Artie’s my guy. We’re talking about going on break with each other and go to each other’s home towns. We’re like an hour and a half away.”
What do you feel you need to work on most?
“Man, I need to work on my double-team. I want to put more effort into it. My strike, pass rush, everything. Just my whole game in general, I need to work on. I’m not perfect. I’ve just got to keep working.”
What’s biggest difference in UGA and Miss. Gulfcoast CC?
“There’s no such thing as 2s and 3s here. No such thing. Everybody’s good here. Playing at Gulf Coast, you have the guys who came out of high school highly rated and those guys that have been in the program for a little whiel and you see the difference. Here, there’s no such thing. Everybody’s good. They’re coming at you. If you don’t have your head on right, it’s over with.”
What’s it like working with defensive coordinator Todd Grantham?
“Man, Coach G, these guys are smart. They know the game. I try to soak up everything I can. He has a plan for all of us. He wants all of us to make plays and he’s a smart guy, so we’re all listening to him.”
Are you tight with Kwame Geathers?
“Oh, yeah, the whole D-line. We’re the boys. We’re the boys.”