Junior Defensive Tackle Jeremy Garrett had what he calls an "average" season in 2005.
Good, but not great. OK, but not an attention-grabber. Solid, but not spectacular.
And if you knew J.G., you'd know his personality doesn't allow him to settle for "alright."
"I had an average year. I could have let it get me down, but I was a sophomore who had a lot to learn," Garrett states. "Knowing that I had work to do, and being confident I could get it done, it motivated me to reach higher."
Garrett started out last year as the number one DT in front of senior McKinley Boykin. McKinley was rehabbing from spring knee surgery and took some time to get in his groove. In the meantime, J.G. was the guy and he performed, like he said, "OK."
When McKinley regained his health and old form, Jeremy was relegated to being Boykin's backup. That wasn't a bad thing, according to Jeremy.
"Starting a couple of games and playing extensively more clearly defined what I had to do to be the kind of player I want to be," he explained. "Even though my competitive nature didn't like being on the bench, I was still getting some playing time and deep down I knew McKinley deserved to be the starter."
He analyzed what he needed to do regain starting status in 2006 and went about doing it.
"I realized I had to get stronger and bigger to be able to hold up to the constant pounding from 320-pound offensive linemen," he assessed. "I was getting by on my quickness, but sooner or later, the lack of size and strength was taking its toll."
Jeremy has always been known for his work ethic, so it came as no surprise during the offseason he accomplished his goals.
"I played at 270 last year. That was too light for that position," he explained. "I gained 15 pounds and feel it was good weight. I'm a lot sturdier in the trenches at 285 pounds."
But weight gain was only half the deal. Strength was just as important. Mark that goal off his list as well.
"In the offseason, I was one of three players to make the 3-4-5 Club. That's a minimum of a 300 power clean, 400 bench press and 500 squat (the "Big Three" lifts)," he said proudly. "Those weights are sort of the bench mark of being real good in each of those lifts. I am very proud of that mark. Last year, we didn't have anyone make that, but this year we had three and I was one of them."
Jeremy was careful in his quest for more strength and bulk not to mess with his best asset - movement.
"I can't forget what got me to this point, and that was being pretty quick off the ball. I worked hard to get bigger and stronger, but at the same time keep my movement, which I feel I did," he stated.
His spring goal is simple - prove to his coaches that he is an "every down" guy.
"I believe in my heart that I am a guy who can play 50-60 snaps a game and not see any dropoff in my play, but I have to prove it in spring and in August. The reason I believe that is because I have experience now and know what it takes and because I worked to fix what was holdin me back from that status," Garrett said. "My next step is to be more of a student of our defensive system. I want to be able to instantly react when we make a certain call. That will allow me to attack more and make more plays."
Jeremy believes the defensive line will be better in 2006 than it was in 2005 even though all four starters graduated.
"One, I believe our depth will be better. Two, I think we all know the defense a lot better and aren't hesitating as much. Three, I think our focus and intensity in everything we do is much better," J.G. explained. "Four, I think we will be as physically good as the four guys last year.
"Everyone has really dedicated themselves in the offseason. We see more opportunity to play with the seniors gone and it has motivated all of us. Brandon Jenkins, Peria Jerry, Chris Bowers, Viciente DeLoach and several more are different players than we were last year - much different."
In essence, the whole DL has the same goal as Jeremy.
"We don't want to stay the same as we were. We all want to get better and to carry the torch for the defense," he closed. "It's exciting and competitive and healthy for all of us."
J.G. striving to be every-down DT
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