ATHENS – Chris Mayes’ stock has been all over the place in the relatively short time he’s been at Georgia. If it stays where it is now, however, he and the Bulldogs would be quite happy.
Mayes has emerged as a surprise difference-maker on Georgia’s improved defensive line, racking up eight tackles through two games. And instead of ballyhooed freshman Trent Thompson being the man in the middle for Georgia’s defense, it’s been the senior who was once in danger of being forgotten.
Two years ago it was Mayes who was highly-touted coming out of junior college. And he started to show it late in that sophomore season, totaling 31 tackles and five QB pressures in eight starts, leading many to expect big things from him last year.
But the coaching changes on defense slowed Mayes’ development. He didn’t start a single game, only had seven tackles – just two of them solo – and as late as this spring was third on the depth chart.
“I know I had a new coach,” Mayes said of defensive line coach Tracy Rocker. “He had a different philosophy, he was preaching effort. Both of them preached technique, but they’re just two different guys, two different personalities. I had to learn coach Rocker and get a feel for how he was. And I caught on.”
Mayes was also undone last year by Rocker and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt’s desire for leaner, more athletic linemen. Mayes came to Georgia at about 330 pounds, which he still is, but that’s after improving his diet and workout habits, and adding muscle.
“It was a new gameplan, a new system entirely,” Mayes said. “It was more for a leaner linemen. So I had to learn how to play within that scheme and stuff, and find my role. And I feel like I’ve found it now.”
Mayes may not be the dynamic impact player that Thompson is eventually projected to be. But Mayes, along with John Atkins and Sterling Bailey, has made Georgia’s defensive line a stout run-stopping unit through two games.
“Chris has made more plays, which is good,” coach Mark Richt said. “You’ve gotta whip somebody up front to make a play at that position. Sometimes you’ve gotta whip two people. But he’s really coming along. Hopefully he’ll keep going.”