Georgia sophomore Ray Drew just isn’t seeing the playing time many thought he would by now.
The defensive end from Thomasville has five tackles (three assisted, two solo) this season despite playing in each of the Bulldogs’ first five games. And though he traveled with the team to South Carolina, he saw no action in Saturday’s 35-7 loss.
Touted as a five-star recruit and ranked 13th on the ESPNU 150 list, Drew came to Athens last fall with expectations of becoming an effective pass rusher early. As a freshman, he recorded eight tackles in seven games while playing behind the likes of DeAngelo Tyson, Abry Jones, Jarvis Jones and Cornelius Washington, among others.
Abry Jones in particular, has had quite an effect on Drew and the two have remained close throughout the 2012 season.
“Abry has been the one who has really taken me under his wing,” Drew said. “Every Friday night before the game at the team hotel, I take my playbook, and me and him will go over the play calls that we did that week.
“We go over different scenarios and make sure I’ve got everything right. If there’s anything I get wrong, he’ll correct me and try and find a way to help me remember it.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt said that Drew is “still working on becoming a great football player” and that the reason he isn’t earning as many game reps is largely due to the personnel in front of him.
“He’s a good football player, but he’s not to the point where he’s earned as much playing time as he probably wants at this point,” Richt said. “But that’s why you keep practicing and grinding.
“Sometimes as fans, we really know who our incoming class is and we forget about some of those guys for that year or two when they’re developing. Then all of the sudden, they show up and seem like they came out of nowhere. In reality, they’ve been working hard to get to where they can become a starter and a big time contributor.”
Drew is playing a different position this season, albeit the transitions he’s made are from very comparable spots. As a senior at Thomasville, Drew played defensive end before coming to Athens last fall with the knowledge that he’d begin as an outside linebacker. Now in his second year at Georgia, the sophomore is back on the defensive line, where he feels most comfortable.
“Now I’m back playing defensive end, which is pretty much what I’m used to,” Drew said. “It’s what I played in high school so it wasn’t a big transition. They both kind of complement one another here (in Georgia’s 3-4) — defensive end play with the outside linebacker and vise versa.”
As the 2012 campaign turns the page and looks ahead to the second half, Drew said he hopes to continue to earn playing time. He notes, however, that his involvement will stem from many circumstance — personnel, injuries, and opposition.
“Each week it depends on the team we’re playing, the players they have and how much depth we have in our arsenal,” Drew said. “There are a bunch of variables that go in to deciding that. It’s hard to say how it goes each week, but it’s pretty much based on what we have and what we’re looking forward to playing.”