Geathers emerging as Georgia’s starting NT

Kwame Geathers is making a break from his family’s rich

tradition of defensive ends.

Geathers, a sophomore, is emerging as No. 19 Georgia’s

first-string nosetackle. Two older brothers are currently NFL

defensive ends. His uncle, Jumpy Geathers, had 62 sacks in 13 NFL

seasons as a defensive end using his ”forklift” power move to

earn a reputation as one of the league’s strongest players.

Kwame Geathers (6-6, 350) is strong enough to copy his uncle’s

trademark move of picking up and carrying offensive linemen, but he

is learning he must bring more than raw pass-rushing power to the

middle of Georgia’s three-man defensive line.

The Bulldogs need a big run-stopper in the middle of the line.

To be effective, Geathers has had to learn he has to keep his

shoulder pads low.

”That’s the biggest key, at 6-foot-6, trying to stay low and

use my hands,” he said.

Geathers had only seven tackles in eight games as a redshirt

freshman last year as he adjusted to defensive coordinator Todd

Grantham’s 3-4 scheme.

He had a breakthrough in spring practice and has continued the

momentum in preseason drills. He and newcomer John Jenkins give

Georgia two massive run-stoppers at nosetackle.

Coach Mark Richt acknowledged on Monday that some members of his

staff assumed that Jenkins (6-4, 342) would be an immediate

starter. Instead Geathers, who was named the team’s MVP on defense

in spring practice, has continued his emergence this summer.

”The day we signed Jenkins, I think most of the coaches would

have said Jenkins would probably be the guy, but then after spring

ball we saw Kwame wasn’t going to lay down and just let somebody

take his job,” Richt said.

”So that’s great. Competition is great. The depth at that

position is good.”

Football is a way of life for the Geathers family in Georgetown,

S.C., including two older brothers in the NFL.

Robert Geathers, who played at Georgia from 2001-03, has 27.5

sacks in seven seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals. Clifton

Geathers played at South Carolina before he was Cleveland’s

sixth-round draft pick this year.

Then there is Jumpy Geathers, who played for New Orleans,

Washington, Atlanta and Denver and continues to set the

football-first tone as the brothers’ uncle.

Kwame Geathers’ current challenge of keeping Richt, Grantham and

defensive line coach Rodney Garner happy may be a snap when

compared with meeting his uncle’s expectations.

”My uncle, he’s kind of tough,” said Kwame Geathers with a big

smile. ”Every time you see him, the first thing is football. It’s

`Let me see your stance.’ First thing. It’s not even `Hey, how are

you doing?’ It’s `Down in your stance. Let me see it. When are you

coming by my house and let me work with you?’ Things like that.

”It’s always football. He loves football. He always talks about

football. He’s always thinking about football. With him and my

family, it’s always like that.”

Geathers forced a fumble and had four tackles, including two for

losses, in the G-Day spring game. Some suggested he was motivated

by the pending arrival of Jenkins this summer.

Jenkins and his coaches say he also needed the year to learn the

new defense.

”He got a year older, kind of saw what he wanted to do, saw we

were going to go out and recruit somebody who could do it,”

Grantham said. ”Maybe the combination of all that, I’m not sure.

Definitely there was a change in his mentality from one year to the

next and he’s really doing a good job.”

Geathers said he and others on defense are playing with more

confidence.

”It’s my second year in the defense,” he said. ”I think

that’s the biggest thing for everybody on the field. I think

everybody knows how to move faster, everybody knows how to play

faster.

”It was just knowing what I’m doing. That’s the biggest thing.

If you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to play slow out

there.”

The emergence of Geathers and the addition of Jenkins allowed

DeAngelo Tyson to move from nosetackle to defensive end. Tyson had

to return to nosetackle for one practice on Friday when Geathers

missed the session after taking a blow to his head and Jenkins was

out with a left hamstring injury.

Geathers returned on Monday.

Richt said Geathers has the edge over Jenkins in experience and

conditioning.

”There’s a mental aspect of it, too, just to fight through a

tough practice, fight through being coached hard, fight through

trying to figure out what to do,” Richt said.

”I think John, once the smoke clears and he really understands

exactly what to do, down after down, he’ll get much better. He

already has his moments, but he also has times where he looks lost

and he gets knocked off the ball because of that.”

Richt said he expects Jenkins to play ”some meaningful snaps”

behind Geathers in the Sept. 3 opener against No. 5 Boise

State.

”I’m sure as the season goes along I think John is going to

improve, I would say dramatically,” Richt said.