John Theus is poised to start just where he wants to be on the Georgia offensive line.
as Georgia defeats North Texas 45-21 at Sanford Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, in Athens, Ga. (Richard Hamm/Staff) OnlineAthens / Athens Banner-Herald
At the pivotal left tackle spot after two seasons manning right tackle.
The new gig comes with a hazardous job description: blocking Clemson All-American defensive end Vic Beasley in the opener Saturday in Sanford Stadium.
“When we played South Carolina or Clemson, I didn’t really go up against Beasley or (Jadeveon) Clowney,” Theus said. “I actually didn’t match up against those guys at all.”
That doesn’t mean Theus didn’t get a big-time pass rusher last year on the right side.
Not that he wants to remember that.
“I’m looking forward to this year so I can forget about some of the things from last year,” said Theus, who was replaced in the starting lineup five games last season before returning to start at right tackle. “We all know Dee Ford against Auburn, that kid was a good player. I had my hands full with him.”
The 2014 NFL first round pick by Kansas City had a sack and six quarterback hurries in Auburn’s 43-38 win last Nov. 16, 2013 on the Plains.
Offensive line coach Will Friend, who hasn’t announced his starting lineup, says Theus had “a good camp,” this month.
Outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins sees Theus putting in the work to be as good as his five-star billing coming out of Jacksonville, Fla., in 2012., where he played left tackle in high school.
“I feel like he wanted to prove that he’s an outstanding offensive tackle and he’s gifted enough athletically that he could shine this year that he could do all that and so much more this season,” Jenkins said. “
The 6-foot-6, 313-pound junior has picked up some new techniques taught by Friend and feels better about his foot work.
“He’s got a little bit better body control, has improved his strength since last year, and he’s in better shape,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “He’s preparing well and got the right mindset that you’ve got to have. Lineman is a tough job. It’s dirty. It’s nasty. And you’ve got to go out there and grind every day of practice.”
“Just settling down in the offense,” said Theus, who has started 22 games. “Experience is the best teacher and that experience is going to be the biggest thing for me.”
One year’s time hasn’t dulled the memories of how Georgia’s offensive line held up against Clemson.
The self-evaluation remains none too flattering.
“It wasn’t good,” Theus said of a game in which Clemson had four sacks. “As an offensive line, we didn’t have a good game at all. We put up some decent points and stuff but as an offensive line we didn’t play good at all. They did some things, moved around a lot and they were very good. They were prepared. They played harder than we did last year so we definitely have a challenge. We have to come out ready to go because we know how good of a front they have.”
It starts with the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Beasley, a senior who had a pair of sacks last year in the 38-35 Tigers’ win and finished the season with 13.
“He’s very quick, very explosive, does a lot of wiggling,” Theus said. “He’s a good player, an All-American and he deserves it. He showed that last year. I’m going to have my hands full. I’m going to have be on the top of my game.”
Said Jenkins: “I made sure to tell Theus and Todd (Gurley) whenever they get a chance to chip him, chip him in the ribs to get him good.”
Center David Andrews said he thinks Theus is ready.
“We’ve played good players in the past,” he said. “It’s not like our first time playing a good player. We blocked the No. 1 draft pick (Clowney) last year that made one play against us and it was a busted assignment play. We can do whatever we want to. We’ve just got to put our minds to it and go out and do it.”