ATHENS - There wasn't any grand announcement, but it is official now: John Theus will be the starting left tackle.
Theus, who played right tackle his first two years, was moved to the left side for spring practice, but coaches maintained that he could still end up back at right tackle, depending on how things shook out. Mark Beard, a senior, was getting reps at left tackle early in camp, but Theus said it's been his spot the last two weeks.
"I'm thankful and humble for the opportunity," Theus said. "I've been kind of expecting it for a little bit, but now that it's been announced to the outside world it's good to know."
It was welcome news to quarterback Hutson Mason, who said he was uneasy when Theus and Beard were rotating at left tackle early in camp. He didn’t mean that as a shot at Beard, just that a quarterback would prefer to have a set starter at left tackle.
“So now the final two weeks of Clemson (preparation) I know John is gonna be my left tackle,” Mason said. “Because conversations do happen. Like when we see something like: John, call this out, or say this, it helps me out back there, as a code word for what’s about to happen. And it’s kind of hard when you’re trying to worry about telling one guy that and telling another guy that. And two guys coming in at the game (at left tackle) and you’re like, Shoot does he remember everything we went over? So it allows you to kind of pour into one guy, so to speak.”
Theus entered the program with huge expectations two years ago, rated a five-star recruit out of Jacksonville, Fla. His first two years were a mixed bag, but teammates have said he looks like an improved player this offseason.
"John's becoming the player that everyone thought he was gonna be coming out of high school," senior right tackle Kolton Houston said. "It's really clicking for him right now."
Theus' reward? He gets to try to stop Vic Beasley, Clemson's senior defensive end and All-America candidate. Last year Theus didn't recall going against Beasley, who mostly lined up against then-left tackle Kenarious Gates.
"He's a great player. He's really shown that," Theus said of Beasley. "I've gotta approach this game like he's the toughest opponent I've ever had, because he probably is."
Brandon Kublanow has also won the starting spot at left guard, and Mason agreed that the feeling around this year's offensive line was much more settled than in years past.
“It always kind of seems like we’ve been rotating guys, over the course of my years. This year it seems like we have five guys that we all know are the five guys," Mason said. "So it gives you a lot of confidence that you know where guys are gonna be, and you know what their jobs are gonna be.”
Mason's social media isolation
Mason said he's lived up to his promise to cut himself off from social media, with the exception of Instagram. Otherwise, Mason said he doesn't want to hear fan reaction as he goes into his lone season as the starting quarterback at Georgia.
"You get death threats. They're gonna burn your house. They're gonna steal your scooter," Mason said. "If somebody was tweeting you that about your job ... you just can't listen to it. It bogs you down and if you listen to it too much you start to lose your confidence, and confidence is everything at the quarterback position."
Mason hasn't hid from the media: His Tuesday session was the fourth of the preseason, more than any other Georgia player. He said he understands that as the starting quarterback he understands he will get credit or blame for whatever happens.
"Nobody blames the left guard when you lose," Mason said.
(Asked if that meant he wanted Brandon Kublanow to get blame, Mason said: "Yeah, if he wants to step in the hot seat.")
On the linebackers ...
The Bulldogs are tight-lipped on the situation at inside linebacker. Senior Ramik Wilson, who was demoted on the depth chart, has not been made available the past few weeks despite repeated requests. So have Tim Kimbrough and Reggie Carter, the sophomores who are competing for his spot.
Amarlo Herrera, who has retained his spot and permission to speak to the media, was also giving out little info. He just smiled when asked what was going on at the other inside linebacker spot. But he did give a scouting report on Kimbrough and Carter, saying the two are very different.
"(Kimbrough) is a hard hitter. He's gonna play hard and give you all you've got," Herrera said. "Reggie is a different type of player. He's not a hard hitter like Tim, but he's gonna play hard. He can do a lot of different things."
In fact Carter practiced at the star position last year, according to Herrera.
"He's interchangeable," Herrera said. "You can put him anywhere on the field and he can play."
Revenge game? Nah
Something you don't hear much around the team this week is talk of avenging last year's loss at Clemson. Herrera called this year's game just another opener.
"I mean, what happened last year is last year. It's a different team. So i don't look at that," Herrera said. "I jsut try to look at the mistakes we made because those are plays they'll probably run again."
Rome on his foot
Tight end Jay Rome admitted early in the preseason that his surgically repaired toe was still limiting him at times. But on Tuesday Rome said that wasn't the case anymore, and he should be a full-go for Saturday.
"It's been holding up. And it's gonna hold up in game-type situations," said Rome, who had surgery late last season to repair a toe that had been bothering him. "It's been a long time (since I've played), and I feel like it's been even a longer time than that. Because even some of the games I played in last year I wasn't near 100 percent and I was just kind of playing, just trying to push through, and it ended up hurting me worse. But I'm real anxious to get out there and be able to go a full game."