Freshman OL John Theus a ‘tough kid’ with huge upside for Bulldogs

ORLANDO, Fla. — The only freshman to start every game this season for Georgia isn’t star tailback Todd Gurley.

It’s one of the players who blocks for him — offensive right tackle John Theus.

Theus was the biggest catch of Georgia’s 2012 signing class, at least according to the recruiting rankings. He rated even higher than Gurley and running back Keith Marshall.

As Theus wraps up his rookie season for the Bulldogs in Tuesday’s Capital One Bowl, it’s clear that the Bulldogs see plenty of room for growth in his game.

“He’s got a long way to go as a player, but he’s a tough kid,” offensive line coach Will Friend said.

“Theus just has to continue to get stronger,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “He’s got some natural strength, but he’s got to get stronger, really keep changing his body to the type of player we want to look to. He’s just got the natural strength and natural size and we’ve just got to keep molding him.”

The 6-foot-6, 309-pound Jacksonville, Fla., native brought up improving his strength also as key for him, but said he’ll focus more on what he can do to get better after going up against Nebraska.

Theus is already 3-0 at Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium, the same stadium the Bulldogs will play in on New Year’s Day, when he helped win state championships for Bolles in 2008, 2009 and 2011.

Theus was named a Freshman All-American by The Sporting News during a season when Georgia set a school record for points in a season with 484, the ninth best in SEC history.

“It’s really been a heck of a ride,” Theus said. “As a freshman to be at the University of Georgia and the SEC and to have this type of season for your first year is definitely something special and something I’ll never forget.”

The plan is for Theus to stay put at right tackle beyond this season.

“I like him over there at the right tackle,” Friend said. “I think he fits it pretty good. He’s got a year under his belt there. … Just have to get your best people (on the field), but I like him at right tackle right now. That’s where we see him in the spring.”

Georgia could have options at left tackle beyond Kearnious Gates. The Bulldogs are in the mix for five-star Laremy Tunsil from Lake City, Fla., who could allow Gates to return to guard.

Theus showed grittiness when he sprained an ankle in his first game, but still played against Missouri in the SEC opener when he struggled to protect quarterback Aaron Murray.

“As a starter, you want to get back at whatever cost it is,” Theus said. “Especially as a young player, that’s your thought process. … Did it hurt me that game? The film shows it did a little bit. That was a tough game. I learned a lot from that game.”

Outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins said Theus’ ankle was “really swollen and I didn’t think he was going he was going to be able to play. He played through it. … He’s just a fighter. He gets cut up in the face all the time and doesn’t even care about it.”

That would be a gash on the bridge of Theus’ nose that kept getting reopened when the long-haired Theus’ helmet slid down on it.

“It’s been that way since the first day of camp,” Theus said. “I guess it’s a trademark this season for me.”

The season wraps up against a Nebraska team that features senior end Eric Martin, who tied for second in the Big Ten with 8 ½ sacks.

“They’ve got two really athletic ends so that’s a challenge for both guys,” Friend said. “They’re strong in the middle and they’ve got good pressure packages to bring people.”

Theus will be right where he’s been since Game 1 as a Bulldog — in his right tackle spot.

“He’s conscientious and cares about doing good,” Friend said. “I think he’s going to be a good football player. He’s still got a lot of things to get better on, but I think he’s going to be a good one.”

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by Marc Weiszer

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