In Georgia’s 3-4 defensive scheme, the value of a big, talented nose guard cannot be understated.
When the Bulldogs don’t have a solid starter at nose, the defense sputters, as was evident in 2010. The following year with junior college transfer John Jenkins manning the middle, Georgia ended the season ranked No. 5 in the nation in total defense. In 2013, Jenkins will be gone and Kwame Geathers, if he sticks around for his senior year, will need some help.
Enter Chris Mayes (Griffin, Ga./Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College).
Mayes originally signed with Georgia in 2010 but did not qualify academically so he enrolled at the same junior college that Jenkins attended. Defensive line coach Rodney Garner is hoping Mayes has the same production as Jenkins has had when the sophomore arrives in Athens, Ga.
“Academically I am set to go, " Mayes said. "My hours are straightened out. I am just waiting for my time here to finish up. I am supposed to enroll at Georgia in January, so everything here is on point for the most part. I am redshirting this year.”
Sitting out this season will give Mayes three years to play in Athens. He said that despite not playing this year he has still improved from the inexperienced player he was in high school.
“I’ve gotten better in my technique,” Mayes said. “I learned to use my hands more and to stay low. I learned to control my gap because I didn’t have a clue about that in high school. I used to just bull rush and it didn’t matter where I went. I have learned more rushing moves so I have developed my game so much more.”
Mayes has bulked up in the last two years and now says he is 6-foot-4 and “between 320 and 330 pounds.”
“That is way bigger than I was,” Mayes said. “I was kind of small. I was about 280 pounds then. The Georgia coaches told me to keep working out, stay in shape, so I can come in and be ready to play. I work out twice a day. The coach has me doing various technique drills every single day. He is teaching me to be violent.”
The added size and strength has given Mayes more confidence and he thinks he can contribute early.
“I feel like I can come in and stop both 'A' gaps and free up the linebackers to help them make plays,” Mayes said. “The nose guard of the defense controls his 'A' gap and if the runner comes through the gap, the whole defense collapses basically, so you are basically the center of the 3-4 defense. Usually the middle linebacker takes the other 'A' gap, but what I have learned out here is how to control both 'A' gaps.”
Georgia’s success at the nose position could rest heavily on how prepared Mayes is to start. Geathers might follow Jenkins to the NFL, leaving the position open for 2013. Mayes met Geathers on a visit and thinks that the 6-6 junior might leave school early.
“When I was there he was talking about leaving but he wasn’t sure,” Mayes said. “Some players said he was but I am not sure about that. That is a big dude.”
Mayes has some friends on the Bulldogs squad, including hometown friend Corey Moore.
“I talked to Corey last week,” Mayes said. “We have been friends for a while. We are just ready to hook back up and win some games. His dad was my AAU basketball coach. Xzavier Dickson was on that team too. I talk to Xzavier like every other day.”
Dickson plays at Alabama and Mayes relishes the idea of playing against his old friend for an SEC championship. When asked what he would say to Dickson if Georgia and Alabama squared off in Atlanta, Mayes couldn’t resist getting in a jab.
“I would tell congratulations on a close game but we would have won by at least a touchdown so I would say, ‘Better luck next year,’ ” Mayes said.