Roland grows into body

ATHENS — Dennis Roland has heard the comparison. Him and Bambi. An odd comparison, considering Bambi's a soft, cuddly cartoon deer and Roland's a 6-foot-9 football player.

"He looked like Bambi being born," Georgia head coach Mark Richt said with a chuckle. "You know, where the deer comes out and they can't hardly even walk and move. I remember the first day when ... we were putting (freshmen) through agility drills and his legs, they just froze up on him. He didn't go."

Dennis Roland can't argue much.

"Oh yeah," he admits with a smile. "It's probably pretty close, I'll have to agree with that.

"If you look at photos in high school, I was like 180 pounds my sophomore year."

On a 6-5 frame.

Now, though, Roland has put that long-legged gangliness behind him and is established as a starting tackle on Georgia's got-something-to-prove offensive line.

The Bulldog staff moved talented tackle Max Jean-Gilles to guard and is planning a three-man tackle rotation with Roland, Dennis Inman and Ken Shackleford.

That Roland is the one with a set position is fairly surprising, considering he only started two games last year.

"You look at Dennis Roland and the first day he showed up and where he is now, and it's night and day," said Richt. "Oh my gosh."

Roland weighed about 317 in the middle of the week, and hopes to play between 315 and 320 pounds this season. He said he ended last year at about 310.

"I haven't noticed a big difference between a couple pounds," he said. "As long as the footwork stays where it's at."

Inman may have a slight edge at the other tackle spot based on experience. He started the first 12 games last season before Roland picked up some momentum, convincing offensive line coach Neil Callaway to give him more time.

Roland was one of the seemingly few offensive linemen able to stay healthy enough through spring practice and summer workouts.

"I had a good summer of workouts," Roland said. "I feel the whole team really made great improvement in the weight room."

Said Callaway: "I thought coming out of the spring, he had really improved, and he was clearly one of our best five."

The major issue for Roland and Inman, who stands 6-7, was been leverage and footwork. Especially for Roland.

"I probably have come a long way," said Roland, son of former Middle Georgia College coach Dennis Roland. "Right now, I'm focusing on my feet, trying to keep them moving on my pass-blocking and run-blocking."

Roland, Inman and Shackleford give the Bulldogs a tackle trio that averages almost 6-6 and 315 pounds. Youngsters James Lee (6-5, 280, redshirt freshman) and Chester Adams (6-4, 317, true freshman) are battling for time behind Roland. Shackleford has made good strides for somebody who came to Georgia with little offensive line experience.

"I played defense in high school," notes Shackleford, who attended Villa Rica. "It was hard when I first got here; everybody had a heads up on me."

The entire offensive line has a much stronger comfort zone, having seen so much time together. That's huge in drastically reducing the 47 sacks of Georgia quarterbacks a year ago.

"But we've only been here five days, " said Callaway. "Starting (today) will tell more. Once we get a few days in pads, we'll get a better idea. But I think the work ethic and attitude have been good."

Callaway said he'll have a clearer idea of how his group looks after the first scrimmage, but even more so after the second. Still, the tackles already feel better.

"I was talking to my dad the other day," Inman said. "It's been like night and day just this week alone."

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