ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia is extremely young and inexperienced on the defensive line in 2016 — only one upperclassman is among the 10 linemen expected to see time — and the Bulldogs on counting on players such as true freshman tackle Julian Rochester.
Rochester is one of four true freshmen expected to contribute up front this season.
Rochester, who enrolled early and went through spring practice, has made a great first impression on his teammates. Senior center Brandon Kublanow singled him out when asked about players who have caught his eye during fall camp.
“Julian Rochester has done a great job,” Kublanow said. “Came in the spring and was kind of out of shape. He had an amazing summer. He got in really good shape. I think he’s done an amazing job. He’s listened to everyone. Hoping for big things from Julian.”
Rochester measured in at 6 feet 5 and 327 pounds during the spring. But linebacker Reggie Carter said he has noticed a change in the freshman’s game because he now weighs less.
“I totally agree with Brandon,” Carter said. “Rochester, I think he lost 23 pounds this offseason. That’s amazing. It helps him, and it shows on the field.”
Rochester hasn't had the smoothest adjustment to college life. During the spring, he and then-roommate Chad Clay were arrested for felony weapons possession (a BB gun) and criminal damage to university property (a dormitory).
Clay since has left the program, while Rochester has shown that he’s learned from his mistake.
Early in camp, coach Kirby Smart said Rochester had been doing the right things on and off the field.
“We’re getting Julian ready to play,” Smart said. “Julian’s a guy that’s going to provide great depth for us. He’s lost a lot of weight, worked really hard, made a 3.0 last semester. Julian’s been a guy that’s done anything we’ve asked of him since his incident. I’m really proud of what he’s doing out there.
“He’s got to play with more consistency of effort because not every day does he give the effort he needs to give. But he knows his assignments. He’s ahead of those other freshmen merely because he got 15 (spring) practices in.”
Evidently, Rochester is a funny guy off the field, but during camp, he has been all business.
“I can count on Rochester to give me a laugh,” Carter said. “He’s a real funny guy. When it’s time to play, he’s ready to play. When he’s off the field, he’s just fun to be around. I’ve hung around him a couple of times and he’s real funny.”
(You can follow Dan Mathews on Twitter @DanMathewsATL)
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