What are Arkansas State’s strengths? Here’s what UGA’s Kirby Smart is looking at
In a relative sense, Trey Hill had it easy as a Houston County Bear. He emerged as a force at left tackle and handled opposing pass rushers with ease. No calls to be made or direction given to his fellow linemen.
Once he stepped onto campus at Georgia, however, Hill knew his position would change. At 6-foot-4, 330 pounds, his height didn’t match up to Andrew Thomas or Isaiah Wilson — the two who usually occupy the Bulldogs’ guard spots. He knew either center or offensive guard would be his primary spot, and the departure of now-Arizona Cardinals’ center Lamont Gaillard left an opening for the sophomore to fill.
Gaillard built a reputation as dependable, and he led the Bulldogs’ unit. Hill filled in for Gaillard at times last season when the elder statesman exited with injury. Hill’s learning curve accelerated in those moments, and he continues to experience the demands that come with a starting role.
“I got the experience and learning ability to do the things I’m doing now,” Hill said Monday. “I feel like (my communication skills) are pretty good, but it’s a lot of pressure (to make calls).”
Most of Hill’s learning is done in the film room, and a lot of that time is spent with quarterback Jake Fromm. Fromm and Hill have a strong rapport as former Houston County teammates, so the Bulldogs’ signal caller continues his long-lasting leadership role.
Defensive lineman David Marshall said Hill already reminds him of Gaillard. The coaches might notice some of those qualities, but growth still occurs.
“I am pleased with Trey,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart. “I think Trey can really focus on giving six seconds strain is what I call it. He’s got to strain longer and harder in order to improve. I mean he’s playing well, but he can play better.”
ROCHESTER HAVING TO EARN PLAYING TIME
Smart doesn’t care that Julian Rochester played in all 14 games last season. After undergoing offseason surgery for an ACL injury and missing spring practice, Rochester hasn’t seen the field through two games. But health isn’t the reason why, because Rochester is fully cleared to play if the coaches make that choice.
Rochester, a senior, hasn’t emerged in competition on a defensive line that now features a lot of depth.
“Julian is healthy,” Smart said. “He’s got to go out and earn playing time. He’s got to go out and out-compete guys and work. I do not know that he’s 100 percent confident in himself right now.”
Rochester recorded 31 tackles in 2018, but now has a host of teammates playing ahead of him. Sophomore Jordan Davis and fifth-year senior Michael Barnett split time at nose tackle. Freshman Travon Walker is rotating at an interior position while Marshall continues to play (after recovering from a Lisfranc injury) at defensive end.
Georgia prides its program on competition, and Smart is straightforward with Rochester as to why he hasn’t seen playing time. A simple use of film shows the Bulldogs’ depth.
“(The defensive line is) definitely complete,” Marshall said. “We have a lot of talented guys and have a lot of guys who can play in the game. They come out and work really hard everyday and we just have a lot of talent this year on the defensive line.”
WILSON PROGRESSING, OTHER INJURIES
Offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson missed Saturday’s game after suffering a sprained ankle in last Thursday’s practice. He attended the game in a walking boot and crutches, but is since out of those apparatuses and can put pressure on the foot.
Wilson watched Jamaree Salyer and Cade Mays play in his place, but the right tackle is inching closer to a return.
“He’s going to be doing some underwater running and working on some things,” Smart said. “We have no idea — he may be available this week. I have no idea. It’s just going to be wait and see.”
Cornerback DJ Daniel was held out of the Murray State game with a hamstring injury, and Smart didn’t say whether he would return against Arkansas State. Smart also checks daily on the status of quarterback D’Wan Mathis. Mathis suffered a brain cyst in the offseason and practices with the Bulldogs, but isn’t cleared for live contact.