April 9, 2012

On the job training

Georgia's Cornelius Washington isn't a player willing to sugarcoat responses to reporters by offering up spoonfuls of hyperbole.

Not at all.

For example, if you ask the senior how his time spent at defensive end has been going this spring, the answer you get may come as a surprise.

"It's rough, I'm not going to lie with you - it's rough," Washington said. "There's a LOT of banging going on - a lot of banging; it's constant all the time - but you've got to get used to it."

Considering that the 269-pound Washington is moving inside after playing on the edge his first three seasons at UGA, it's easy to see why he feels this way.

But according to head coach Mark Richt, Washington is not really faring as badly as all that.

"He's getting there. He's a senior and he wants to be perfect; he wants to be a great leader. So, if he feels he's not dominating as a senior he probably feels like he's not getting it done," Richt said. "But actually, he going well, he's working hard, trying to lead and focus as well."

Washington must be doing something right.

The former Burke County standout said last week he was running with the first team at left defensive end, opposite right end Abry Jones and nose guard John Jenkins.

"We've been taking the first reps, and after that we rotate however Coach G (Rodney Garner) wants us to rotate," he said. "It seems to be working out well right now; but we'll see."

Of course, Washington has plenty of competition.

Ray Drew and Garrison Smith are currently part of the rotation at end, which will welcome freshman John Atkins and Jonathan Taylor this spring. Mike Thornton could also get some future looks, although he's predominantly still backing up Jenkins and Kwame Geathers at nose.

For Washington, along with the constant contact, his biggest challenge has been dealing with the different reads an end has to make on a play-in and play-out basis.

"I'm always covered up and me trying to figure out where the blocks are going to come from - that's not always easy for linemen," he said. "Figuring that out has been the hardest part about it."

Some day, he says, are better than others.

"It's on and off. I have days where I do pretty well at it and then I have days where I don't," Washington said. "I'm just trying to be honest. Things aren't just going to come easy for me as you might think. I work hard; I have to work hard just like everybody else. I just go out and do the best I can."

One thing Washington doesn't believe he'll have to do is get bigger.

Although he's going against offensive lineman, often times 30 pounds heavier than he, Washington said "It's not something where I'll have to be 300 pounds."

Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham broached the subject of defensive end with him prior to spring practice getting underway.

"He said it's time for you to try new things, we're kind of getting slack in a few areas so we need a guy to step up in different places," Washington said. "With me being a leader, it's up to me to show guys you're willing to do what you can. But it's different, things take getting used to and it's a transition."

Ultimately, Washington believes it will be a move that makes sense - not just for the Bulldogs this fall, but as far as his NFL future goes, too.

"I hope that's the case, and it does give me a lot of options," he said. "I'll be able to show on film that I've been able to play almost every position across the line - I'd have played them all, so I think it will only add up the points and add stock to my name. I don't think it will be a detriment at all, once I get used to it and get everything honed up."