August 9, 2010

Smith, Thornton looking to carve niche

Garrison Smith and Mike Thornton can feel each other's pain.

As true freshmen trying to find their niche in Georgia's defensive line, both players admit the first week of preseason drills were just as tough, if not tougher than they were warned it would be. Position coach Rodney Garner apparently has made sure of that.

"It's real tough. But it was expected, he just wants us to do our best," Smith said. "He wants us to be to the best of our abilities. It's real tough, but he's a good coach."

Thornton said Garner has already given him some tips to help with his game.

"He's already taught me a different way of coming off the ball and its working great," Thornton said. "Everything he tells me I know is going to make me a better player in the long run."

Although they hold the distinction of being two of Georgia's more heralded signees, it remains unclear as to how much playing time they will actually receive.

But they're practicing with the idea that they will.

Last week, defensive coordinator Todd Grantham suggested that he plans on rotating his defensive line essentially the entire game, hinting that both freshmen could be a part of the plan.

But time will tell.

"As you might imagine it's been a little bit of a whirlwind for them," Garner said last week. "But they're giving good effort. Both guys are working hard."

Smith is currently working at right defensive end behind Demarcus Dobbs and Kiante Tripp, while Thornton is practicing strictly at nose, along with DeAngelo Tyson, Kwame Geathers and Justin Anderson.

"The first week is real challenging and I expected that. Georgia has a great reputation and that didn't come due to lackadaisical work or anything. I was expecting it to be real hard and it is real hard," Smith said. "But guys like Dobbs and Abry (Jones), they took me under their wing and have been treating me like their little brother. I'm just trying to learn as much as I can in a short period of time."

Thornton said being able to focus on just one position has helped him adjust more quickly to the speed of the game.

"It's really been an advantage," he said. "Nose was what I was brought here to play, so I've been able to learn every key and everything else I need to know about the position."

Both players said the training they received during summer workouts have helped with their development thus far.

Smith hates to see where he'd be if not for the extra time.

"Our strength coaches were great. They pushed us the whole time and made sure we came into camp in the best shape, because camp was going to be a challenge," Smith said. "They really put us through the rigors, but they've helped us meet some of the challenges we've faced so far."

Physically, both players appear to be in outstanding shape.

Smith said he's up to 280 pounds, 30 more than the 250 he's listed at in Georgia's media guide, while Thornton comes in at 285.

"We encourage each other, because you can have some hard days," Smith said. "Some days you might get down but you have to be there for each other. You're brothers, and you've got to stick together like family. That's the only way you're going to make it."



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