Georgia’s Rodney Garner believes 2012 D-line stacks up with some of his best

Rodney Garner believes Georgia's 2012 defensive line can stack up with some of the best he has coached for the Bulldogs. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Rodney Garner believes Georgia's 2012 defensive line can stack up with some of the best he has coached for the Bulldogs. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

ATHENS – Georgia defensive line coach Rodney Garner is not one to toss a lot of bouquets, especially in the middle of the summer with actual games still three months from being played. But he can’t suppress his excitement (a relative term here) when it comes to the group set to hold the line for the Bulldogs this fall.

Noseguards Kwame Geathers and John Jenkins, defensive ends Abry Jones and Garrison Smith and backups Sterling Bailey, Ray Drew, Mike Thornton and Cornelius Washington, provide Georgia with the three most important needs of an exceptional D-line — size, athleticism and depth. They also bring some intangibles to the equation, according to Garner.

“I’m proud of these guys. I really am,” Garner said this past week. “I’m proud of the type of young men that the are. I’m proud of the things they bring to the table, not just from an athleticism standpoint, but for overall work ethic, for leadership qualities, everything. I’ll be honest with you, I’m really honored just to have the opportunity to coach them, just looking at how they’ve matured over the years.”

Garner has coached some great defensive lines in his 15 seasons with the Bulldogs. He stops short of labeling the 2012 group as the best he’s had — for him, the 2000 D-line is a slam dunk in that regard. But he said this year’s line does remind him a little of that unit, which included Richard Seymour, Marcus Stroud, Charles Grant and Josh Mallard, with Johnathan Sullivan as the primary backup.

Seymour (6th) and Stroud (13th), Grant (25th) and Sullivan (6th) all became NFL first-round draft picks, while Mallard and backup Demetric Evans also played in the NFL.

“Four first-round picks on the same D-line; that’s a pretty good deal,” Garner said. “And Tyrone Robertson was supposed to be on that team, too, but he got in some academic trouble and had to go to Hines (Community College). Jonathan Sullivan was the No. 1 backup as a true freshman and he blacked up Richard and Marcus pretty good [in practice].”

Garner wasn’t sure if the 2012 unit is destined for the level of NFL success the 2000 line did, but he likes what he sees in these individuals. His observations:

On Jones, the senior defensive end . . .

“I look at Abry, who I think is a heck of a player who doesn’t get nearly the recognition I think he deserves. I mean, this kid comes to play every day, he plays with energy, he plays with passion. And he’s been a very productive player for us. He made some really good plays last year and did some nice things. I just like his leadership; I like everything he stands for. I’m just looking forward to him having a real good year.”

On Jenkins and Geathers at noseguard and tackle, each of them a 350-pounder . . .

“The two big boys. They’re big men who are very athletic. It’s very rare that you can find guys who are that big who can move the way they move. God was good to them when they got in the line for talent.”

On Smith, the junior defensive end from Atlanta, and Thornton, of Stone Mountain . . .

“I think Garrison might have had the best spring of any of them. He’s coming on like gangbusters. I think he has a chance to really put his mark on that position. And I thought Mike had a good spring, too. He really did. Mike can play.”

On Washington, Drew and Bailey, each making the conversion from outside linebacker to end, or 5-technique tackle:

“Cornelius is adjusting to playing inside, which is different for him. But he’s bought into it and he’s adjusting to it and I think he’ll continue to improve and eventually be a different type of change-up guy in there. . . .

“I think Ray Drew’s going to be really good. Have you looked at how big he is? He’s 280 pounds. [Moving to defensive tackle] was not a negative thing at all; I hope people understand that. He saw it himself. It is what it is. Ray could’ve sat around and starved himself, but it wasn’t going to happen. He’s going to be a 300-pounder; that’s what God intended him to be. Ain’t nothing he can do about it. Next year he’ll probably play at about 290 and the next year he’ll probably be 300. That’s what his body is built for. Him moving in there is not a negative. In a 3-4, that’s just where he needs to be. In a 4-3, he could be a defensive end. He’s a good 5-technique tackle. He’s a great athlete. He’s going to be fine. . . .

“Same thing with Sterling Bailey. That’s what people have to understand. Those are guys who are very athletic at those positions. Sterling’s like 285. Of course he’s coming off that [foot surgery], but he’s a great athlete, too.”

