How far does Justin Houston believe he's come adapting to Todd Grantham's 3-4 defensive scheme?
Actually, it's sort of hard for the Statesboro native to put into words.
During a recent interview with UGASports, Houston talked about his new spot at outside linebacker, the position's perceived lack of depth and how he believes Darryl Gamble will help out in that regard.
Thus far, the 6-foot-3, 260-pounder said he's been pleased.
"When we first started out, I'd want to go full go but I was always worrying if I was doing the right thing or not," Houston said. "I remember sitting there Day One thinking 'Should I go? Should I go?' Now, when the play is called, I know what to do. Now, when the play is called I'm just telling myself 'Technique, technique, technique.'"
Assuming Houston learns those lessons, he could be in a for an All-SEC caliber year.
Despite missing the first two games while serving a suspension for violating team rules, Houston went on to earn second-team All-SEC honors after collecting a league-best 15 tackles for loss, including 7.5 sacks while adding 18 quarterback pressures per contest.
Considering the pressure Grantham plans on bringing this fall, double-digit sacks certainly seems a possibility.
He could have company.
Although Georgia's depth chart isn't expected to be released for another week, Cornelius Washington is expected to start opposite of Houston at Sam, giving the Bulldogs what could be one of the more dynamic outside linebacker combos in the conference.
Granted, Washington still has something to prove.
Listed at 6-4 and 248 pounds in Georgia's spring media guide, Washington said he's actually tackled on 12 more pounds of muscle and like Houston, weighs a solid 260.
Washington only started one game for the Bulldogs last fall and made just 13 tackles, but four of those were sacks to go along with 13 quarterback pressures.
"Cornelius has made great strides, great strides," Houston said. "There's no doubt he's ready to have a great year."
Unfortunately, depth could be a problem.
After Montez Robinson was dismissed from the team, it left the Bulldogs with only one other scholarship player (Chase Vasser) at outside linebacker Gamble was moved over from the inside with three practices to go in the spring.
"The depth may be a challenge we have to face, but if it is, we've just got to step up our game," Houston said. "It's just something we'll have to deal with and see what we can do to get some other bodies ready to go."
Houston doesn't think getting Gamble acclimated will be a problem.
"Darryl's a smart guy. In the last defensive scheme he knew all the positions," Houston said. "This won't be hard for him. It's (outside linebacker) pretty much the same technique as last year. It's going to take a little effort, but he will do fine."
In fact, Houston says Gamble could have an advantage that he, Washington and Vasser don't.
"Darryl already knows how to drop-cover; that's something we're still having to learn," Houston said. "We all know how to rush, so it's probably the opposite way with him. I think he's a great fit for that spot."
Others will get their opportunities.
Georgia expects to have Jeremy Longo recovered from his myriad of injuries to begin preseason drills. Grantham, who coaches the outside linebackers, will also be taking a close look at incoming freshman T.J. Stripling, Dexter Morant, Brandon Burrows and potentially Jalen Fields, assuming he is able to qualify.
How quickly might they contribute? Houston says is just depends.
"People learn at different stages. For me, when I first got here it took me the whole year to learn how to play linebacker," Houston said. "Rennie (Curran), on the other hand, learned it real quick. That summer, Rennie knew what he had to do. It really just depends."
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