On paper, Georgia's defensive interior is projected to be one of the Bulldogs' strengths this fall.
While position coach Rodney Garner is certainly hopeful, he's not sure whether or not his crew will be able to live up to the hype.
Oh, he's certainly got his fingers crossed.
The quartet of Geno Atkins, Jeff Owens, Kade Weston and DeAngelo Tyson would seem to have a chance to be as good as any quartet in the SEC. Garner is just concerned the level of greatness many are expecting will be difficult for his group to attain.
"It's really hard to gauge when you've got the ones going against the twos. Honestly, we're not that good; I'm not going to lie to you. We can't be that good," Garner said following practice late Tuesday night. "But I still think our twos might not be that bad, either. Probably somewhere in between lies the truth."
For example: Atkins, Owens, Weston and Tyson each rotated with the ones which dominated the No. 2 offense during Wednesday's scrimmage while Brandon Wheeling, along with freshmen Abry Jones, Derrick Lott and Kwame Geathers rotated with the twos which surrendered seven touchdowns. For Geathers, it was his first contact of the preseason after arriving in camp Friday.
"There were some good and some bad when you sit there and look at the film," Garner said. "But the thing about it that's encouraging. If the kids will continue to work hard, and continue to get better and stay healthy, we will continue to get better."
Atkins continues to be the rock that anchors Georgia's defensive front.
Garner called the Florida native the "strongest" player he has ever coached, and that includes former Bulldog greats Richard Seymour and Marcus Stroud, who continue to be mainstays in the NFL.
"Geno is the most powerful kid I've ever coached. Hands down. He's got power, pure power. Geno's a strong, strong man," Garner said. "I mean POWERFUL. He just has to do the little things from a technical standpoint to really become great, a really special kid."
Garner isn't forgetting about Owens, who appears to be 100 percent after tearing his ACL in last year's season-opener.
Along with Tyson and Weston - who battled some knee issues of his own after undergoing surgery on his meniscus prior to the season - Garner believes the potential is there.
"Last year there was a ton of focus on Geno and to be honest, he played pretty good," Garner said. "He and Weston both played really good, but we've still got a lot of room for improvement across the front. We need to improve our consistency across the front four."
Garner also had some interesting words to say about Wheeling and Jones.
A transfer from West Georgia, the 290-pound Wheeling has impressive Garner with his tenacity and toughness, while the 295-pound Jones is already showing the coach some signs of greatness to come.
"I'm excited about Wheeling. I like his toughness. I think he's a very quality, solid guy and I feel comfortable putting him in any kind of situation, whether it's goal line or whatever," Garner said. "He knows what to do, he knows our system inside and out, plus he brings a certain toughness to the team. He's a naturally tough kid and they don't make tough kids like that anymore. He brings that to the table."
Jones is apparently opening Garner's eyes as well.
In fact, Garner said that Jones is ahead of where Tyson was at this point last season, although he joked that may not be as impressive a statement as it sounds.
"I may have been ahead of where DeAngelo was last year," Garner smiled. "If Jeff hadn't of gone done I don't think we would have thrown him into the fire like we did, that's the thing. But I'm excited about Abry. I think he's going to be a really good player."
Apparently, Geathers some eyes as well, although they didn't belong to Garner.
"(Stacy) Searels was shocked, he didn't think he (Geathers) was as quick as he was," Garner said. "Of course he goes down real quick because he's still got to get in shape, but he does have some ability."
NOTES: Garner said Brandon Wood (shoulder, wrist) could probably be included on the 105 available to practice now, but trainers want to make sure he is 100 percent before throwing him into the fire. "I'd just like to see what he can do if he ever got healthy," Garner said.
Freshman Derrick Lott continues to rehab the elbow he hyperextended in practice last Friday.
Ricardo Crawford has a hamstring issue. Garner is unsure as to his return.
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