Whether he earns a starting spot on the offensive line or not, Georgia's Watts Dantzler knows his sophomore season is about to be very different from a year ago.
Dantzler is battling touted freshman John Theus at right tackle, and both players are among the six best up front according to coach Mark Richt and line coach Will Friend. So Dantzler, a 6-foot-7, 313-pounder from Dalton High School, can expect to play a lot more than last season, when he got in three games the Bulldogs won by 144 points.
"It's a dream come true, and I'm thankful God has given me this opportunity," Dantzler said. "I'm really looking forward to getting this season rolling."
Friend would like seven rotating on the line but right now has Dantzler, Theus, right guard Chris Burnette, center David Andrews, left guard Dallas Lee and left tackle Kenarious Gates. Burnette, Lee and Gates are returning starters, with all three having played last year at guard.
Dantzler practiced some at guard late last season and was the first-team right guard Sunday because Burnette was sick.
"Watts needs to play both," Friend said. "He's smart enough to do that."
Kolton Houston was the starting right tackle coming out of spring practice but is ineligible according to the NCAA for testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance. Houston did not practice this weekend.
Richt said Dantzler has a more serious edge mentally this year, and he added that Theus may be providing some of the motivation. The 6-6, 309-pound Theus was a top-five tackle prospect nationally according to Rivals.com, Scout.com and ESPN.com.
"John and I have been good friends for three or four years now," Dantzler said. "He came in and worked his butt off this summer, and we're going back and forth battling."
Dantzler could be as many as 15 pounds lighter this season. He shed the weight this summer by attending every workout and by making oatmeal his breakfast of choice.
With more experience, more strength and improved quickness, Dantzler is eager to contribute to an area many view as the team's weak link.
"The O-line has done a good job," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "They're fighting. I see the fight, and if they continue to work, we'll be fine there."
Shiny, happy people
Running backs coach Bryan McClendon said freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall are ahead of schedule and that there is an improved mood in the meeting room. Bulldogs tailbacks have been plagued by off-the-field problems in recent seasons, with Washaun Ealey, Caleb King and Isaiah Crowell leaving the program with eligibility remaining.
"It's very positive," McClendon told reporters. "Everybody is working, and everybody is excited to be there. You're not having to spend a lot of time on negative things."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs practiced for two hours Sunday morning and will put on full pads for the first time this morning. ... Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham believes outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins will be "one of the most explosive freshmen in the nation." Jenkins is working behind junior All-American Jarvis Jones but is practicing elsewhere as well.