ATHENS – The assumption about the outside linebacker position on Georgia’s football team this year was that Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy would play out the season, with Chauncey Manac getting his feet wet and then taking over one of their starting roles next year.
That still could be the case. For now, however, Manac has emerged as one of preseason camp’s surprising position switches. He’s been at defensive end, where there doesn’t figure to be much available playing time, this year or next.
But Manac always could move back. Coach Kirby Smart indicated this is partly to give Manac a crash course on the defensive line, after playing at outside linebacker last year, and it’s undecided where he’ll settle.
“This is a guy who continues to make plays in practice,” Smart said. “We have the same debate. Is he an outside linebacker or is he a defensive end?”
Right now, Manac is working with the D-line, both in practice and the meeting room, as a way to get him experience. He could still move back to outside linebacker. And in a sense, the distinction is a small one, with outside linebackers such as Bellamy and Carter occasionally starting plays on the line.
The danger is ending up with a “tweener,” as in somebody not all-around enough for either the trench play of the line or the space play of linebacker. Manac, who is about 6-foot-3 and approaching 260 pounds, also has good athletic ability.
“We like Manac,” defensive coordinator Mel Tucker said Saturday. “He can rush outside. He can rush on guards and centers inside, and he’s very, very tough. We don’t have an issue with him playing and holding up on the run game, but giving us some pass rush and being able to affect the quarterback.”
Something else that may infuse the discussion: Georgia only added one defensive lineman this year, freshman Malik Herring. Moving Manac to defensive line, even if just temporarily, essentially gives the team another freshman there. Manac redshirted last year. So it’s another body.
Ultimately, as with anything, it depends on how Manac develops at each position, and how players at both positions develop as well. Junior D’Andre Walker is the first outside linebacker off the bench now. Freshman Robert Beal joins the team with a lot of hype. Jaleel Laguins moved over from inside linebacker after playing only sparingly as a freshman. If a couple of those players emerge as potential or penciled-in starters, maybe Manac becomes a permanent member of the line.
But the defense line is also very deep, at least this year. Many of those key contributors (Jonathan Ledbetter, Trent Thompson) are draft-eligible after this year, however.
Natrez Patrick, one of the starting inside linebackers, appears to have been getting some reps outside as well, which would be a way to get senior Reggie Carter or other inside linebackers on the field.
In any event, it looks as if Manac still has a future at Georgia. It’s just a matter of where.
“He certainly has a role on this team,” Smart said.. “Because he has an uncanny ability to get on and off blocks, make plays, cause a disruption.”
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