Ray Drew came to Georgia as a 240-pound outside linebacker.
One year and nearly 50 pounds later, Drew is learning how to live in the cramped confines of the interior as a defensive end in Georgia‚Äôs 3-4 scheme.
‚ÄúIt hasn‚Äôt been too much of a transition because it‚Äôs very similar to what I ran in high school,‚Äù Drew said. ‚ÄúThe defensive end-outside linebacker position was interchangable as well so I never really lost the feel for having my hand in the dirt and knowing what I‚Äôm supposed to do there. So it was a fairly smooth transition.‚Äù
Drew was listed at 6-foot-5, 243 pounds when he was a freshman last year. At the end of spring workouts, Drew had grown to 263 pounds. Over the summer he gained even more bulk and could get even bigger.
‚ÄúRay weighs 290 pounds now,‚Äù Georgia defensive line coach Rodney Garner said. ‚ÄúYou can‚Äôt play linebacker when you weigh 290 pounds. That‚Äôs too big. We knew he was going to get bigger when we brought him in. You could just tell by looking that he hadn‚Äôt filled out yet. Just look at his feet. He wears a size 17 or 18 shoe and he hadn‚Äôt grown into his feet yet so he‚Äôs probably going to get bigger.‚Äù
The move to defensive end brings new responsibilities and a different understanding of his role on the defense. It also pulls Drew into close contact with offensive linemen who are at last as big as Drew and who can block him from all angles.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a little different,‚Äù Drew said. ‚ÄúBut as Coach Garner said, the last few years I‚Äôve been out in the glamour world where it‚Äôs more finesse and you try to beat them off of the edge. Now I‚Äôm down where it gets dirty. You‚Äôve got to man-up when you‚Äôre down there. You‚Äôve got to be stout. You‚Äôve got to play your gap. If you get blown out of your gap or you miss an assignment, you put the entire defense at the mercy of the other team.‚Äù
Drew‚Äôs transition from outside to inside has come with a learning curve. He has worked out with both the first- and second-team defense so far this camp.
‚ÄúRay didn‚Äôt have any choice in it, that was Mother Nature,‚Äù Garner said. ‚ÄúHe weighs 290 now. You look at him next year, he‚Äôs liable to be up around 310, so the inside is where his body is suited for. As he matures and grows into the position, I think he‚Äôs going to continue to develop.‚Äù
Drew‚Äôs transition hit a speed bump when he missed last week with a concussion. He was hurt when he tried to prove a point after he overheard some between-drill chatter from the offensive line.
‚ÄúWe were going one-on-ones with the offensive linemen,‚Äù Drew said. ‚ÄúOne the coaches had called me soft and I had just beat the offensive lineman on the play before. One of their coaches said, ‚ÄòYou let Ray Drew beat you. He‚Äôs soft, you‚Äôre soft, everybody‚Äôs soft,‚Äô and all that. I kind of took offense to that. So the next time I was up, I kind of went helmet and hands into his breastplate and kind of caught part of his helmet and everything trying to put him (Mark Beard) on his behind. It didn‚Äôt turn out quite the way I wanted it to.‚Äù
Drew put the week away from practice to good use by delving into the playbook so he could be better prepared when he returned.
‚ÄúI was hungry and ready to get back out,‚Äù Drew said. ‚ÄúI was tired of watching the other guys go at it. I kept trying my best to push the trainers to let me get back out but they wouldn‚Äôt let me. But it actually did help me with the playbook. I don‚Äôt feel like I lost anything physically, if anything I got better there also. But you can pick up on some of the best things just by sitting back and watching the older guys like Kwame (Geathers) and John (Jenkins) and Abry (Jones) and guys like that. You just watch what they do and try to imitate them when you get back out there.‚Äù
Drew made it back to practice in time for Wednesday‚Äôs scrimmage when he made four tackles.
‚ÄúHe made a lot of plays today,‚Äù Georgia defensive back Shawn Williams said. ‚ÄúCoach G (Garner) was out there saying, ‚ÄòI guess all he needed was that week off.‚Äô He played really well. He even made Coach G proud of him. I heard Coach G compliment him and he doesn‚Äôt do that very often.‚Äù