ATHENS -- Someone turned Ray Drew’s crock pot down again.
It took Drew, the one-time five-star recruit, a long time to go from bench warmer to starter for the Georgia football team. Or to put it in more stark terms, from potential bust to potential breakout star.
That spawned Drew’s memorable analogy of his career to a crock pot: Slow to warm up, but eventually satisfying and worth the wait.
It looked apt after last season, when he racked up six sacks as a junior. But when the new year rolled around, Drew endured yet another coaching change, and he found himself working on third team.
Never miss a local story.
It wasn’t just a spring message from a new coaching staff. Drew has been working second or third team -- mostly the latter -- during the preseason, as well.
So where is Drew’s crock pot now?
“It’s on low,” he said, with a smile. “It’s on simmer. It’s waiting for us to get home from church.”
There are still more than two weeks until Georgia opens the season against Clemson, which is plenty of time for Drew to reassume his spot on the depth chart. And defensive line coach Tracy Rocker has consistently said Drew will play and hasn’t criticized his effort. But, for some time now, juniors Sterling Bailey and James DeLoach have seemed in good shape at the end spot.
As he enters his senior season, Drew said he has learned a number of life lessons in college. One of them: “Nothing goes as planned.”
That sounds like he’s referring to his career -- five-star recruit to bench player to star and now back to backup. He’s actually referencing the fact he’s now on his fourth position coach in four seasons.
Freshman year, it was Todd Grantham, when Drew was with the outside linebackers. A year later, he moved down to defensive end, and Rodney Garner was his position coach.
When Garner left for Auburn, Chris Wilson took over. And then when Wilson left for Southern California, here came Rocker.
“No one could have predicted that,” Drew said. “No one could have predicted we would go 8-5 last year. As they say, you’ve gotta play the hand that you’re dealt. That’s the biggest thing, is even though you can’t expect the unexpected, whenever it hits you you’ve gotta be able to roll with it and do the best you can.”
Drew flourished under Wilson last year, while Rocker has relegated him to the third team. And yet Drew has great things to say about Rocker and is tight-lipped on Wilson.
“They’re like the North and the South Pole,” Drew said, and when prodded on how smiles and says, “I’ll plead the Fifth on that one.”
Fellow defensive lineman Mike Thornton, a fifth-year senior, complimented Drew while taking a subtle dig at the way things were done before.
“We’re all interchangeable now, and that’s the greatest thing we could be as a defensive line unit,” Thornton said, speaking from the perspective of a current first-teamer. “In the previous years, it wasn’t like that. You knew who were gonna be the ones, you knew who were gonna be the twos, so some guys might not have worked as hard as other guys because they knew they had their spot.”
There are a couple other reasons Drew shrugs off the apparent demotion. There hasn’t actually been a game yet, and he’s used to having to earn his way.
After all, five-star recruit status didn’t get him on the field right away. So last season’s six sacks might not this season, either.
“I’m not looking for anybody to give me anything. It’s been like that since I got here,” he said. “So having to prove myself each year to a new staff or a new coach is nothing new to me. I know my ability, I know what I can do. I know the ability of my teammates, I know what it’s gonna take to make this team stronger. Or whether that’s gonna be playing one snap or playing 100 snaps. I’m -- I don’t want to say content because that sounds bad -- but I’m going to make the best of whatever I get.”