Jean-Gilles: We can protect better

ATHENS – One leader returning to the offensive line in 2005 is not satisfied with last season's protection of quarterback David Greene.

Max Jean-Gilles thinks the Georgia Bulldogs can do a better job of protecting for D.J. Shockley and the other signal callers in Athens even though his crew of linemen cut the amount of sacks they allowed last year by more than half.

"Even though we cut the sacks in half, it was our goal to have them in the low teens," said Jean-Gilles. The Bulldogs allowed 21 sacks in 2004, but in 2005 the Bulldogs return all five starters and have two former starters, Josh Brock and Bartley Miller, returning after sitting last season out with injuries.

"There should be no excuse this year. We have the players and know what to do: we just have to do what our coach tells us," said Jean-Gilles. But there was a time shortly after the Bulldogs' win over Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl when many thought Jean-Gilles would not return for his final year of eligibility. It is almost certain Jean-Gilles would have taken off for the NFL had two factors not held him up.

"I need to work on my weight and my technique. I just need to lose a couple more pounds – the coaches and I both think that. I just have to eat the right things in small proportions. It's kind of hard, but you have to suck it up," he said.

Jean-Gilles may have been disappointed to get information from the NFL telling him he would have to lose weight in order to be a highly picked offensive lineman in the NFL Draft. It was something, he conceded, that was hard to take, but looking back he thinks that staying at Georgia for his final season of eligibility was the best thing he could do.

"I put the decision to come back in God's hands. I think coming back was the best decision of my life," said the Miami native.

A son of Haitian immigrants, Jean-Gilles said his family was not familiar with American football. "My parents didn't know what football was. Back in the islands football was soccer," he said smiling. But it didn't take long for both of his parents to pick up on the sport with the pigskin.

"My parents watched a lot of Dolphins' games and picked up football from that. Now my parents understand it," he said.

Growing up in Miami seems to have had a great effect on the massive guard. He has no problem telling anyone that athletes, particularly football players, are better if they come from the Sunshine state.

"We need more players from Florida (at Georgia). I think it's the best state – we should recruit more from Miami, but it's hard to take players from Miami. Florida has the best athletes – that's the way I feel about it. The guys around here say stuff – "Georgia this, Georgia that", but Florida has the speed," he said.

With a crop of five new recruits on the way, the Bulldogs now have a host of Floridians to help them win. But Jean-Gilles knows that in order for the Bulldogs to continue their winning ways, they must continue to "get better."

"We still have room for improvement as an offense – we have some polishing to do," he said following the G-Day game.

"In the summer everyone will report at the same time and start working out together and work ourselves to the limit. Everyone will believe that we have a team that can compete for the national championship. You have to come in and look at film and do the drill work as a team: pass skeleton, offensive line, working on drills, footwork – everything," he said.

From struggling in the heat his freshman season to leading his teammates in the humid Georgia sun this August, Jean-Gilles will be a major factor in the Georgia Bulldog's 2005 season.

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