When it comes to redshirt sophomore Kwame Geathers, defensive line coach Rodney Garner wants to make one thing very clear - he hasn't arrived yet.
But Bulldog fans should not necessarily be alarmed.
Garner is never one to heap what he considers undo praise on his defensive linemen, particularly young ones he feels still has some work to do.
Still, while Garner isn't ready to proclaim Geathers as the "next big thing," he did say the Georgetown, S.C. native has been able to pick right up from his work in the spring when he was named the Bulldogs' Defensive MVP.
"Kwame is continuing to improve and continuing to work on things," Garner said. "What you see out of Kwame now is a sign of maturity, where you can say hey, these are some things you need to do and he'll come out and at least be conscientious to work on those things in practice."
Currently, nose guard is Geathers' lone area of concern.
Although head coach Mark Richt and defensive coordinator Todd Grantham have suggested Geathers and junior college transfer Johnathan Jenkins could potentially line up together when the Bulldogs go nickel, he won't be making any change.
"I'm just a nose, both in the base and in the nickel," explained Geathers. "We haven't talked about me playing any end at all."
But as Garner explains, he still wants to see Geathers improve his understanding of the defense's overall scheme so he can become the type of consistent inside force the Bulldogs need.
Garner has his fingers crossed.
"I think he's getting there. I think he's getting a better understanding, a better feel, learning how to play, what it's going to take to be a dominant force, all those different things and try to translate it into different areas of his game," Garner said. "The biggest challenge for him in this fall camp is to sit here and say 'Hey, you've got to get where you can play in a sub-package. If you're just a base guy, 65 percent of the time, he'll sit on the sideline because 65 percent of our snaps are in the nickel. If you're just playing 35 percent of the time, that's not a whole lot."
Physically, Geathers appears to be holding up his end of the deal.
Even at 350 pounds, the 6-foot-6 Geathers carries his weight very well.
"I've been working very hard with Coach T (strength and conditioning coach Joe Tereshinski)," Geathers said. "I'm in the best shape I've been."
It didn't start that way.
Geathers smiled and rolled his eyes when he thought back to mid-August of 2009 when he was finally able to report to Athens after finally being cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse.
He admits he wasn't a pretty sight.
"Man, it was totally different. The first day I was like here, whoa - this was going to be tough," said Geathers who said he was 365 pounds when he finally arrived. "I came into camp late so I was all behind the 8 -ball."
It's that experience that allows him to commiserate with Jenkins, who had to leave Thursday's first practice due to the heat although he's been able push through the past four workouts with no problem.
"I remember my first day and I had some heat problems, too," Geathers said. "I can't blame him for that, he's just got to get used to it, plus I'm sure it's a different tempo than he is used to."
Like Geathers, Bullldog coaches are depending on the 350-pound Jenkins help fill the void in the middle of the defensive line.
In fact, when Jenkins signed with Georgia in February, many assumed he would step right into the starting role at nose.
Apparently, Geathers wasn't ready to concede anything.
"Competition is always going to push any athlete, so to me, it wasn't a big deal. I was happy he was going to be part of our team," Geathers said. "The first thing we said to each other was let's push each other and let's make each other better. Just go out every day and get better."
That's just what Garner wants to hear.
"I tell the guys, if they'll just go out every day to try to improve and get better," he said. "If they do that, we'll have a chance."
Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]