UGA’s Andrews isn’t the tallest center, but he is learning the ropes

semerson@macon.comAugust 4, 2012 

ATHENS -- Everyone has stopped dancing around it. David Andrews is short. He knows that. His coaches know that.

“There’s nothing I can do about it,” said the presumed starting center for the Georgia football team. “It’s what God blessed me with. I can’t stretch myself to get any taller. I don’t get self-conscious.”

At this point, it bears noting that Andrews isn’t actually THAT short. Officially, he is listed at 6-foot-2 and 295 pounds; the height might be generous. Either way, that places him both taller and heavier than about 90 percent of the general population.

The problem is, Andrews plays football. When the Georgia offensive line is grouped together during drills, one can pick Andrews out fairly easier, because he is ...

“Shorter,” head coach Mark Richt said Friday, finishing a reporter’s sentence.

It’s not just his current teammates. Andrews, a sophomore, is replacing four-year starter Ben Jones, who was a couple inches taller and 20 pounds heavier, one-fifth of the largest offensive line in the country.

Now one of the prime jobs is set to go to someone who gets cracked on for his size.

“It used to (tick) me off. Coach Friend and Coach Bobo cracking jokes and stuff,” Andrews said, speaking of his position coach and offensive coordinator. “It’s just kind of fuels you to work harder and stuff. There’s been centers that play my height.”

One in particular is Andrews’ role model. Jeff Saturday, also listed at 6-2 and 295, has been an All-Pro four times and was Peyton Manning’s center for a long time in Indianapolis.

Saturday, who grew up in the Atlanta area, played collegiately at North Carolina. He was undrafted in 1998 but has had a long career, and he will serve as Aaron Rodgers’ center this season for Green Bay.

“He’s 6-2, 280 and he’s played double-digit years in the league,” Andrews said. “It can be done. It just does offer a little bit of a challenge here and there.”

The good news for Georgia is that its undersized Andrews is looking much better than last spring, when he was dominated at times by the Bulldogs’ big nose tackles, John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers. By his own admission, the spring started out “a little rough” for him.

It was a different story Saturday, when Andrews was paired against Jenkins in one-on-one line drills. This time Andrews held his own, continuing a trend of improvement that has solidified his hold on the job.

“I’m positive it’s him,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “He’s done a great job all summer of working hard. We go out there, and him and I are working on calls. He knows everything we’re doing, he knows the calls, and he’s only going to get better these next few weeks and into the season. So I have complete confidence in what he can do.”

Chris Burnette, the returning starter at right guard, echoed that confidence in Andrews.

“He hasn’t had any major mistakes since he’s been there,” Burnette said. “That’s huge, to have somebody that hasn’t really played in a game but hasn’t made any huge mistakes. So listen, the more experience he has, I have total confidence he’ll do the job.”

Andrews is also learning to use his lack of size to his advantage. That requires proper technique, using the right leverage and going at angles to beat defensive linemen. It was an adjustment for Andrews, who attended a small private high school (Wesleyan) where he was able to overpower opponents.

Now, he can’t rely on overpowering people. Especially not Jenkins (358 pounds) and Geathers (355 pounds).

“Everyone talks about size and stuff. I don’t want to go cliché, but it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog,” Andrews said. “I am outnumbered by 90, 60, 70 pounds. So it’s just all about relying on your technique, your knowledge of what to do, and the guys around you.”

Andrews has basically been groomed to take over the center job since last year. When he struggled in the spring, there was some doubt. But Andrews has turned it around, and he will have to lose the job on his own.

“It’s not that unusual or that bad for a guy that short to be your center,” Richt said. “And he’s very smart. That center must be able to make the calls. He must be able to get everybody moving in the right direction. And he has a big responsibility snapping the ball. And he does all those things pretty darn good.”

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