Justin Houston is Georgia's most experienced and effective defensive end right now, but he isn't bragging about it.
The Bulldogs began this spring without the services of ends Roderick Battle, Neland Ball and Cornelius Washington. Demarcus Dobbs got knocked out of spring last week with a fractured left foot, and Jeremy Longo suffered the same fate Monday with a shoulder setback.
"It's very strange," Houston said. "I never thought it would be like this, but I've got to step up and take care of business. This is a time to get better."
A 6-foot-3, 264-pound sophomore from Statesboro, Houston is Georgia's lone healthy defensive end on scholarship who played that position last season. The only other available end on scholarship is Kiante Tripp (6-6, 270), who competed last season on the offensive line.
Defensive coordinator Willie Martinez is not suffering from a lack of observation when he credits Houston with productive practices.
"Obviously, he's getting a lot of reps," Martinez said. "We're just basically crossing our fingers each and every day, because he has to keep improving and remain healthy. We can't wear out the guys who are practicing to where they end up getting tired or the amount of reps causes an injury.
"We've had to be smart about the way we've had to do practices, concentrating more on fundamentals and group work."
Houston appeared in all 13 games last season as a redshirt freshman, including one start in the loss to Alabama, and amassed 19 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He had three tackles in three different games, but his most visible showing came at LSU when he had a 17-yard sack, a quarterback hurry and a pass deflection.
Though he has seen healthy teammates dwindle considerably, Houston is not concerning himself with being next.
"I was always taught to never think like that, so I don't," he said. "They haven't shown it, but the coaches have got to be frustrated with all these injuries."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs worked out for 90 minutes Friday in preparation for this morning's second spring scrimmage at Sanford Stadium. ... Georgia head coach Mark Richt said he will employ eight- or 10-minute quarters during next Saturday's G-Day game, which will be televised by ESPN. ... Following Friday's practice, Richt again praised the accuracy starting quarterback Joe Cox has displayed the past few weeks.
University of Georgia photo
Georgia sophomore defensive end Justin Houston is hoping to build off last year's performance at LSU, and surviving spring practice would be a good start.