ATHENS — Offensive freshmen were available for interviews for the first time on Friday at Georgia. So I had a chance to talk to tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, fullback Quayvon Hicks, tight end Ty Flournoy-Smith, wide receiver Blake Tibbs and, of course, offensive lineman John Theus.
Most of the guys were fairly shy and pretty much stuck to the script of “I’m just working hard and trying to get better.” But of all of them, only Theus seems almost assured of starting in the Bulldogs’ season opener. He has been entrenched with the No. 1 offense at right tackle since the first week of preseason camp.
” I don’t know if I’d name him the starter right now, but he’s definitely lining up No. 1 at right tackle,” head coach Mark Richt said. “He’s getting better every day. He’s got a ways to go but John’s getting there.”
Following are some of the comments Theus made when questioned by the press on Friday.
On working with the No. 1 offense . . .
“Me and Watts are alternating at that right tackle and we’re both busting our butts out there., Xzavier [Ward] as well. So we’re all out there busting our butts every day. This is my first camp, so it’s a grind. It’s my first time out here with the big boys. So I’m learning each day and trying to get better.”
On being prepared to play as true freshman . . .
“Watts has been a big help to me learning the plays. I went into the summer trying to get bigger, stronger, faster. We went in there every day with Coach T and he busted our butts. I was on a platform with me and Watts and David Andrews and Grey Pyke. We just went in there to get better every day. When it came time to do actual line drills, as a team I would work every position.”
On his in-practice battles with senior defensive end Cornelius Washington . . .
“Cornelius is a man, no doubt about that. Big, strong, powerful. It’s a different level up here. It ain’t high school anymore. There’s no breaks in practice. There’s no easy guys out there. All these guys are out there busting their tails and going hard on reps. So it’s helping me get prepared and get ready for the first game.”
On Jarvis Jones’ declaration to get Theus ready . . .
“Me and Jarvis have had a lot of great talks and he’s been a big help to me. He’s been helping us all. It’s been a team effort. He’s obviously one of the best pass-rushers in the country, he’s doing a great job. He tells the O-line what he does and what he’s looking for and what he looks for. He’s really done a great job with us.”
On grasping the offense . . .
“We had the playbooks over the summer. The older guys helped me get in their playbooks. Watts Dantzler, David Andrews, Kolton Houston, Kenarious Gates, Chris Burnette, they all helped me over the summer try to get my base down and get the calls down. Coming into camp, it is a lot. But you just try to take it day-by-day. There’s a lot of meetings. We all try to listen and pay attention and learn a little bit each day and then get out there on the field. That’s how you learn it.”
On prospect of starting as a true freshman . . .
“I’m just out there busting my butt. I come into film and I see a lot that I need to work on everyday. It’s a different level out here. It’s just a lot of work and I’m just giving my best like everybody else.”