Garner stops short of predicting greatness for this group. But he’s certainly excited about the possibilities.

“They’re a great group of young men,” he said. “I’m eager to see what they can do.”

Chip Towers, The UGA Blog

251 comments Add your comment

P-Cola Dog

June 11th, 2012
11:30 am

rrich

June 11th, 2012
11:31 am

I agree GO DAWGS

bardawg

June 11th, 2012
11:33 am

bardawg

June 11th, 2012
11:35 am

Dang ,missed it!

WnE

June 11th, 2012
11:37 am

For all my fellow GT fans that like to play the “Academics Card” every time an article appears talking about Talent at UGA or another College.

Remember this, GT vigorously Recruited, Garrison Smith, Mike Thornton, Ray Drew, and Sterling Bailey, and they were all Academic Qualifiers for GT.

If we sign half of those guys or even just one of them, mainly Garrison Smith whose brother graduated from GT, we strengthen our FB program and weaken UGA’s at the same time.

This is why most BCS-level HCs say that Recruiting is directly related to 80% of your success as a BCS-Level HC.

CPJ will never be a great Recruiter for 4 or 5 years in a row.

Ergo, GT will never win consistently vs. UGA or vs. “tough teams”.

bardawg

June 11th, 2012
11:37 am

Anyway ,the Dawgs truly should have a very special year with the talent playing on the D-line.

Paddy

June 11th, 2012
11:37 am

Wow, that put a real fine point on this position. great depth & great ability! Can anyone say, Wally Pip?

Spanky

June 11th, 2012
11:41 am

Yeah, bringing that junkyard tennacity back to our D!…..Love it!! Go Dawgs!! Thanks Chip!

ARdawg

June 11th, 2012
11:43 am

Very encouraging to even get mention with the 2000 D-line. I hope he’s correct in his assessments. Looking at them from past production, ability and prospective there really is no reason they shouldn’t be the premier defensive front in 2012

Bryan G.

June 11th, 2012
11:51 am

Maybe some of them can play DB in September…

outkasted

June 11th, 2012
11:51 am

Im soo ready for football season

knoxdawg

June 11th, 2012
11:52 am

I pray they live up to their potential. If they work hard during the summer and play with great intensity during the season then our D could be great. Gotta do it on the field for a full season and then they can be compared to previous great lines.

nomobama

June 11th, 2012
11:55 am

Guess Its fair to say there will be some serious Sashas on this years D-line. Woof.

bubba4dawgs

June 11th, 2012
12:00 pm

I’m so excited, I can’t stop singing “Glory Glory to Ole Georgia”!! Let the games begin! GO DAWGS!! OL, get busy and make it happen this year! We need balance from you so the DL can get a rest in transition. They’re gonna keep the offense of the other teams on the bench and make them a non-factor!

Beast from the East

June 11th, 2012
12:00 pm

No doubt it should be the strength of the team. If UGA can manage the first couple of games without the suspended players in the secondary, it could be a heckuva year.

truedawg

June 11th, 2012
12:02 pm

yes we know…WE ALL KNOW THE DEFENSE WILL BE GOOD!! What about the Offense?? What about the special teams? what about Bobo being able to change and roll with the punches? We have a good set of RB’s now. and loaded with weapons to throw to…Will we use them? Will we use them at the right time? Will Murray understand that you can do it all, and sometimes you have to go 3 and out (better than trying to force it and turning it over) ?? How about our kickers? will 30 yard attemps be good? So many questions..so few answers…I hope the S&C has built the guys up more as well..gotta have gas in the tank in the 4th…I also hope the players don’t read anything about ranking or tallent..but read everything Cry baby Steve of the chickens said, and make him cry more this year! GATA!!! Go dawgs!!!

flo-ri-duh

June 11th, 2012
12:04 pm

The DL is the strength of the team – no doubt. Special teams is the big question mark. The OL is going to be better than most expect. The key recruit for the DL will be Montravius Adams and, or Kelsey Griffin.

Joey

June 11th, 2012
12:06 pm

I’m excited too, Rodney!

Go Dawgs!

Kmac

June 11th, 2012
12:08 pm

@ Beast from the East

Georgia will regress this year. I have that feeling. The defense will be decent but nothing like FSU’s defense. It is way better. Trust me when I say that.

