ATHENS - Christian LeMay and Watts Dantzler each arrived on campus three years ago with strong credentials, but haven't played much, and time is running out.
Four days into preseason camp, each is now making a move.
When preseason camp began, quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo told his players that there was no No. 3 quarterback. It would be an open competition to see who would be third behind Aaron Murray and Hutson Mason. And while it's still early, LeMay has leapfrogged walk-on Parker Welch for that third spot.
Here's how Bobo said the pecking order is "right now": Murray, Mason, LeMay, freshman Brice Ramsey, Welch. (Redshirt freshman Faton Bauta is battling shoulder problems again.)
The surprise there is Ramsey, who is almost certain to redshirt. But LeMay's move, though temporary, is a hopeful sign for a player who has struggled to establish himself. LeMay will be a redshirt sophomore this year.
"He's doing better," Bobo said. "The young guy (Ramsey) is doing a good job. I like the competition there. I've gotta watch the film right now, then I'll re-rank them when we go to the meetings. So I'm ranking them every day, telling them who's third, and who's gonna get the majority of the reps."
LeMay, Ramsey and Welch are all getting an equal amount of reps right now. Their performance over the first five days will determine the amount of reps each gets going forward.
Dantzler, a junior, was working at right guard with the first-team offense for a portion of Sunday's practice. Afterwards, Bobo singled him out when asked if anyone had impressed him thus far.
"Watts Dantzler has had a good camp," Bobo said. "A guy that we've been wanting to come along for awhile now. He's worked really hard, and gotten himself in good condition. We see a guy that's battling. I think he sees the light, and he's competing a little bit. Which is good. He's a guy that's actually done a nice job."
O-line has more options
It's too early for offensive line coach Will Friend to make any firm personnel decisions.
"We've got a bunch of guys, it's just nobody is separating themselves," Friend said. "You need some people to separate, because you don't want a handful of the same (guys). Hey come on, somebody take over and be the guys. That's what we're trying to get out of them."
Friend said he expects that as camp goes on and fatigue sets in, there will be some separation. He's interested to see what happens with some younger players, including redshirt freshman Greg Pyke and freshman Brandon Kublanow, who are interior linemen.
"A lot of the young guys are showing they're right on the bubble," Friend said. "But can they take that another step."
When the season arrives, Friend would like to play more than whoever emerges as the top five. He pointed out he did that last year with Mark Beard at left tackle, leading to a basic rotation of six guys.
"I like playing (more) people, but at the same time it's too (important) to play to dag-gum play people who aren't ready," Friend said, laughing. "So they've gotta be ready."
Kolton Houston working in
Kolton Houston got some work at tackle on Sunday, though he still has mainly been at guard. Bobo thought Houston had a really good third day of practice.
"He's been here awhile, but hasn't taken a lot of reps," Bobo said. "It's one thing hearing it in a meeting room and then going out and executing on the field. So there's a learning process for him. You take a guy that basically thought football was over ... you shut it down kinda mentally. And then bang, a year later you're back playing. So it's an adjustment for him."
Toby Johnson is "kicking butt"
Defensive line coach Chris Wilson is telling his unit that he will be play his "seven-to-eight best people" this season. There are 10 defensive linemen in that group, and one that apparently is in good shape to be in that rotation is Toby Johnson. The junior college transfer coming off knee surgery is being brought along slowly, but in the process has been impressive.
"Toby Johnson's kicking butt right now," Wilson said. "But we're being smart with his reps, and he's learning our process on how we do things, how we work. And that's the main thing for a young guy. As much as you wanna say he's a junior college guy, that's only a step up from high school. A little step up. So he's still got a lot to learn."
Healthy isn't an issue for Johnson. He hasn't missed any practice reps, per Wilson, so that's ""not a concern."
John Atkins and Chris Mayes have made some strides, according to Wilson. Those two are presumed to be the top nose tackles behind Mike Thornton. As for John Taylor, he is just one of the players battling it out to play, according to Wilson.
"A lot of people think talent equates into production, and obviously we want that. But right now John is still learning," Wilson said. "He's a redshirt freshman, he's competing against talented guys. The thing that John, if he will continue to just buy in, just buy in and be all in on what we want to do, he can be as good as he wants to be."