Geathers adjusts to life in 3-4 defense

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 adjusts to life in 3-4 defense
Roger Clarkson

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.

“I feel a lot better now,” Geathers said. “I’m an older guy in the system now. I know what I’m doing out there a little more so I’m able to play faster. But I’ve got to continue to work hard and get better.”

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.

“Kwame and I have always been good since Day 1,” Jenkins said. “Everybody 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’t any kind of beef or underground animosity towards anybody. We’re just trying to get things done.”

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.

“When you’re a nose tackle in a 3-4 defense, you’re taking on a lot more blocks,” Geathers said. “You’re taking on double-teams and triple-teams and all that. But that’s the only real change. The rest of it is just football and making sure you play hard every down.”

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.

“I think we’re going to have an even better year this year if we keep working and keep playing hard,” Geathers said. “We’re a good combination. We’re teammates. We work well together and we give our best effort every time.”

The depth chart is clear at nose tackle — 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.

“(Geathers) is the No. 2 guy, but he’ll play a lot,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “Those 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’ll be able to get them playing hard every play. I think they’ll both play a lot.”

Having two quality nose tackles could help take Georgia’s already strong defense to another level, Jenkins believes.

“It’s a tremendous help because in this league, you just can’t have just one player for one position and expect them to do everything for every game,” Jenkins said. “Kwame needs me and I need Kwame. That’s just the way it is. It doesn’t 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’m 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.”