ATHENS – In many ways, John Theus was Isaiah Crowell, one year later. So perhaps it’s fitting they follow each other on our list of Georgia’s most important players for 2012.
Last year Crowell’s arrival on campus was greeted with plenty of hype, as he was the great hope for the beleaguered tailback position. The results were mixed, but Crowell still came in at No. 9 on our ranking of critical players to Georgia’s hopes this upcoming season.
Next up, at No. 8, is Theus, the much-hyped offensive lineman. Theus committed to Georgia last summer, amid little of the hype that surrounded Crowell’s signing five months earlier. But that is due to the relative visibility of their positions; Theus was then and ended up as one of the nation’s top offensive line prospects.
Here’s the skinny on Theus (who isn’t that skinny) and his importance to 2012:
WHY HE'S VITAL: In truth, you could put almost any of the key offensive linemen on this list. But in the end, I regard Theus as the second-most important – you’ll see the top one later – because much is riding on Theus being as good as advertised. He has basically been penciled in at one of the tackle spots since he committed. Yes, it’s tough for freshmen to come in and start right away and learn the system – but Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones, Clint Boling, Kenarious Gates and Trinton Sturdivant all started as true freshmen within the past five years. Theus was more highly-ranked as a recruit than any of them. And Georgia thought highly enough of him to sign his brother Nate as a long snapper in 2011. If John Theus is the real deal, that gives Georgia a starter it can depend on, and allows them a bit more flexibility on the rest of the line.
QUOTABLE: “You’ve got guys like A.J. Green you’ve had in the past, the Matthew Staffords and all that, guys at their position who were really highly-thought of for a certain reason. Well John is in that category for me. So his opportunity is gonna be the same as those other guys.”
BEST CASE: Theus, who is listed at 6-foot-6 and 295 pounds, comes to Georgia in pretty good shape and doesn’t need much time in the weight room. He performs so well in preseason camp he either earns the right tackle spot, or left tackle, with Gates shifting to the right side. Gates finished spring as the team’s top O-linemen, so with the tackle spots set, the Bulldogs can concentrate on firming up the three inside spots. When the season begins, Theus proves to be as reliable as hoped, and he and Gates help keep the pressure off Aaron Murray and open holes for Crowell and company. The line quickly turns from major concern to pleasant surprise.
WORST CASE: Theus needs some time in the weight room, and doesn’t pick up the offense as quickly as hoped. He gets beat out for the right tackle spot by Watts Dantzler or Kolton Houston. (Obviously, this isn’t a worst-case scenario for Dantzler or Houston, and it may not for Georgia either.) Or Theus does play right away, and is overmatched at times. Georgia’s line starts the season the way it did in 2011, by looking like it will be a season-long weakness.
FINAL WORD: The recruiting experts have been wrong before, but for some time they’ve been saying Theus is the kind of player that can be dominant at the college level. Georgia is cautiously hopeful that will be the case.
Next up: The seventh-most important player for Georgia is known for his bark, but also his bite.