Georgia's Mike Thornton may be three-down nose tackle

Georgia's Mike Thornton may be three-down nose tackle

August 5th, 2014 by David Paschall in Sports - College

Georgia's Mike Thornton currently is holding down the starting spot at nose tackle, and the Bulldogs' new defensive coordinator says he could be a three-down player.

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

New Georgia defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt was discussing the nose tackle position last week with reporters and was asked if he preferred someone as big as Terrence Cody or a smaller body type who had more stamina.

"You would like to have a guy who could play all three downs, but there are very few out there," Pruitt said. "Last year, we were very fortunate to have a guy at Florida State [Tim Jernigan] who could play all three downs. When I was at Alabama, Terrence only played on first and second down.

"You want these guys who can create piles in the middle and can create double teams, but usually those guys aren't built to play on third down."

Pruitt then added that Bulldogs redshirt senior Mike Thornton might be a nose for all three downs.

"I didn't know he said that about me, but if he feels that way, then I feel that way, definitely," Thornton said by phone. "I'll do whatever I can to sacrifice for this team. I only have a few more months here in Athens, so whatever they ask me to do, I'm going to do it.

"I know that if you can get negative stops on first and second down, it makes it a lot easier to stay out there on third down."

Thornton has played in 31 career games for the Bulldogs but still awaits his first start. The 6-foot-1, 290-pounder from Stone Mountain is the first-team nose on Georgia's preseason depth chart, ahead of 6-4, 321-pound junior Chris Mayes, who made eight starts last season.

Jon Taylor also was expected to compete at nose but was dismissed from the program last month after an arrest on felony assault.

Thornton's best game to this point was last year's opener at Clemson, where he made three tackles and a sack. He is the shortest of Georgia's defensive linemen and is more than 50 pounds lighter than predecessors John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers, but Pruitt sees his dimensions as a positive.

"Mike is a very instinctive player," Pruitt said. "He's not very tall, so he plays with some leverage."

Thornton said every defensive lineman is cross-training at all three positions up front and believes the new staff will want to rotate more players. Ranked among the top 20 defensive tackles in the 2010 signing class by ESPN, Rivals.com and Scout.com, Thornton considers his career "great" because he will be graduating in December.

"At the end of the day, that's the biggest thing I can do -- walk away from this university with a great degree," Thornton said.

Not that there aren't some things to accomplish on the field between now and then.

"I want to be the best mentor for the younger guys that I can," he said. "I'm on my third defensive line coach and my second defensive coordinator. I've been though it all, so I feel like I have a story to tell them.

"I'm going to do everything I can to let them know I'm on their side and when the going gets tough to keep going."

Odds and ends

Georgia is up to 17 commitments for its 2015 class, getting a pledge from running back Chris Carson of Butler County Community College in Kansas and then on Monday a top-100 prospect in Pat Allen of Reisterstown, Md. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound Allen is Rivals.com's No. 11 offensive tackle and No. 95 prospect. The 6-1, 210-pound Carson is a three-star Rivals prospect and played at Parkview High in Lilburn, Ga.. ... Senior inside linebacker Ramik Wilson was not practicing in the portion on Monday's session that was open to the media. ... John Lilly, who oversees tight ends and some special-teams chores, told reporters after Monday's practice that Adam Erickson and Collin Barber continue to vie for the starting job at punter.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.