Dawgs' DEs deep... real deep

ATHENS – For the first time in his career, Rod Battle is feeling cramped.

Rod Battle's 2007 Highlights...

Georgia's junior defensive end meets along with the other players at his position in one of the smallest rooms in the Bulldogs' practice facility. Normally, even those tight quarters provide plenty of elbow room at a position that traditionally has only a handful of players, but that's not the case this season.

"This is the fullest our room has been since I've been here," Battle said.

Georgia has seven scholarship defensive ends participating in spring practice. That's a particularly high number this time of year, before most of the incoming freshmen have arrived to re-supply the ranks. (The Bulldogs will add three more defensive ends in the fall.)

Battle, the returning starter at one of the defensive end spots, is unwilling to handicap the race to replace Sugar Bowl MVP Marcus Howard, who led the SEC in sacks a year ago, on the other side.

"I don't know how it's going to shake out," Battle said. "I don't even know if my spot is my spot. I think we're all competing for playing time."

Head coach Mark Richt wouldn't mind playing all seven players if they prove themselves worthy, he said.

"Hopefully, one or two guys decide to really step up," Richt said. "If they all step up, we'll role them around and do it by committee. I don't mind that. I like it when a lot of guys play."

Senior Jeremy Lomax is penciled in to take Howard's spot, and he feels like the heir apparent, he said.

"That's the game plan," Lomax said. "I feel like Marc left some big shoes to fill, so I'm trying to go out there every day and fight hard and fill them along with everybody else. I'm getting down to the end. I'm going into my fifth year and really don't have anything to show for it."

Lomax earned the first crack at the spot with his emergence in the final half of the 2007 season ("I wasn't producing like I should have, so I felt like it was time for me to do something," he said.), but there are plenty of people waiting to move up if he falters.

The first in line is GMC transfer Jarius Wynn, a senior like Lomax with only one more season to leave his mark. Wynn is listed as Battle's top backup.

"I'm up there in the top (of the mix)," Wynn said. "I've just got to keep working."

Macon's Michael Lemon, a Stratford graduate, is the top backup listed behind Lomax, but the race is wide open based on what Richt saw in mat drills, he said.

"It does your heart good as a coach to watch the linemen work in mat drills," Richt said. "If what they have done in the mat drills translates into spring ball, we'll have some excellent competition at that position."

The depth charts at Georgia's two defensive end positions: Defensive end
Jr. Rod Battle 6-4, 261
Sr. Jarius Wynn 6-5, 273
So. Demarcus Dobbs 6-2, 266
Jr. Andrew Gully

Defensive end
Sr. Jeremy Lomax 6-4, 247
So. Michael Lemon 6-4, 274
Fr. Neland Ball 6-6, 232
Fr. Justin Houston 6-3, 240

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