While quarterback Aaron Murray, tailback Todd Gurley and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones have racked up seasons to remember for the Georgia Bulldogs, not everybody had the year they desired.
Watts Dantzler began August camp as the starting right tackle, but the 6-foot-7, 320-pound sophomore from Dalton has appeared in just five of 13 games as a reserve. A high-ankle sprain in the opener against Buffalo and a knee bruise against Ole Miss has Dantzler wishing he could have redshirted this season.
"It's kind of a coulda, shoulda, woulda just thinking about it," Dantzler said. "I missed the first six games basically due to injury, and I haven't been 100 percent all year. It's been really tough to deal with, but it's also been a great season and a really fun ride.
"Looking back, I wish I could have redshirted, but there is nothing I can really do about it."
After the injury against Buffalo and a brief stint late in the Vanderbilt game, when he had not healed completely, Dantzler came in during the third quarter of late-season routs of Ole Miss, Auburn and Georgia Tech. Offensive line coach Will Friend rotated in Dantzler and Austin Long, an injury-prone junior from Memphis, with the starters.
"If we knew that Watts was going to get hurt and miss as many weeks as he did, it probably would have been wise to redshirt him," Friend said. "At the same time, our numbers have been so low that we've kind of had to have all hands on deck and ready."
Dantzler didn't even make the travel roster for the Florida game in Jacksonville, and he has played in just eight of 27 games through two seasons. He was beaten out during the preseason by touted freshman John Theus, who has started all 13 games at right tackle.
By the time Dantzler nearly had mended, junior college transfer Mark Beard was showing he was more worthy of playing time.
"I knew I wasn't going to get handed anything," Dantzler said. "There were good linemen here when I arrived, and I knew they would continue signing good linemen. Nobody promised me a starting job, so I knew I would have to work for everything I got. People have told me if I had gone somewhere else I might be starting, but that's not something I wanted to do.
"I wanted to come to a school that I liked, and I would rather be on a team that's 11-2 rather than being a starter on a team that's 5-7."
After the Bulldogs play their final snap against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl, the seniors will move on and a new crop of freshmen will arrive. For Dantzler, the game in Orlando will mark the halfway point of his college career.
"That's crazy," Dantzler said. "It's been a long ride in some ways, but it's also been a very quick ride. The seasons fly by, but everything else moves pretty slow."
Mitchell staying put
Sophomore Malcolm Mitchell, who began this season at cornerback due to a shortage in the secondary before moving back to receiver, will remain on offense. Mitchell led the Bulldogs last season with 60.5 receiving yards a game, and he leads in receptions this year with 40.
"I doubt he plays any more corner," head coach Mark Richt said Tuesday. "I think he needs to play one position."
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs worked out for two hours, with Mitchell limited with a groin injury and senior noseguard John Jenkins out with a concussion. ... Richt said he was happy that former Bulldogs defensive assistants John Jancek and Willie Martinez have been given a "great opportunity at Tennessee." ... With the exception of sophomore corner Damian Swann, Richt questioned whether his young defensive backs are mature enough to become starters next season. ... Richt on kickoffs: "I would not be throwing a fit if they said to just put the ball on the 25."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...