ATHENS -- The first two years might create an impression that John Theus doesn’t care enough, that he isn’t fiery enough. Five-star high school recruit, started his first college game, but only an average career so far.
That dominant, shut-down offensive tackle? He hasn’t emerged yet.
But Theus’ teammates on the Georgia football team don’t paint the picture of a player who doesn’t want it enough. It’s just the opposite, actually.
“His temper might have gotten the best of him at times his freshman year, but he’s gotten control of that,” senior center David Andrews said. “He’s a fiery guy, he’s a passionate guy, and that’s what you want. That’s what you want to play next to.”
Theus himself says it’s not a matter of desire. But it is mental, in a way that he hopes he has fixed.
As he put it, “Hopefully I can get back to some of my old ways.”
Theus was one of the nation’s top offensive line recruits, one of Georgia’s key members of the 2012 class. So it was no surprise when the Jacksonville, Florida, native started his freshman season opener. The only surprise is it was at right tackle, rather than the more celebrated left tackle job.
His first two seasons at Georgia were a mixed bag. Often, he showed his huge potential, helping to block for a record-setting offense. But there were low moments, too, notably the false starts in his second college game, at Missouri, and games where Theus and the line in general didn’t do enough to protect the quarterback. He was relegated to a bench role for five games last season.
“I know coming in as a freshman being thrown into the fire a little bit, having to go out there and start, it’s tough,” Theus said. “I kind of had the mentality from high school where I was an offensive lineman, you had to be a bad dude out there on the field. I kind of lost some of that coming into college. Because I mean you’re out there, and those guys are bigger, stronger, or just as fast. So they’re bad dudes out there, too. So it’s harder to have that edge out there, no doubt.”
That led to a mental adjustment this offseason. Theus, now a 6-foot-6, 313-pound junior remembers what it was like in high school to dominate. He’d like that feeling back and thinks part of it is simply feeling like he is that dominant force.
“Now that I’m coming into my third year, I have a lot more confidence. I feel better, I feel stronger,” Theus said. “So I think I told myself it’s time to grow up a little bit, kind of take on a bigger role, and I kind of tried to start that here this spring, with mat drills. So hopefully it paid off, and hopefully it can keep going and I can get back to some of my old ways.”
People around the Georgia program said they saw something different in him this offseason. It was evident before spring practice, during mat drills, when Theus was at a different level in terms of emotion and focus.
“I guess you’d have to say he might be a little more aggressive than he was last year,” said outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins, who goes against Theus in practice nearly every day.
It may have figured into the decision to give Theus the first shot at left tackle, after spending his first two seasons on the right side.
It’s still not certain whether Theus will start at the left or right spot. But barring an injury or something unforeseen, he will be starting. The question now is whether this is the year he becomes that lock-down offensive tackle that Georgia has lacked for awhile now.
“Just being a bully out there on the field, and trying to dominate people as part of the O-line way,” Theus said. “I haven’t done that the past two years. That’s definitely one of my goals here, to be able to do that this upcoming year.”