Two years ago, John Theus was a top-25 national prospect competing for a tackle spot on Georgia's offensive line.
Theus was able to accomplish that objective, starting 14 times at right tackle on a Bulldogs team that came within a whisker of playing for the national championship. He became just the third true freshman to start a season opener for the Bulldogs since freshmen became eligible in 1973, and he was named to multiple All-America freshman teams.
The 6-foot-6, 308-pound junior from Jacksonville is now in his third camp in Athens following an inconsistent sophomore season, and he's ready to become a more effective player.
"I have the confidence now in knowing what I'm supposed to do," Theus said by phone. "When I was a freshman, I was trying to learn everything. Now I've been in the system for two years, and I'm trying to perfect things. I have a lot more confidence now than I've had in years past."
That confidence has Theus striving toward something that many analysts and fans bestowed on him upon his arrival - becoming an all-conference selection. Georgia has not produced a first-team All-SEC lineman since Cordy Glenn in 2011.
"No doubt that's a personal goal, but it's really just about getting better every day," he said. "I've got coaches who talk about the little things, and that's what you've really got to work on if you want to be a better player. I'm going to try and be the best I can be every day, and hopefully it will pay off in the end."
Theus has been practicing at both tackle positions during the early stages of this year's camp, with seniors Kolton Houston and Mark Beard also vying for starting roles. Beard was the starting left tackle during April's G-Day game, while Houston has an opportunity to start at either right tackle or left guard.
Sophomores Brandon Kublanow and Greg Pyke are competing along with Houston for the starting guard spots sandwiching senior center David Andrews, who may have the best chance at league honors among the Bulldogs up front. Senior Watts Dantzler of Dalton is working at both guard and tackle, leaving fourth-year line coach Will Friend with more options in the trenches compared to his three previous years.
"No doubt we're deeper," Theus said. "Coach Friend likes to rotate and get fresh bodies in there, and I think we'll have a lot more guys contribute this year. It's just a matter of Coach Friend finding the right combination and the rotation he wants to use. I would definitely say we have more depth now compared to past years."
Depth and athleticism.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo is hardly downplaying Georgia's chances up front despite the departures of left tackle Kenarious Gates and guards Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee. Bobo believes this year's group could be more athletic in its efforts to improve on an offense that scored at least 23 points in every regular-season game and surpassed 400 yards 11 times.
"I know we have a heck of a leader in David Andrews, who keeps us on our toes," Theus said. "We're all pretty decent athletes for linemen. Greg Pyke has played lacrosse his whole life, and he can run pretty well. It should be exciting to see what we can do."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs held a two-hour practice Sunday in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts. ... Walk-on defensive back Aaron Davis, a starting cornerback at G-Day, has been practicing at safety.
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.