Grantham stays shifty when it comes to his players

semerson@macon.comMarch 28, 2012 

ATHENS - Remember that Mark Twain quote about the weather in New England: "If you don't like it, just wait an hour"? It can be applied to Todd Grantham and where he plays defensive guys: If you don't like what position they're playing, just give it a bit.

The term "cross train" comes up more in a 10-minute interview with Grantham than if you were talking to a fitness trainer. Grantham likes to move his guys around in spring practice, getting ready for a season of moving around.

Just ask Shawn Williams, who went from safety to inside linebacker for one game last year. Or Alec Ogletree, who was moved permanently from safety to inside linebacker last spring - but also played a hybrid outside linebacker-safety position against Auburn last November.

It sounds like Josh Harvey-Clemons better get ready to move around a lot once he arrives this summer. And Ray Drew and Cornelius Washington are getting the treatment this spring, working at defensive end after spending last year at outside linebacker. (But Drew's move seems permanent, while Washington is just, wait for it, cross-training.)

Then there's Jarvis Jones, who is still an outside linebacker ... but in reality, Grantham will move the All-American wherever he thinks he can do the most damage.

It all goes back to Grantham's oft-stated mantra of playing the best 11 for each game. So if that means shifting a nose tackle to defensive end, or a safety to linebacker, or whatever, then he'll try it.

"There's all kinds of matchups that come up during the course of the season and I think it's important that guys can play more than one spot," Grantham said after Tuesday's practice.

Spring is for training guys to play those different spots, which is why Washington, who started 12 games at linebacker last year, is working with the defensive linemen. Same with Drew, who replaced Washington for the two games at OLB last year.

"They can help us by playing there because they've got some athletic ability," Grantham said. "They can give us some inside pass rush. You're putting an athletic guy on the field. There is some same-as for them when you're playing in and outside linebacker. So I think the big thing is those guys continue to work hard and that gives us the flexibility to put the next guy in the game."

Washington may end up back with the linebackers in the fall, but in reality it won't matter. He'll play a traditionaly outside linebacker in some alignments, then will start with his hand on the ground in other sets.

But in the case of Drew, who is now approaching 270 pounds, he should get used to the line. Defensive line coach Rodney Garner echoed what head coach Mark Richt has said: Drew is basically out-growing the linebacker spot.

Washington and Drew on the line also has something to do with the glut of outside linebackers the team signed in February.

"Sure. Those guys are gonna fill in and we know that," Grantham said. "We'll work the guys that we have here at all the positions and once we get through this - to me this is another phase to your season - we'll say which of these guys help us the quickest. And we'll filter those guys in too in August."

Interestingly, when Grantham was asked to name the guys to play outside linebacker, he ticked off the names Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd, Leonard Deloach and Josh Dawson.

And what about Harvey-Clemons, the highly-rated player whose saga was the story of signing day? He's technically an OLB, but in a more complex role.

"He's an outside guy that is gonna be a Sam (strongside linebacker) and kind of me in the mold of what Tree did for us last year against Auburn," Grantham said. "He's more of a true outside backer. In base he'll be our Sam and in nickel he'll be on the slot receiver, and do those kind of things, because he's so athletic. And the thing with him is he's so athletic he gives you a dimenson that when you bring him a back has to block him."

That description fits in a bit with what Jenkins said would happen last month. Jenkins caused a bit of a stir by saying Harvey-Clemons will play some safety, an idea that Richt downplayed. But don't rule that out for the future, especially if Harvey-Clemons will be playing some nickel back.

The important thing is that anyone with a tag of outside linebacker will be shifted around a lot in Grantham's scheme.

"Even though it's quote outside linebacker, you can play a lot of things with that guy," Grantham said.

Meanwhile, Ramik Wilson continues to train at inside and outside linebacker. And Chase Vasser is also doing some cross-training at those two spots.

Obviously, it won't stop there.

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