ATHENS - It was a scene that almost was uncomfortable. But many had seen it before.
A freshman defensive lineman, whose ego may have been built up by the recruiting process, was having his butt handed to him in a line drill. And Rodney Garner, who once had been one of those men stroking John Taylor's ego, was now in his face.
"Get back in there!" Garner yelled at Taylor, the freshman defensive tackle. “I’ll coach your (bad word)! I don’t care who you are!”
Garner grabbed Taylor and put him back in position. The drill continued.
Ray Drew, now a sophomore, could only smile. Drew would later tell fellow defensive end Garrison Smith, a junior, that it reminded him of last year.
"Coach G is a great coach. On the field you might not be able to stand his guts, you might hate him. But on the field he's one of the few coaches I feel genuinely and honestly cares for the team. Not just as a player but as a person as well," Drew said.
Then Drew colorfully described the metamorphosis of his view on Garner.
"When I first got here I seriously thought that man was evil," Drew said. "I really did. I've told coach Garner, before when I first got here, I said: Coach I don't think I could play for you. I don't know if I'm mentally strong enough to play for you."
But gradually Drew decided that "he wasn't as evil as I thought he was."
This is the best way to sum it up: During the offseason, Garner is the team's recruiting coordinator, helping build players up. During the season, he is the team's defensive line coach, breaking them down ... before building them back up.
Garner said his treatment of Taylor - and all freshmen - is just part of the process.
"You ever watch the Six-Million Dollar Man? What'd they say? Well you must rebuild him," Garner said, quoting the 1970s show.
Garner's players probably don't catch the reference. But they catch the heat, and eventually catch on. You get loved up in recruiting, then ...
"Break him down," Garner said. "Then you must rebuild him. And you make him bigger, faster, stronger. Everything. But you've gotta tear it down to the foundation before building it back up."
Garner said practice is a better time to be harsh on them than in another game.
"Let him jump offsides in front of 93,000 people. That's brutal," he said. "You better learn how to take it. You bette rbe tough-skinned. If I can affect him, wow, we got a problem."
"You ask them, it's all about love. It's called thug love. It's hard-core love. But it's all love. It's 100 percent love. If you ask everyone it's love. But it's hard love."
Freshmen aren't available to the media until later this week. But Drew is confident that Taylor is fine.
"You're not gonna get any better if he continues to praise you," Drew said. "Afterwards he told everybody good job, good way to work. But throughout the time that you're there he's gonna tell you what you're doing wrong, so you can work on it."
Garner just smiled.
"He'll be all right," he said. "He'll be okay. I mean he'll be all right. He's tough. You gotta break them down."