Georgia defensive end Ray Drew spoke with the Times-Enterprise at the Yellow Jacket Invitational on Saturday.
Q: What are you expecting to see when Georgia opens spring practice this week?
I think I’m more curious to see how things are going to play out. We’ve got a new system in and a new set of coaches. I’m curious to see how people are going to take to the coaches and new system. That’s our biggest concern right now. Hopefully it won’t be too complicated. We know that we have good coaches in place and it works. [New defensive coordinator Jeremy] Pruitt had two at Alabama and one at Florida State. Expectation wise, I’m expecting to get everybody back and healthy to make a run at it, which we thought we would do last year. Last year, we thought we had a good chance at a national championship run. Then after the Tennessee game, everybody got hurt. It seemed like at the halfway point of the season, you went from a senior led team to a freshman and sophomore led team.
Q: With this being your final season, how do you feel about being one of the defensive leaders this year, especially given that was Georgia’s Achilles heel in 2013?
I wouldn’t say I feel pressure. I see it more as a challenge. If you look back at it statistically, we had probably one of the better run defenses in the country. ... Our third down conversions weren’t good. If we could’ve minimize those and get off the field half the times we were supposed to last year, I think that alone in itself would’ve changed the entire season.
Q: How much does the experience from playing in a tight game every week in 2013 (six games decided by five or less fewer) help you going into 2014?
If you’re used to blowing people out of the water every week or losing by 30 points, you’re not used to battle. That’s been a big word that’s been thrown around a lot this offseason. Cocahes want us to fight. They want us to be able to push whenever things get tough. Being in those situations last year, it helps out a lot. There were a few challenges where we got up and had to hold on for dear life at the end, like in the Tennessee and Florida games. Then there were games where we were down by a lot and had to come back, like the Georgia Tech game. We were exposed to all kinds of situations, so you know how to prepare for when those things happen again.
Q: How did you spend your spring break?
I spent my spring break about like how Zac Brown said in that song, “Toes” – ‘I got my toes in the water, but in the sand; Not a worry in the world with a cold beer in my hand.’ But minus the cold beer. I went down to the beach in Panama [City], hung out with some teammates, went to a couple concerts and that’s about it. We saw Luke Bryan; he’s a good friend of mine [and] a real cool guy. He came to the Vandy game last year and was off the charts hot when I got ejected [for targeting]. He was about to blow a gasket. I had to tell him to calm down.
Q: Speaking of the Vandy game, what changes do you foresee in the controversial targeting penalty in college football?
I think they’ve already made some changes to that. This year coming up, everything will be the same except for if you get a targeting penalty and it’s overturned, the 15-yard penalty won’t hold up. That would be very helpful in a lot of situations because there were a few teams this past year that maybe made it down to a 3rd down getting ready to get off the field, then the other team gets an automatic first down because of a targeting call. ... My goodness, I hated that [Vanderbilt] game so much.
Q: How does it feel to be back here at Central?
It feels good. I was talking with some people earlier, and I said how I miss high school football. Being able to come back out here, sit in the stands and look at the field and all, coming back to the track meets – I did a little track when I was in high school also. We did what they called the ‘Big Boy Relay.’ They got a bunch of lineman from different schools and put together a 4x100 team and I actually anchored it. We ended up winning it one year. That was probably one of my biggest memories from high school track.
Q: Speaking of high school football, what was your reaction to hearing that Central and Thomasville won’t play each other in football this fall?
Goodness. I asked Jim Rayburn when [he and] my leadership were up in Athens not too long ago what was going on with that because I remember reading a story about it and wasn’t sure exactly all the details with it. Not having Thomasville and Central playing is like having macaroni without chesse. It’s just not right. I’m hoping it’ll turn around sometime soon because it’s good for each school – both monetarily and for the players. That’s a big bragging rights deal every year. It’s part of the heartbeat of Thomasville. There aren’t too many things that get people up in arms, but that game right there is one of those games. Hopefully they’ll get whatever is wrong with it fixed and turned around. I don’t like it.