Ray Drew joined the University of Georgia football program in 2011 as the highest-rated member of the "Dream Team" signing class.
He enters his senior season as quite possibly the most puzzling, with Georgia's preseason depth chart listing him as a third-team defensive end.
The 6-foot-5, 276-pounder from Thomasville played sparingly in his first two seasons with the Bulldogs and started seven of 13 games as a junior. He has not lived up to his billing as a top-10 national recruit, yet calling him a "bust" seems inaccurate considering Drew did amass 43 tackles, eight tackles for loss and six sacks in 2013.
"I've gotten to the point where I describe my college career as the longest shortest four years of my life," Drew said. "We could do the woulda, coulda, shoulda deal, but I was never raised that way. You play the hand that you're dealt, and if you spend too much time on what could have been, it takes your focus off what's in front of you.
"There has been way more good than bad, and I've enjoyed my time here. I've only got a few more months, so I'm going to make the most of them."
The Bulldogs practiced Tuesday for two hours inside Sanford Stadium. Roughly 2,000 students and several media members attended the second half of the workout, and Drew was not spotted with the first- or second-team defense.
Drew signed with Georgia as the nation's No. 5 overall prospect according to The Sporting News, No. 9 according to Rivals.com and No. 13 according to ESPN. His freshman season was spent at outside linebacker, where his position coach was former defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.
A sack of Vanderbilt's Jordan Rodgers -- "Nothing feels like the first sack you ever make," he said -- was the highlight of a debut season that included appearances in seven of 14 games. Drew moved to defensive end after that year and has since been coached by Rodney Garner, Chris Wilson and now Tracy Rocker.
"It's had its pros and cons," Drew said of continually changing bosses. "You get the chance to get a lot of information from a lot of different people, so you get a lot of things that can help you from more than just one person. Yet with any position, you would like to get at least a little carryover.
"I didn't come in thinking I would have four position coaches in four years. Things just happened to fall like they did."
Drew and Rocker first met in the recruiting process when Rocker was Auburn's defensive line coach. Their paths have reconnected, and Drew appreciates the knowledge Rocker has compiled throughout the years.
Rocker said this month that Drew is "doing fine" but that he was more concerned about coming together as a defensive front and as a defense. There are eight returning linemen defensively who are expected to play this season, so the depth chart may not be as important as with other areas of the team.
Still, third team?
"That was a carryover from the spring, when I spent a majority of the time injured," Drew said. "With the coaches who have come in, that's all that they've really had a chance to see. When I'm healthy, and I'm not taking anything away from my teammates, I think I'm one of the best players on this defense.
"I'm confident in my game, and I'm not saying I'm better than anybody else, but the bottom line is that the coaches are telling us there is no depth chart. They want everyone on their toes."
Odds and ends
Working with seniors Damian Swann and Corey Moore as first-team defensive backs Tuesday were freshman Dominick Sanders, redshirt freshman walk-on Aaron Davis and junior college transfer Shattle Fenteng. ... Redshirt junior cornerback Devin Bowman sat out the workout. ... Freshman Isaiah McKenzie got the first crack at returning kickoffs, while sophomore Reggie Davis got the first crack at returning punts. ... The Bulldogs will hold their annual rehearsal scrimmage today inside Sanford.
Contact David Paschall at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6524.
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 ...