Said Coach Mark Richt of Jean-Gilles on the board drill: "I think he'd maul just about anybody on the team. (Jonathan) Sullivan might give him a little run, and maybe (David) Pollack.''
Of course, technique is required when it is 11 on 11 on a full-sized field, and mastering the footwork and assignments make it difficult for any freshman to play a significant role on the offensive line. This season, Georgia has no choice but to play first-year offensive linemen. Jean-Giles, fellow tackle Daniel Inman, center Randall Swoopes and guards Josh Brock and Bartley Miller all may have to play. At least two or three are expected to play. The only exception among the freshman offensive linemen is Antonio Mercier, who will be redshirted as he adjusts to medication for diabetes.
The prospect of playing true freshmen - some as top backups who at any time might have to fill in as starters - makes Richt and offensive line coach Neil Callaway nervous. "Our first group if they're healthy, we're OK,'' Callaway said. "Who's going to go after that, I'm not sure. I have some ideas, but that might change in a day or two.'' Jean-Gilles, Inman and redshirt freshman Dennis Roland are the top candidates to play behind projected starting tackles Kareem Marshall and Jon Stinchcomb. Marshall has been out for a week with a sprained neck, so guard Chris Hewitt has spent some practice time at tackle.
Callaway hopes Marshall, Stinchcomb, guards Kevin Breedlove and Alex Jackson and center Ian Knight - all seniors - will be ready to start in the Aug. 31 season opener against Clemson. When Callaway looks to 2003, after his projected five starting seniors and injured senior George Foster have all completed their eligibility, the coach knows he will need to rely on this year's freshmen. So Jean-Gilles, for one, must learn to be more than just a mauler.
"You've got to pass protect,'' Richt said. "When (an offensive lineman) is stepping back (on a passing play) it's not an extremely physical play. Being able to kick back and slide back to get into position to block, he's got a long way to go there.''
The encouraging sign is that even at 360 pounds - probably at least 20 pounds overweight - Jean-Gilles still is quick and agile enough to handle the job. He just has to learn the job. Added Richt: "It's technique. It's not an agility problem. It's the learning of a technique.''
One of the highlights of Richt's 2002 recruiting class was having Jean-Gilles - who most assumed would sign with his hometown Miami - pick the Bulldogs. One reason Jean-Gilles chose Georgia was the opportunity to play this year. "I'm trying to compete,'' he said. "I came up here to play early.'' Fighting conditioning problems and struggling with bulky new knee braces - mandatory practice gear for Georgia linemen - Jean-Gilles struggled through the opening days of practice. He also had to recover from a sprained knee that kept him out for two days.
"I think he has improved a lot with his conditioning and he has improved with assignments and fundamentals since he has been here, but he still has a lot to learn,'' Callaway said.
Jean-Gilles hopes he has cleared a mental block that hits many freshmen as they try to learn the playbook. "At first I was frustrated because of everything being thrown at me, but you have to believe in yourself that you will learn it,'' he said. "When I first started, I didn't know anything. Now I pretty much know about 75 percent.'' With his size and strength, knowing 75 percent of the plays may be enough to get Jean-Gilles on the field.
Name: Max Jean-Gilles
Size: 6-5, 360
High School: North Miami Beach
High School Honors: Fox Sports Net Countdown to Signing Day All-South first team; Superprep All-American and nation's No. 1 offensive lineman; PrepStar Top 125 Dream team; two-time team MVP; 197 pancake - knock-down - blocks in career.
NOTES: After spending Tuesday in full pads, Georgia worked in helmets and shoulder pads for two hours Wednesday. After the practice, Richt said he was worried about the offensive pace Clemson will set. "I know they like to run the no-huddle and we may try that a little, too,'' Richt said. "It will be a fast-paced game. I see improvement but I feel like about 60 percent of the team was going at the pace we need to be going.'' ... Linebacker Boss Bailey has been working with his right hand heavily wrapped after he cut the hand on another player's helmet in practice.
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