For Derrick Lott and Kwame Geathers, their opportunity to shine is upon them.
Thanks to the graduation of Geno Atkins, Jeff Owens and Kade Weston, defensive line coach Rodney Garner is looking for more than a few good men, not only to fill out the interior in Georgia's new 3-4, but players who will be ready to contribute this fall.
Lott and Geathers are giving it their best shot.
Their respective stories are similar in several respects:
As redshirt freshmen, neither player has yet to see the field as Lott suffered severe ankle injury during the third week of preseason drills, underwent surgery and missed the entire year. Meanwhile, Geathers arrived late to camp due to the NCAA Clearinghouse and spent much of the season getting his weight down to its current level of 310 pounds.
Now healthy and in shape, both players are ready to take advantage of the opportunities they are about to receive.
"It's just great to be out there," Geathers said after Saturday's full-pad practice at Sanford Stadium. Last year was all about getting in shape. Now, I feel I can go out and compete."
And compete he has.
Unlike the rest of Georgia's defensive line, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is asking Geathers to focus primarily on playing nose.
So far, so good:
"I'm not quite sure what the decision was behind that; maybe they do just want me to concentrate on one thing," Geathers said. "But I know I've still got to learn the others (positions) though because that's going to make me a better player."
Lott is just happy to be back on the field.
Saturday was the first time the 6-foot-4, 295-pounder had strapped on the full pads since before his ankle injury last August.
"That was tough," Lott said. "But I've come back a lot stronger in my upper body. My lower body still needs some work, so that's a big challenge. But so far, I'm up to that challenge and everything is going good."
Lott didn't come through Saturday's workout completely unscathed.
The former North Cobb standout was limping noticeably when he spoke to UGASports, but Cobb just attributed the ailment to being back out on the field for the first time.
"I'm not 100 percent yet, but I am stronger than I was, plus I'm learning faster than I did at the beginning," he said.
Geathers said he's becoming more comfortable with his new role and is learning that lining up over the center is not quite as difficult as he originally thought it would be.
"You've just got to have good explosion coming off the ball," Geathers said. "You've got to come quick."
You've also got to get low, something that the 6-6 Geathers has to constantly remind himself to do.
"You just tell yourself to stay low," Geathers said. "But if you think you're low, you've got to get even lower; that's how I look at it."
Geathers credits DeAngelo Tyson for helping him learn his new role.
At Statesboro High, Tyson's old team ran a 4-4 alignment, with the 295-pound junior playing the role of the nose in the Blue Devils' scheme.
"I'm learning off of DeAngelo every day," Geathers said. "He's able to tell me what I'm doing wrong and things like that. I'm able to pick things up from him every single day."
Lott is no novice when it comes to the 3-4.
His former North Cobb squad ran the same scheme, a fact Lott says has helped him work back into the practice flow.
"That does help, but I've still obviously got to work hard," Lott said. "Being hurt and missing all last year set me back, but I think having something new like this (defense) lets me come back with a fresh start. I think that's how a lot of us feel."
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