Making the Case for Ray Drew as the Georgia Bulldogs Starting Defensive End

Brian JonesContributor IMay 27, 2014

Georgia's Ray Drew, left, gets up after tackling Appalachian State quarterback Kameron Bryant, right, in the third quarter of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
David Goldman/Associated Press

One of the good things to come out of the 2013 season for the Georgia Bulldogs is that the defensive front seven was able to get after quarterbacks. In fact, the Bulldogs were second in the SEC in total sacks with 33. And of those 33 sacks, six of them came from defensive end Ray Drew, which put him second on the team behind Leonard Floyd in sacks.

Drew had a productive 2013 season. He made seven starts and finished with 43 tackles and eight tackles for loss to go along with his six sacks. And it looked as if Drew was going to get to be the starter this season with Garrison Smith gone. But it looks as if Sterling Bailey along with James DeLoach will be the No. 1 defensive ends heading into preseason practice.

Based on the way spring practice went for the defense, there could be a lot of changes when it comes to the starting lineup. But the coaches should consider Drew as a starter.

NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 19:  Ray Drew #47 of the Georgia Bulldogs is escorted off the field after being ejected from a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium on October 19, 2013 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Frederick Breedon/G
Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Drew’s career has not lived up to expectations. He was recruited in 2011 and 247 Sports listed him as the No. 2 player in Georgia as well as the No. 2 strong side defensive end in the country. He was a Parade and USA Today All-American and played in the Army All-America Game. So the expectations for him were high.

Drew did not redshirt when he got to campus and played in seven games his freshman season. His playing time increased his sophomore year, and he played in all 13 games. It was last year when he was able to not only play in all the games during the season, but also to start in half of them and was effective when he was on the field.

Before spring practice started, it looked like Drew was going to be the starter under Jeremy Pruitt’s defense. But he was working more with the second and third stringers, which could mean nothing because preseason practice could be a different story.

Ray Drew has been challenged this spring, dropping down to the third team at one point. But he is working his way... http://t.co/HitMORM0zJ

— The Telegraph (@middlegeorgia) April 8, 2014

As it was mentioned earlier, Sterling Bailey and James DeLoach are on top of the depth chart. Bailey made nine starts in 13 games and tallied 34 tackles and one sack. DeLoach played in only five games last season and finished with four tackles. DeLoach was named as the Most Improved Player this past spring according to Gentry Estes of 247 Sports (subscription required). Bailey also received a lot of praise from defensive line coach Tracy Rocker for his work.

This leads to the ultimate reason why Drew is not a starter right now. He did not perform well during spring practices and even head coach Mark Richt said that he needs to step it up. However, Rocker told 247 Sports that he was just beat up at the start of practice and he will be a factor this season (subscription required).

Nov 9, 2013; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs defensive end Ray Drew (47) sacks Appalachian State Mountaineers quarterback Kameron Bryant (5) during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Georgia defeated Appalachian State 45-6. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanin
USA TODAY Sports

This upcoming preseason practice is very important for Drew. He has to show the coaches that he’s a better player than what he showed during the spring and he can get the job done. He proved last year and his numbers only got better each year.

Drew should be the starter because he would be a very good leader for the defense. With the Bulldogs going with a new scheme, they will need veterans with a ton of game experience to lead the way. Drew has been in a lot of games his career and his experience will pay dividends for the defensive line.

There’s no telling what Pruitt will do with the defensive line. But having Drew on the field as much as possible will make the defense better.