Sacking a quarterback is like catching a fish to Ray Drew.
“You can go out and you can sit and you can have the bait in the water all day long, but you just waiting on that first bite,” the Georgia defensive end said. “After you get over that first bite hump, you’re feeling good. It’s time to go now.”
The 6-foot-5, 276-pound junior’s first bite this season came on LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger in Georgia’s fourth game of the season. It resulted in a 9-yard loss and forced a second-quarter punt by the Tigers.
“You catch one and you want to catch some more,” Drew said.
Drew, who has started four of six games this season, has been baiting well in Georgia’s last three games and now leads the team with five sacks. He also has eight quarterback hurries and a pass break-up.
Georgia coach Mark Richt called Drew’s recent surge “a little bit of a surprise.”
“But now that the light came on — or however you want to say it — he’s really playing well,” Richt said. “I like his attitude.”
Drew erases his production in his mind after each game, making himself start with zero across the stat sheet each week. It took two seasons patiently waiting behind experienced defensive linemen and pass rushers like Jarvis Jones before Drew would see significant playing time. That wasn’t something the former five-star recruit out of Thomas County Central was used to.
“[The last two years] helped me out not only has a football player but as a person as well because up to this time, in the football world I hadn’t had to face any adversity,” said Drew, who is tied for second in sack total in the Southeastern Conference. “Now being in the position I’m in, I think it made me a stronger person in the end.”
Drew grappled with some self-doubt as he waited in the wings, questioning his skill set and ability on the field. (He appeared in 20 games and recorded 31 tackles in his first two seasons.)
But he said it was a natural process that most students in college go through.
“I don’t think that you can avoid it, no matter where you’re at or what position you play or who you are, it just happens,” he said.
Drew said his first two years at Georgia were informative — he learned to take care of the little things and “the big things take care of themselves. He learned to be more patient and stop chasing — let the fish find your line and chomp down.
“You could chase the dream, but sometimes you just have to let the dream come to you,” Drew said. “You just have to take care of what you can control and let it roll from there.”
Drew hasn’t been playing catch and release since he dragged Mettenberger down. Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said once the dust settled around Drew’s early hype out of high school, his maturity level increased. That has led to opportunities on the field.
“The guy keeps working and grinding and understands what he’s got to do to play at this level and he now knows what to do and he’s having a lot of success,” Grantham said. “He’s really been one of the most consistent performers we’ve had this year.”
Though defensive line coach Chris Wilson and the Bulldogs have been using a consistent rotation of players in the trenches, Richt said Drew is an every-down player for Georgia.
More opportunities for Drew to cast a line and see what comes of it. No cutting bait.
“You just have to stay in your lane, stay focused on what you need to do and just continue to try to get better because the people that are going to help contribute to the outcome of the game are the people that are in the locker room,” he said.
A previous version of this story incorrectly named Ray Drew’s high school. Drew attended Thomas County Central, not Thomasville County.