Watts Dantzler has battled for a starting spot on Georgia‚Äôs offensive line for three years but hasn‚Äôt been truly ready for one until now.
Dantzler‚Äôs journey has taken some turns, but the junior said he wasn‚Äôt prepared to be a starter until he received some advice from a teammate‚Äôs father. Dantzler lived with teammates Hunter Long and David Andrews in Alpharetta this past summer, where the three friends received a challenge from Andrews‚Äô father, Jeff.
Jeff, or Doc as he‚Äôs often called, asked the three players to write out a list of summer goals. He said Dantzler‚Äôs list was missing something. He needed to become meaner.
‚ÄúDoc has kind of been like a father figure to me over the past couple of years so it kind of hurt, but it was kind of motivation,‚Äù Dantzler said. ‚ÄúHe told me I was one of the nicest people he knew off the field and I needed to channel some meanness on the field.‚Äù
Dantzler‚Äôs first means of harnessing that necessary aggression was hitting the weights, hard. This summer was by far the hardest Dantzler has ever recalled working out.
‚ÄúI took it to the weight room,‚Äù Dantzler said. ‚ÄúIt was a way to pump myself up and carry more weight, run harder and take it to the practice field.‚Äù
Dantzler couldn‚Äôt get that much stronger on his own, though. He and his teammates sought out a familiar trainer who had helped them out in the previous offseason, G.A.T.A.‚Äôs Ryan Goldin.
‚ÄúUs and Dallas [Lee] trained with Goldin in Alpharetta, and he was awesome at getting us ready,‚Äù Dantzler said. ‚ÄúIt was just a bunch of hard work.‚Äù
The hard work seems to have paid off for Dantzler. He said he believes he‚Äôs among the top offensive linemen on Georgia‚Äôs roster and should be in that top rotation.
‚ÄúI feel like I am in that group,‚Äù Dantzler said. ‚ÄúCoach [Will] Friend really hasn‚Äôt specifically said that, but as far as camp‚Äôs gone I‚Äôve rotated a good bit with the ones. I think I have proved that I can be accountable and hopefully if I do good [in Wednesday‚Äôs scrimmage] I will be in the starting rotating group.‚Äù
Goals is a term Dantzler uses a lot. He has the goal of getting stronger, and of course the goal of being more tenacious on the field this season. Above those goals, though, is Dantzler‚Äôs goal of becoming a starter at Georgia and he said he can‚Äôt have any other possibilities keep him from achieving that.
‚ÄúI came into camp with the goal that I wanted to earn the starting spot or playing time,‚Äù Dantzler said. ‚ÄúIf I came into camp thinking I would redshirt I wouldn‚Äôt be able to perform good.‚Äù
Danztler, like a majority of the offensive linemen, has been moved around a lot this camp. Georgia‚Äôs getting a feel for where it can rotate its players, but Dantzler said it really doesn‚Äôt matter to him where he plays as long as he‚Äôs out there.
‚ÄúI‚Äôve gone all four spots at camp. Not too much at tackle, but mainly at guard,‚Äù Dantzler said. ‚ÄúIn three years I don‚Äôt think I‚Äôve spent more than a week at one position.‚Äù
As far as the offensive linemen Dantzler has to compete with for playing time, the recently reinstated Kolton Houston is a close competitor. Dantzler knows this is a competition, but he‚Äôs glad to see Houston back out on the field with something to play for.
‚ÄúMe and Kolton have been friends since I was a sophomore in high school,‚Äù Dantzler said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs been tough and I don‚Äôt know if there‚Äôs anyone in America that could have gone through what he‚Äôs gone through.‚Äù
Dantzler, Long, Lee and Andrews all had to pitch in to pick Houston up on occasions, but Dantzler said that‚Äôs just part of being a team.
‚ÄúTo come back this strong speaks testament to his will power and what kind of person he is,‚Äù Dantzler said. ‚ÄúHe never gave up. There were some low times for him where we had to encourage him and that‚Äôs built the relationship of the o-line.‚Äù
Dantzler, a player who‚Äôs battled all summer to get where he currently sits on the depth chart, said he doesn‚Äôt think he could work that hard for nothing. Houston‚Äôs done that his whole career at Georgia.
‚ÄúI can‚Äôt even imagine working out and going to practice knowing you‚Äôre not going to play,‚Äù Dantzler said. ‚ÄúI don‚Äôt know how he‚Äôs done it, but I‚Äôm happy he‚Äôs back.‚Äù