Left side, strong side: Theus back at natural position

John Theus headed into last year’s G-Day spring game working as the starting left tackle.

That didn’t last long.

Theus played right tackle again last season for Georgia.

But with Kenarious Gates’ career over, coaches pegged Theus as the No. 1 left tackle before the beginning of this year’s spring practice.

This time, the move looks like it’ll stick.

“I love the move,” quarterback Hutson Mason said. “I love having Theus back there. I think that when they recruited him and brought him here that’s kind of the big picture that they had for him.”

The five-star recruit from the Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla., played left tackle from around the time he was 10 until he got to Georgia.

“I feel better at the left side,” said Theus, entering his junior season. “I don’t know what it is. Just because I played there growing up or whatever it may be, but I do feel more comfortable over there. And then just being in the offense my third year, it’s just more comfortable as a whole. I really do enjoy being back over on that side.”

The 6-foot-5, 309-pound Theus had a sometimes rocky ride at right tackle.

And his father, Paul, let him know about it, too.

Theus’ father sent him a photo in a text message after the game at Missouri in his freshman season. It was of the referee’s false start signal in a game John had penalty issues and gave up some sacks.

‚ÄúHe‚Äôs not afraid to tell me how bad I do,‚Äù Theus said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs good to have my Dad there to laugh at. … It‚Äôs good to laugh at it even though I had to improve from it. He‚Äôs always there to keep me humble.‚Äù

Theus’ growing pains at right tackle may have had to do with the side change.

“I remember coming in as a freshman, I would kick with my right foot except it would go forward instead of back,” Theus said. “There was a lot of stuff I had to work on. If I get right tackle reps right now, I feel a lot more comfortable just because I’ve had two years there.”

After starting every game in 2012 when he was named a freshman All-American, Theus started eight games a sophomore at right tackle. Kolton Houston started ahead of him in five of the first six games.

Having Theus on the left side and Houston on the right side now is providing stability this spring on the edges.

“Both of them have worked some at both tackles and probably when it gets down to it, we’ll probably have three that can go in the game,” said offensive line coach Will Friend, who also has Mark Beard and Watts Dantzler as options at tackle. “They’re both going to work both sides.”

Friend said Theus looked more comfortable on the left side, something teammates have also said.

‚ÄúJust things he does,‚Äù center David Andrews said. ‚ÄúHe looks like he just flows. … It‚Äôs kind of like making a jigsaw puzzle. You‚Äôve got all these pieces, but you‚Äôve got to find out where they work best.‚Äù

Theus is holding his own against the likes of Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd, Josh Dawson and James DeLoach in practice.

“We get after it pretty good,” Theus said.

‚ÄúI feel like he‚Äôs definitely at a good spot there,‚Äù Jenkins said. ‚ÄúHe‚Äôs definitely more of a challenge in that spot than he was last year playing right tackle. … I feel like he‚Äôs more natural at that spot now. The way he sets at the left tackle spot, it‚Äôs just hard to rush against somebody who sets like he does.‚Äù

Theus says the shift suits him well. Mason is certainly all for it.

“He’s a big, tall guy who can go up against the kid (Vic Beasley) we’re going to face the first game of the year against Clemson,” Mason said. “In the SEC, you’ve got to have great left tackles and for a right-handed quarterback, the guy’s protecting your blindside, so you always have to have the most confidence in him of anyone on your O-line and I do.”

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RT @chris_starrs: UGA’s Christian Payne saw his first playing time last week against Arkansas. http://t.co/eFBPVIEFWV

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