Dawgpost.com caught up with Georgia assistant coach Rodney Garner for a Q & A on the state of the Bulldogs Tuesday afternoon. The following is what he had to say.
What are your recruiting priorities for next year?
"Well you know it will be a heavy emphasis on offensive linemen and particularly offensive tackles. We think we'll have a great product to sell as well with the number of guys we'll be losing next year. If there's a top offensive lineman that feels like they want to have an opportunity to come into a campus and have an opportunity to play early, then they definitely have got to be attracted to the University of Georgia."
Can you talk a little bit about Blake Barnes and Joe Cox?
"Well Blake is really coming on, he's matured. Coach Van Halanger was just talking about him the other day in our staff meeting, and his leadership skills are starting to come along. We feel that he's going to be a good player for us. Also you know, Joe brings a tremendous amount of talent and understanding of the passing game because you know Independence has a very complicated passing game and he did a great job in that system so he definitely understands throwing and catching."
Will any of Georgia's coaches visit other programs this summer to share ideas and learn from them?
"Oh yeah. Were going to definitely be going to visit some other colleges and programs to exchange ideas and also were going to go to a few pro camps and spend some time with them. Watch them during their mini-camps and just try to gather as much knowledge as we can."
What types of things are in the works to take advantage of D.J. Shockley's unique athletic abilities?
"I'm sure Coach Richt and the offensive coaches are going to have a great plan to utilize D.J.'s talent and to put him in the best positions to win and for Georgia to win. Anytime you have a player of D.J.'s caliber it does put a tremendous amount of stress on the defensive team, because you know not only do you have to worry about him throwing the ball and beating you, you also have to worry about his legs and beating you with his feet too. So, you definitely have to make sure that you maintain contain and try to keep him in the pocket."
Will one of the back up quarterbacks see action behind Shockley this season in order to get them game experience headed into the following year?
"That's really a question for Coach Richt, but I know he's really excited about D.J. and how patient he's been while he's waited for this opportunity, but you know the best player is going to play. That's his philosophy."
With the large need for OL's in this class, will the offensive signees vastly outweigh their defensive counterparts?
"Really it's still going to be a balanced class. The emphasis will be placed on offensive linemen though. I mean, there's no question, no hiding that we really need to sign a talented offensive line class and especially at the tackle position. We need to sign 3 to 4 big time offensive tackles and you know for a high school kid it's got to be real exciting because with the academic standards we have at UGA, junior college is really not an option for us. We're going to have to get those numbers from high school players or if there a prep school guy out there or something then we'd have to look at that. So if there's a great offensive tackle that thinks they can come in and compete as a freshman, then UGA has got to be the place that you want to go."
Can you compare and contrast the defensive tackles in this class that you'll personally have the chance to coach next season?
"Well you know I'm excited. We've got Kade Weston coming in and Jeffery Owens. I think both of those guys bring a lot of talent, and a different style of play. Kade is more of your Marcus Stroud push, smash guy. Jeff is a little bit more of a Jonathan Sullivan athletic guy that has some explosiveness to him too. So you know, I'm really excited about having some young guys to work with because I haven't had that opportunity the last 2 years so I'm looking forward to that."
Can you talk about some of the young linebackers in the program and how they're doing so far?
"Well, you know were really excited about Dannell Ellerbe who's in our program. We think he's going to be an exceptional player. He really is. He has unbelievable ability and he can be as good as he wants to be. Were excited about Tony Taylor coming back from the knee injury and we thought Jarvis Jackson was coming on last year and really played well in the bowl game. We just need to see how he responds from the shoulder surgery he had in the offseason. You know Josh Johnson he's just a football player. He exemplifies the true mike linebacker mold. Were excited about that position and we feel like they can definitely be the strength of our defense."
Can you update us on the status of some of the guys who missed last year due to injury such as Kregg Lumpkin and Tony Taylor?
"Well Lump is doing really well. I saw him in the training room today going through his rehab. He'll be able to go through spring. Were not going to let him do contact, but he'll be doing everything else in spring practice. Tony is cleared. He'll be able to go and do everything so were excited and I know those guys are looking forward to getting back on the field too."
Is there a chance that we could see a few of these promising running backs in the backfield at the same time?
"I'm sure that Coach Richt, he has a great offensive mind so he's definitely going to do what we need to do to put our best players on the field, and I'm sure he's got a plan to utilize our talent to the fullest. I feel confident that he'll do that."
Which wide receivers do you feel have a chance to make an impact next year?
"Sean Bailey is probably the most field tested guy, but you know we've got Bryan McClendon who's played some good ball for us. You've got T.J. Gartrell, you've got A.J. Bryant, Kenneth Harris and Demiko Goodman from the freshmen that we signed last year. Were expecting them to develop and become really good players."
Can you comment a little on Brannan Southerland and the rest of the guys at the fullback position?
"Well Brannan you know, he's improved every day. He really went out and worked hard on the scout team this fall and really did a great job preparing the defense each week. Then you've got Des Williams as well, so we feel that we really have two good fullbacks that we can definitely win with."
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Q & A With Georgia Assistant Rodney Garner
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