ARdawg

June 11th, 2012
12:08 pm

truedawg

All valid points you raise. To which no one knows the answer. However, for your consumption, Bama and LSU have proven over the last 4 years that prolific offenses do not make the difference that do prolific defenses. I have hope but little else that CMR and CMB will show us much more than the milktoast offense we’re already familiar with. There are more horses in the backfield. That will be an improvement over last year but not the end all I am afraid.

ole dawg

June 11th, 2012
12:09 pm

Most impressive to me is Garner’s comments about their character. Great to see young men with talent and character. I cannot recall any of these guys being in trouble during their time at UGA. As a UGA fan I want to brag on this entire group and say… I AM PROUD OF YOU! Guys remember, it is always best to have a team with character rather than characters. GO DAWGS!

TampaGator

June 11th, 2012
12:14 pm

Very good Georgia DL…with plenty of depth……but

Florida counters that DL with Jonathan Bullard, Sharrif Floyd, Omar Hunter, Dominque Ealey, Leon Orr, Larentree McCray, Ronald Powell (when he returns from injury at mid season) and others…..no way I trade those for yours….and I am sure all Dawg fans feel the same way about yours.

P.S. NCAA 13 has rated Florida’s overall defense higher (better) than Georgia’s overall defense. The Florida secondary this year will be second to none in the country, and the LBs are terriffic as well. Everything for Florida rides on the development of Driskett and Brissett. Should be interesting to watch. The SEC East is going to be tough this year……and much, much improved.

TampaGator

June 11th, 2012
12:15 pm

……that would be “Driskell” and “Brissett” in that last post.

go-BRAVOS

June 11th, 2012
12:19 pm

Was Cornelius Washington the guy who got a DUI last year after a game? Or was that C. Robinson, I get those two confused.

schmeckdawg

June 11th, 2012
12:19 pm

JUST WIN BABY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kmac

June 11th, 2012
12:19 pm

@ bardawg

The dogs having a special year is in the eyes of the beholder. The schedule was very weak last year. I wish FSU can play the dogs this year. I dont know it may happen. I know the Missouri game is a L for the dogs even before they suit up.

truedawg

June 11th, 2012
12:21 pm

So ready to play the games..UF will be better..but The dawgs D is class of the SEC East and as good as LSU. GATA!!!

Old Dawg

June 11th, 2012
12:21 pm

Kmac: How do you know this? Who have you talked with? How many practice sessions and conditioning sessions have you attended? Have you attended any sessions on attitude and draining the team of spirit (aka, the vampire issue)?

Every team has different chemistry, different relationships. And every team has it’s problems.

But really, in all honesty, how the hell are we supposed to trust you?

ARdawg

June 11th, 2012
12:22 pm

Kmac

And you know the Mizzou is an L, just how?

piermontdawgny

June 11th, 2012
12:24 pm

it is almost time! dawgs please stay focused throughout rest of summer and please no major injuries, arrests, etc…

THIS IS THE YEAR OF THE DAWG!

ARdawg

June 11th, 2012
12:24 pm

Old Dawg

Anybody can feign knowledge like Kmac. Even me, I know for a fact that FSU as a team and especially the D is more overrated this year than last year. See, isn’t that easy? :D

Kmac

June 11th, 2012
12:27 pm

@ Schmeckdawg

Wishful thinking on your behalf. To just win baby! means that the dogs actually are some good but last year was a mirage with that weak schedule! Florida will beat the dogs this year and I do not have a dog in the fight. FSU is my team of choice and I hope they play GA this year so they can be exposed for the frauds they are. But just win baby!

UGAdoubleMajor2013

June 11th, 2012
12:30 pm

82 days until game 1…. that’s WAY too many days!

Kmac

June 11th, 2012
12:30 pm

@ ARdawg

Well lets start with the amount of guys that will be missing from GA’s secondary due to suspension. Missouri will take advantage of that. GA has a good defense but I predict they will be on the field way too long. Especially in the 2nd half.

ozzfest

June 11th, 2012
12:34 pm

That is great…but we do not play ANYBODY this year…so this is mere speculation. Would love to see what these MONSTERS could do against but Oregon, Ohio State, Nebraska, or Notre Dame.

How bout you, Greg McGarrity….what do you think?

