Could RS Freshmen be the Answer at DE?

ATHENS - Marcus Howard is not walking through that door. Charles Johnson is not walking through that door. David Pollack is not walking through that door.

Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez might not have come out and said the previous words publicly this season, but it was painfully obvious to Georgia fans that the talent level on the ends of the defensive line was not the same as in previous years.

And on the field production showed it.

Next year, though, may be better, and if it is it will be because of the production of players that have only seen action on the practice field this year.

Two in particular have been working hard away from the limelight – Cornelius Washington and Jeremy Longo – using their redshirt season to get ready to contribute in 2009.

And while most players don't especially enjoy the redshirt season, these two recognize its importance as the jump from high school to the SEC is quite a change.

"It's a whole lot different from high school. I was pretty much the biggest guy on the playing field in high school, and now I come here and everybody's either as big as I am or bigger. So it is a lot to get used to. Once you get used to it though you get in a routine and it's just like every day," Washington said.

Longo had similar thoughts.

"The redshirt season has been pretty good. I'm just trying to get acclimated to the system. I'm just trying to learn everything the best I can and get as big and strong as I can," he said, adding "it's a totally different ball game. The talent level is so much different. Just trying to come in and trying to compete with that type of offensive line, an SEC offensive line, it's just so different than competing against a top high school offensive line. They've been around here and have got that great experience."

One constant in the development of these players is their position coach, Jon Fabris, who has had ten defensive ends drafted in the NFL over the course of his career as a defensive ends coach.

"Coach Fab to say the least is intense. He keeps us pretty wired up. But I think that's the way he likes us to play. He likes for us to be wide open and going so we'll produce," Washington said.

Fabris was certainly part of the reason that Longo made the decision to come up from South Florida, eschewing nearby Miami.

"Everything from the coaching staff to the facilities, but mainly the coaching staff and the atmosphere," said Longo about his decision to attend Georgia. "I wanted to play in the SEC. And I got along with coach Fab real well and coach Richt. And I just wanted to play underneath them. It's great (playing under Fabris) because he brings his best to the table everyday. He's going to give you his best no matter what type of day it is, so I love it."

And while the redshirt season is focused on some technical aspects of the game, these players know that there's always time for more learning.

"My technique is always something I can improve on. I can always get my technique down and make is this much better or that much better. I can always get better at that," Washington said.

Washington also has some specific talents that may suit him well for next season. A track star in high school who ran on the relay team, he possesses a rare combination of speed and agility for a man of his size. But he knows that speed alone won't be enough.

"My track speed really does help a lot. But how many times are you going to run the 40 in a football game? But coming off the edge it is going to help a lot, but you've got to have more than speed. It takes more than just speed to get to the quarterback. You've got to have good technique and all that kind of stuff. So just listen to the coaches and try to learn as much as possible."

Longo also is aware that going from the practice field to between the hedges will require a lot of work in effort by him both individually as well as with the coaches.

"I'm looking to work on getting bigger and stronger and get my weight up some more. I've been getting after it the best I can."

Washington, who tore his labrum a few weeks ago, said that even an injury is not an excuse not to be learning something every day.

"In practice I was doing pretty well. Getting better. Taking the coaching. I'd like to say I was making some progress. Just listen to the coaches and do what I have to do and I was getting better."

The Bulldogs will need more production out of their defensive ends in 2009 to have a season better than their 2008 effort. And if they do, it is highly likely that much of the progress will be because of the development of these young defensive ends. As Washington said, they have been "getting better".


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