Dogs hope they have a nose for ball

ATHENS – As the guy right who lines up behind them, inside linebacker Christian Robinson has a not-so-scenic view of Georgia's new nose tackles.

Still, he’s been watching DeAngelo Tyson, Justin Anderson and Kwame Geathers choke the line of scrimmage in practice for the better part of the past month. And like his teammates and coaching staff, Robinson is eager to see what they can do when the Bulldogs open against Louisiana-Lafayette at Sanford Stadium on Saturday.

“They’ve been going up against guys like [Georgia offensive linemen] Cordy Glenn and Ben Jones and they’re back-and-forth sometimes, but in dealing with those guys, who are top performers, they’ve done a pretty good job,” Robinson said. “They’re doing a great job and I hope they can continue to do that.”

In a season that poses so many questions, the biggest defensive one is at nose tackle in new defensive coordinator Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme.

Tyson, who is a better physical fit at end, is the reluctant starter. He is backed up by the large duo of Anderson, a converted offensive lineman who hasn’t played defense since his senior year at Irwin County in 2005, and Geathers, a redshirt freshman.

“I guess putting me at nose will make us a great defense,” Tyson said. “If somebody can play a position better than I can, then that’s where they need to be to help the team. Playing the nose is the position that I’m best at, that my coaches think I can develop and make plays at, so I’m just going to go out there and play hard and help our team win.”

At around 325 pounds, Anderson and Geathers are the two heaviest players on the team and perfect fits for the unglamorous but important position. In the 3-4, nose tackles must occupy as many blockers as possible, shut down inside running lanes and give linebackers unimpeded paths to the ball.

Georgia’s coaches had hoped Anderson would have progressed enough to start at nose and allow Tyson to start at end, where his quickness and 290-pound frame is better suited. But Anderson missed most of the spring with a shoulder injury, putting him behind and prompting defensive line coach Rodney Garner to start Tyson in the middle on Saturday.

“I’m just trying to catch on as fast as I can,” Anderson said. “It’s challenging some days. Some days it isn’t. I have my good days and my bad days. I’m just trying to catch up with everybody else. I’m so far behind technique-wise, compared to everyone else, because they’ve been doing it longer than I have, but I’ve got faith that I’ll be all right, that I’ll catch up.”

Starting end Demarcus Dobbs said Anderson is still “getting the whole concept down and Kwame is getting better.” He is content with Garner’s decision to go with Tyson.

“[Anderson has] converted well from an offensive lineman. He’s come a long way in his first year of playing defense, but he has a long ways to go,” Dobbs said. “DeAngelo is the stout one right now. He’s the experienced one, the one with a little more swag to him right now. I think halfway through the season, you’ll see [Anderson and Geathers] flourishing. They just have to get their feet wet before they can really flourish.”

A rotation will provide opportunities for all three and also will allow Tyson, who has played in all 26 games the past two seasons, to move to end for several snaps a game, especially in passing or third-down situations.

“I’m pretty happy anywhere I play. I just want to play football,” Tyson said. “If it’s at end, I just want to go out there and have fun and make plays.”