Kmac

June 11th, 2012
12:34 pm

@ Ardawg

I cant wait for the season to begin. If u are not cognizant of what FSU has on D then u will never know. Their third string guys can start for some of the so called Power SEC programs. You can hate them but u cant take away pure talent and the depth for ages to back it up. Jimbo knows this. He can get ahead of teams and just turn it over to the D. Just keep them from scoring and send players to the trainer!

ozzfest

June 11th, 2012
12:36 pm

…only getting 2 mails a day from UGAA begging me to buy BUFFALO or FLORIDA ATLANTIC tickets.

Greg McGarrity….ought to stand on the bridge and hand these out for FREE.

Bozo.

Homepage | MrSEC

June 11th, 2012
12:40 pm

[...] 5.  Georgia D-line coach Rodney Garner says his latest group stacks up with the best he’s ever coached. [...]

AltamahaDawg

June 11th, 2012
12:48 pm

That group can put away some cheeseburgers fo sho.

AltamahaDawg

June 11th, 2012
12:50 pm

Why would we hate FSU Kmac?

Kmac

June 11th, 2012
12:55 pm

@ AltamahaDawg

I dont always say anything when I come to this site but when I do there is one theme that seems to be consistent . Alabama fans having nothing but negative things to say about GA and then I see some GA fans talking negaive about FSU. Especially when Shultz wrote an article about FSU considering a move to the Big 12.

AltamahaDawg

June 11th, 2012
12:58 pm

Kmac, can you tell us what you “know” about Mizzou’s secondary, defending our passing game? Or is your knowledge of the future contained ONLY to the differential between our #1, and #2 safeties? How about thier running game vs the point of this article? What do you “know” about that.

AltamahaDawg

June 11th, 2012
1:01 pm

Ok, I guess being an FSU fan you would certainly notice any negattive comments at all, but I personally think UGA fans rarely have anything but a casual mention of them, IN general.

They are after all, The Enemy of Our Enemy(s).

FL Dawg

June 11th, 2012
1:04 pm

KMAC….Frauds that we are huh? I’m sorry but I currently live in Tallahassee and it’s the same story for nole fans every year, NC NC NC BABY!!!!! BLAH BLAH BLAH you are a fan of the most overrated team of the past decade. FSU lost to a lowly Wake Forest team and freaking Virginia AT HOME last year!!!!! This is why I can’t stand FSU, you come on our blog spouting some crap about how we’re frauds yet your Noles under achieve year in and year out.

GO DAWGS!!!!

Jack in Macon

June 11th, 2012
1:05 pm

Just stay out of trouble this summer and don’t get injured.

JB in Blakely

June 11th, 2012
1:17 pm

Defense will be top 5 in the country. All these folks banking on a loss to Mizzu need to remember that the 8 we have coming back that aren’t suspended would be playing in the NFL now, had they chosen to make themselves available.

Offense will be better this year-even with the young offensive line. Injuries and turnovers aside, this team has a chance to win every game on their schedule.

SSGt Dawg

June 11th, 2012
1:17 pm

Great group of guys. They have a great work ethic, depth, talent, and most importantly this provides competition. @TampaGator you think that UF D-Line stacks up against UGA’s? Your guys have talent but lack character or production. They get in trouble off the field and they really got handled in games during the season. Jenkins will be a top 10 pick, Kwame will go first round also. Abry will go under the radar but will be at least a 3rd rounder. I think this group allows all those fast and aggressive Backers to do what they do best. Make plays

ARdawg

June 11th, 2012
1:18 pm

Kmac

It’s quite okay to support your team but, you’re a homer. Your pannies are showing as is your distaste of UGA. Your ramblings are that of a pimple faced 13 year old. Get off your mother’s computer Junior

ARdawg

June 11th, 2012
1:22 pm

I am cognizant of the fact FSU are many years of cellar dwelling was ranked as high as 5 last year only to what, fall out of the top 25? Hype is all your boys have. You don’t want any “so-called SEC power” teams on the field with FSU. Your boys can’t handle so-called SEC power

TampaGator

June 11th, 2012
1:23 pm

@truedawg…..

Didn’t see that class of the SEC East is the LSU (second half) or the Michigan State (complete game) games. I did see Florida’s defense dominate FSU’s offense and Ohio State’s offense….while absolutely not having any offensive support at all from the Gator offense. They will get that support this year….and the D will be even better. Time will tell, of course, but I think Florida, not Georgia, will have the class D in the East……and no one will have a defense as good as LSU…in the in SEC…or in the nation. Not Georgia. Not Florida. Not SC. Not Bama……and not So Cal either.