ATHENS — During his first two years at Georgia, Justin “Bean” Anderson made 12 starts as an offensive lineman. If the season started today, Anderson would make his 13th start — but his first as a defensive lineman.
Anderson, who converted to defense before spring practice, is in line to start at nose tackle, defensive line coach Rodney Garner said after Wednesday’s practice. DeAngelo Tyson, a starter last year at defensive tackle, would switch over to end.
But Garner cautioned that it was “a hypothetical. Tomorrow it could be different.”
Tyson seems assured of starting either at nose — a critical spot in Georgia’s new 3-4 alignment — or end, thanks to his pass-rush ability. Anderson, however, has been a surprise, vaulting past redshirt freshman Kwame Geathers on the depth chart.
“We are hoping (Anderson) he will continue to improve. He is not where we want him to be and where we need him to be,” Garner said. “I think Bean’s come along; he’s ahead of Geathers. But we need for Geathers to come along and keep working, too, because he has some ability.”
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said Anderson and Geathers have both stood out.
“Kwame and Bean have done a nice job, I noticed them in Saturday’s scrimmage, and that’s a good thing,” Grantham said. “The closer you are to the ball, the faster things happen, and as the nose, you’re right there. You have to react to the blocking schemes, and they’ve done well.”
And this is all possible because Tyson was able to pick up the nose tackle position relatively quickly, allowing him to take reps at end.
“DeAngelo, from a learning standpoint, that’s never been a shortcoming of his,” Garner said.
Grantham said he was “honing in” on some of the competitive starting spots. The emphasis in practice lately has been working players at different positions in order to build up depth.
“Defense is about making plays and being productive, and to do that you have to find ways to get your best players on the field if you can,” Grantham said. “To do that sometimes you’ve got to move them around and go through some growing pains for a couple days to get them used to that position.”
Bacarri Rambo had been working at both safety positions. Now Jakar Hamilton, who had been working more at free safety, and Nick Williams, who has been at strong safety, are doing the same.
“They become more valuable,” secondary coach Scott Lakatos said. “You have the luxury of putting the next best safety in the game ... as opposed to are you looking specifically for a strong safety or a free safety.”
Receiver Logan Gray was in a walking boot after spraining his ankle near the end of Tuesday’s practice. He is listed as day-to-day. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said Gray had his best day of practice before the injury.
“If he continues to improve and impress and get healthy, I believe he’ll be in the rotation,” Bobo said.