When Georgia switched to a 3-4 defense in 2010, Kwame Geathers had to put his ego in the back seat and do what was best for the team.
Geathers was recruited as a 4-3 defensive tackle, but just one year into his career, Georgia changed its defense and he had to fight for playing time in an unfamiliar system. Geathers has now played two years in the 3-4 scheme and his familiarity with the system should make a significant difference this season.
‚ÄúI feel a lot better now,‚Äù Geathers said. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm an older guy in the system now. I know what I‚Äôm doing out there a little more so I‚Äôm able to play faster. But I‚Äôve got to continue to work hard and get better.‚Äù
Geathers, a 6-foot-6, 350-pound junior from Georgetown, S.C., did not have the build nor the experience of a traditional nose tackle, so one of the first recruiting needs addressed after the switch to the 3-4 was to find one. John Jenkins came in from Gulf Coast (Miss.) Junior College and became almost an instant starter while Geathers needed time to learn the position.
‚ÄúKwame and I have always been good since Day 1,‚Äù Jenkins said. ‚ÄúEverybody knew the role I was expected to fill when I came in and the type of impact everybody expected me to have. He embraced the fact that I was coming in and it all worked good. We became friends and everything, so there wasn‚Äôt any kind of beef or underground animosity towards anybody. We‚Äôre just trying to get things done.‚Äù
Geathers¬†is in his second full season of partnering with Jenkins at nose tackle. He made a major step forward during spring drills when he was named a defensive MVP and made four tackles during the G-Day scrimmage.
‚ÄúWhen you‚Äôre a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, you‚Äôre taking on a lot more blocks,‚Äù Geathers said. ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre taking on double-teams and triple-teams and all that. But that‚Äôs the only real change. The rest of it is just football and making sure you play hard every down.‚Äù
Geathers made 14 total tackles with two quarterback pressures and a fumble recovery last season. He set career highs as he played in 12 games and made three starts. Maybe his best game came against option-oriented Georgia Tech, when he made four tackles last year.
‚ÄúI think we‚Äôre going to have an even better year this year if we keep working and keep playing hard,‚Äù Geathers said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre a good combination. We‚Äôre teammates. We work well together and we give our best effort every time.‚Äù
The depth chart is clear at nose tackle ‚Äî Jenkins is No. 1 and Geathers is No. 2. But nose tackle is a position that demands more effort than a solitary 350-pound man can provide.
‚Äú(Geathers) is the No. 2 guy, but he‚Äôll play a lot,‚Äù Georgia coach Mark Richt said. ‚ÄúThose two guys (Geathers and Jenkins) will play a lot. The goal is just going to be for them to play as hard and as fast as they possibly can. When you have two of them, I think we‚Äôll be able to get them playing hard every play. I think they‚Äôll both play a lot.‚Äù
Having two quality nose tackles could help take Georgia‚Äôs already strong defense to another level, Jenkins believes.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a tremendous help because in this league, you just can‚Äôt have just one player for one position and expect them to do everything for every game,‚Äù Jenkins said. ‚ÄúKwame needs me and I need Kwame. That‚Äôs just the way it is. It doesn‚Äôt matter if Kwame goes in first and starts destroying, then I have to come in and keep the same pace. If I go in first and I‚Äôm able to get an upper hand on the other team, he can come in and keep up the same pace. We just pretty much feed off of one another.‚Äù