ATHENS — Go ahead. Make fun of David Andrews. Make fun of his height. Call him “Shorty.”
Andrews is used to it. He hears it all the time, including more than occasionally at Georgia’s own football complex. Every once in a while the Bulldogs’ coaches and players might needle him. Andrews says he loves it.
This just in: Andrews knows he’s not very tall. He’s been in front of a mirror. He’s been to the doctor’s office. He knows exactly how tall he is, and it’s not 6-foot-2 like he’s listed on the Bulldogs’ roster.
But that doesn’t bother Andrews, and apparently it doesn’t bother the Bulldogs either. He’s their starting center heading into Saturday’s season opener against Buffalo. And according to those who have watched him up close and seen him compete against nose guards John Jenkins (6-foot-4, 360 pounds) and Kwame Geathers (6-6, 350) in practice, it’s not by default.
“[Andrews] is a fighter now,” offensive line coach Will Friend said. “He’s sharp and he’ll fight you, he’ll compete. He’s a great kid, and he cares about Georgia. He’s what you want.”
Said Jenkins: “I’m gonna be honest with you, a lot of people will be surprised about David Andrews. He’s got a lot of heart and attitude. He’s got great technique. And for him to be able to hold up in there with Kwame and me, it shows a lot.”
Georgia had three major voids to fill on the offensive line this season. Center Ben Jones and tackles Justin Anderson and Cordy Glenn all were seniors last season and were drafted by NFL teams. None of those voids loomed larger than the one left by Jones, a four-year starter and the emotional heartbeat of the Bulldogs’ offense.
Andrews was recruited to Georgia out of Wesleyan by former line coach Stacey Searels for the purpose of succeeding Jones. But there were doubts from the beginning, especially considering the Bulldogs beat out Duke for Andrews’ services.
The chief knock: Andrews’ size. He was listed as 6-2, 275 on recruiting websites.
“Coach Searels never said anything about [his size], but he had strung me along for a while [without offering],” Andrews said. “Anytime I came on a visit I’d wear my boots because they had big heels. I’d stick insoles in my shoes to make me seem taller, anything I could to make me seem bigger.”
Searels finally got serious after he learned Andrews was invited to visit Alabama. Shortly after Duke offered, and Georgia followed with an offer the same night.
“I committed on the spot,” Andrews said. “I told them I was going to commit to my first SEC offer, but I really wasn’t. This was always where I was going to go, and I think he knew that. So it was kind of a mutual understanding.”
That’s the main thing to know about Andrews. He’s Bulldog through and through. His maternal grandfather, Bill White, attended UGA. Upon first holding the infant Andrews in his arms, White proclaimed him “the next great Georgia fullback!”
“I’m not playing fullback, but that’s still pretty cool,” Andrews said.
Friend says size can be overrated at center. Longtime NFL Pro Bowler Jeff Saturday is 6-2, 295 pounds, for example. Friend said the position is more about quickness, leverage and making the right calls at the line of scrimmage. And, he points out, it’s not like Andrews is a midget.
“You’re looking at him against a couple of buildings [in Jenkins and Geathers],” Friend said. “I like standing next to those two, too, because I look skinny. But David’s a 300-pounder. He’s big enough, he’s competitive as crap, so that’s a plus for him.”
And for Georgia, they insist.
Said Andrews: “It’s always been my dream to play for Georgia. I did get to play sparingly last year, but there’s nothing like starting and hearing your name called up there.”
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING ABOUT ‘BOSS’ . . .
Quarterback Aaron Murray:
“I’m pumped for David. I know he’s excited and ready to go. I’ve said all the time, he’s done a great job since he got here. We call him Ben’s little son. If he does something wrong we tell him we’re going to call his father and tell on him. He’s done a tremendous job. He knows all the calls and all the checks and he and I have been working really well in this camp together being on the same page.”
Fullback Merritt Hall (a teammate at Wesleyan):
“It just shows that hard work pays off. If you want to do something you’ve got to work at it. I know for a fact that Boss is one of the hardest workers that I’ve ever seen. He never takes a day off and he’s always doing the right thing.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt:
“He’s relatively strong. I wouldn’t say he’s a beast, but he’s quick. If you’re quick and you get your hands and feet where they’re supposed to be and you run em with enthusiasm and you know what you’re doing, you can play center.” . . .
“It’s not that unusual or that bad for a guy that short to be your center. And he’s very smart. That center must be able to make the calls. He must be able to get everybody moving in the right direction. And he has a big responsibility snapping the ball. And he does all those things pretty darn good.”
Offensive tackle Kenarious Gates:
“He might be a little small, but he’s got a big heart. … I’ve got great confidence in my center. He’s smart. He knows what to do. He’s going to work hard. You’ve got to have a great center, and he became a great center over the summertime, fall camp. I enjoyed playing with him, because he works hard.”
Quarterback Hutson Mason:
“He’s very similar to Ben Jones. His determination and just the way he functions and the way he goes about practice, the demeanor that he carries. Ben was real nasty and didn’t really care what people thought about him. That’s a lot like David and that’s what you want on your line, somebody who’s not going to take anything from anybody. . . .
“When he first got here he was going against Big John and you could tell he was getting frustrated. And I was like, Dude, just keep going, that’s going to pay off. There’s not many guys like Big John anywhere, even in the SEC. I mean, 360 pounds. It can only get better for you. Him blocking Big John and Kwame is really going to be a big benefit for him.”
ANDREWS ON ANDREWS
Emotions for opening game as starter . . .
“I’m anxious, definitely, excited, nervous. Pretty much everything. But I’ve prepared for this a while and I’m ready.”
Recalling for first time he played for Georgia. . .
“It was against Coastal Carolina last year. I came in about middle of third quarter. The stadium had died down a little during the game. But it was my first chance to play college football, and my first play was a touchdown. That was awesome. . . .
“It was a play to Orson across the middle. Hutson threw it. Pretty funny” Hutson says in the huddle, ‘this play’s about to be a touchdown. Let’s go.’ I was like, ‘OK, whatever.’ Next thing I know I’m sitting there blocking and I see Orson catched the ball about the 5-yard line in front of the end zone and he runs it in.”
Why he was able to earn the start. . .
“I have more knowledge of the offense now. I’ve become a better player since I’ve been here under Coach Friend. There’s still a lot of things I’ve got to work on. Personally I feel I’m better in the run game. So I’m trying to work on pass pro. But the coaches have kept pushing me and building their trust in me and I didn’t let them down.”
Most important part of playing center . . .
“First, getting the ball to the quarterback, then making the calls. But I’m up there with two experienced guards and that is a very comforting part of it. So I’m not having to tell everybody what they’re supposed to do. I can make a declaration and I know people to my backside are talking. So that helps having those guys up there that have played in some football games. But knowing what to do is a huge part of it in general.”
Growing up a Georgia fan . . .
“I remember watching [David] Greene and [Fred] Gibson and Musa [Smith] play. My first game was the 2002 SEC Championship, that was my first Georgia game I was able to go to. So that was a good experience. We started coming over sparinghly. It was hard because I was always playing little league football. But I tried to make it as much as possible. By the time I was in high school I was over here almost every weekend, up at games and stuff.”
On Ben Jones . . .
“He’s helped me a lot, not only in football, but just being there, inviting me over to his house and stuff like that. I was really fortunate to play with one of the greatest centers to ever play the game. That’s what I think. I’m still trying to do the things he did. I grew up watching him so it’s been great to learn from him and have that type of relationships.”
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