The average observer doesn't think about the center-quarterback exchange as being that big a deal.
But Ole Miss Center Daverin Geralds, a converted defensive lineman, begs to differ.
Not only did he find it a hard skill to master after he was switched from defense to offense, at times he didn't think he'd ever get it right.
"I came to Ole Miss as an OL, then was switched to defense and now I'm back on the offensive side of the ball," said the junior from Baton Rouge. "It wasn't as hard to switch to defense when I got here as it was to switch back.
"It took me a while to adjust to playing offensive guard, but then when I moved to center, that was a lot tougher."
Last spring, Daverin had a lot on his mind. He was not only dealing with a new position, he was dealing with a new line coach, Mike Markuson, his third different position coach in as many years.
"We had some center exchange problems in spring, especially shotgun snaps. I had never done that before - not once - and it was very difficult," Geralds admitted. "It took me the whole spring just to get the snaps decent. The shotgun snaps were all over the place for a while."
Flash forward to fall camp.
Geralds has been ultra-reliable with not only the under center exchanges, but the shotgun snaps as well. It's not even an issue now.
"I have no worries at center. Daverin has progressed a lot since last spring. He's not a finished product, all players can always learn more and improve, but the center position is not an issue with me with him in there," said Markuson.
The transformation from shaky to dependable was accomplished the only way it could be - hard work.
"I went to every 7-on-7 session and grabbed a quarterback to snap to every chance I got in the summer. I haven't calculated how many snaps I did in the summer, but it had to be in the thousands," Geralds smiled. "I came out of spring as the number one center, but I knew in my heart that I wasn't ready. I wasn't going to let my team down in the fall by not being ready, so I went to work.
"I also have to credit Coach Markuson with the way he handled it all. He was very patient and brought me along slowly. He always encouraged me and told me I'd get there, to not get discouraged. I have to admit, I did get discouraged and thought it was almost impossible to get it right, but he hung with me and it's all working out now."
Beyond the snap, there are a lot more things for a center to "worry" about. Call it an OL who has to multi-task.
"You don't just snap the ball and that's it. You have to recognize defenses, make the line calls, snap the ball and then block in one motion. I was able to use my DL experience to help me recognize what the defensive linemen across from me are doing, but you still have to get the calls right," he said. "And pass-blocking sets and run-blocking steps are totally different. You have to be perfect too or you are not going to reach your blocks, as quick as college defensive linemen are."
Geralds said it also helped his cause that he was flanked by veterans - Darryl Harris, Maurice Miller and Reid Neely.
"They gave me a hard time for a while, joking with me, but now I'm one of them. I've earned their respect," he said. "They helped me from the start when I'd have a question and that helped make things easier as well."
Another factor that propelled Geralds to his current status as a "no-worry" player was a change in his body.
"I was 315 pounds in spring and I felt sluggish. It slowed me down, especially on reach blocks and in the different techniques you have to know and use. There were times when I knew what to do and could execute, but I was a quarter-step too slow. I have to fix that," Daverin said. "I knew I had to lose some weight and get quicker so I knocked off 15 pounds. Now, I feel quicker and lighter on my feet."
Daverin came into fall camp as a question mark, but now Markuson feels there are very few questions about Geralds getting it done at the center spot. It's rewarding to Daverin to hear that kind of praise from his mentor.
"Coach Markuson is a straight shooter and if he's pleased with me to this point, then that tells me something about the progress I've made," he closed. "Like I said, I don't want to let my team down. That would tear me up. If Coach Markuson is happy, I'm happy. I trust his judgment, but I'm not going to rest on that. I'm going to keep working."
Daverin Geralds -
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