Pulling the Strings for Greater Good

ATHENS - Through all the guessing and gamesmanship and unknown that carried about during the 2011 recruiting process, Ray Drew was the unswerving ringleader behind the scenes.

ATHENS - Through all the guessing and gamesmanship and unknown that carried about during the 2011 recruiting process, Ray Drew was the unswerving ringleader behind the scenes.

The native of Thomasville visited schools all over the South – Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, LSU, Miami and more.

But deep down, and without letting the public in on the secret, Drew was all Georgia. And he let other potential members of the class know about it early and often.

"Coincidentally, we were in Miami together," said junior college transfer John Jenkins. "Ray Drew just had that personality, you know what I mean, to suck everybody in. I feel like I'm an outgoing people guy, so we just kind of hit it off. After he stated his business to me, I was in."

When the dust settled in early February, the 2011 class was considered by most to be the best top to bottom collection of talent in the Mark Richt Era. Drew was as highly touted as any in the group. Because of his outspoken ways with others throughout the process and his squeaky clean image, Drew was considered the leader, a spokesperson of sort.

"He was reaching out to everybody and then everybody else started reaching out," Jenkins said. "It was like, ‘Man, let's do this.'"

Ray Drew enthusiastically recruited other members of the ‘Dream Team.' (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

Now three games into the season, 15 members of the fabled ‘Dream Team' have already played this season.

Running back Isaiah Crowell leads the team in rushing. Wideout Malcolm Mitchell leads in catches and receiving yards.

Cornerback Damian Swann and inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera have each started a game. Playing time for nose tackle Jenkins has picked up steadily. Plenty of others have logged time on special teams and in backup roles.

The impact of the class thus far has been very real.

"I wouldn't say I'm prideful about it," Drew said. "I'm just grateful that we have the class that we do. I'm hopeful that we can continue to grow and become better as a class. Hopefully by the time we leave we'll be able to accomplish something here so that just in the eyes of everyone the ‘Dream Team' won't be a bust."

While other newcomers played early in the season opener against Boise State, Drew was waiting his turn.

The transition from playing defensive end in high school to outside linebacker in college took time to adjust to. Also, junior Cornelius Washington has done enough to remain the starter at the weakside spot both he and Drew practice at.

"From high school to college football is a big step," said outside linebacker Jarvis Jones. "It's really a step that you've got to be mentally ready for. It's a mental phase for most freshmen. You can be big, physical and all that, but it's more than just hitting a gap. There's a lot of stuff going on out there."

During the first two games of the year, Drew remained on the sideline.

"When I went in to high school, I didn't jump in and get the starting position," Drew said. "I didn't really have a mindset coming in that I was going to get the starting position. My goal was to play some, but as far as coming in and just being the guy, if it happened it happened. If not, I'm just waiting my time."

Drew did play some in the second half of the 59-0 win over Coastal Carolina last Saturday. He finished with two total tackles, but more importantly he showed defensive coordinator Todd Grantham a flash of what could be to come.

Ray Drew saw his first game action against Coastal Carolina. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

"Ray Drew showed up and he played fast," the second year coach said. "You know sometimes freshmen don't play fast their first game, but I thought he played fast. I saw him do things that excited me that he's going to be a very good play. We just have to keep working and developing him that way we can get him more snaps as we move forward. He's definitely a guy that you can see has a lot of talent and is going to be a good player."

As for Drew, the time on the field left him humbled.

"I just look at the total package as a big blessing," Drew said. "I've said it before, not everyone gets the opportunity to do what we get to do. We pay for it in blood, sweat and tears each day by going out and practicing, but you know, just the feeling of going out in front of 90,000 fans every week and playing in one of the best conferences in nation is a feeling like none other."

Learning the playbook has been the biggest challenge, Drew admits. That's not abnormal for a first-year guy and the coaches are working hard in practice to get him up to speed in both base and nickel packages. Everything else – the body, muscle, potential, etc – is working in Drew's favor.

"His strength is his strength," Washington said. "Ray is real strong. There's not going to be too many guys that are going to move him off the ball, that's for sure. He's a pretty good pass rusher. He has this little quick move that he does that I really like. He's going to be a good player. I feel like later on the down the line Ray is going to be one of the premier defensive players here at Georgia."

When asked about becoming the player most people think he eventually will progress to be, Drew simply shrugs. He reverts back to being the ringleader of the 2011 recruiting class. He speaks only of the interest of his group, his team.

"We knew coming in that there was a lot of expectations coming in, but we all got together as a class and said that we weren't going to let that bother us," he said. "Classes come and go every year. Next year 2012 will be the big class that everyone wants to talk about. The year after that in 2013 will be the class. We've basically had that mindset, you know, that things come and go. We just got to do what we can now in the time we're here to make the best of it."

Ray Drew projects to be "one of Georgia's premier defenders" in the future. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

Dawg Post Top Stories