Ray Drew hopes his chance is near

semerson@macon.comDecember 29, 2012 

ORLANDO - Ray Drew's career at Georgia is one game from being halfway over. And it's still unknown whether he will become the star many projected him to be, or whether it's time to adjust expectations.

The man known as Reverend Ray - he was an ordained minister as a teenager - was a Parade All-American and consensus five-star recruit in 2011. But after two seasons he has yet to start a game, and he's not one of the first names that comes up for key players on next year's defense.

So does Drew, a defensive end, still expect to live up to those once-lofty expectations? He answers the way you'd expect a reverend to answer.

"I expect to do whatever the Lord allows me to do," Drew said, with a smile and a laugh. "I like to set goals for myself. I like to set high goals. I like to set goals that I don't think I can reach, because it gives me a challenge. So whether I reach them or not, it's up to the man upstairs. But I'm gonna do everything in my power to make the Bulldog Nation proud. That's my biggest goal. Is to make the nation proud."

To be fair, Drew's path to a starting spot has often been blocked: Drew walked into a veteran-laden defense, and it's in 2013 that more opportunities should open up.

"Next year is going to be a big year," Drew acknowledged. "We're going to lose quite a few guys. And they're gonna need me to step up this game, like the past few games."

There could be opportunity in Tuesday's Capital One Bowl, with John Jenkins being out with academic issues. Jenkins had been splitting time between end and nose tackle, so now Kwame Geathers will be the main nose tackle. Garrison Smith and Cornelius Washington will likely start at end, and Abry Jones, back from ankle surgery, will get some time too. But Drew has been mentioned as a player who could see more time, along with redshirt freshman Sterling Bailey and sophomore Mike Thornton.

Georgia head coach Mark Richt had a blunt response when asked if Drew had a chance to be a big factor in 2013.

"He needs to. It's time for him to step up and be a great player for us," Richt said. "He's in the same boat as those (defensive backs). All of them are. No one's got a job nailed down . There's some guys who will have played enough that they're gonna play, and we understand that. But even starting positions will be up for grabs in the offseason. But Ray needs to be a guy that is highly productive for us."

Drew has played in 12 games this year, seeing time as a reserve in some packages. He has 20 tackles, eight of them solo, and six quarterback pressures - but no sacks or tackles-for-loss. He saw the most playing time - and was the most productive - in the two-week stretch against triple-option teams, recording eight tackles against Georgia Tech and four against Georgia Southern.

"Other than that, I'm just keeping on, trying to impress the coaches, show them that I know what I'm supposed to be doing, let them know that they can trust me, that I'm gonna do what I need to do," Drew said.

These two years have been an adjustment for Drew, who was the star defensive player at Thomas County Central High School, and greeted at Georgia as a star-in-waiting.

"For anyone, coming out of high school, you're 'the guy,' everyone's talking about you," Drew said. "Then to come in and sit behind some of the guys ahead of you, like Cornelius and Abry, guys like that, it was tough. But then also, whenever I came in, I had a mindset that I'm going to do my best so I can get the opportunity to play. But I was also understanding of the fact that I was just a freshman, and that I had to learn all this stuff, and that my time was going to come.

"I know I would've felt like if I was a senior in high school and a freshman or a sophomore and they got the starting position over me. You gotta look at it from both sides of the fence."

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