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Monday, February 4, 2013
Coaches' take: Chris Mayes

By David Ching

ATHENS, Ga. -- Having redshirted last fall at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, Chris Mayes has three years of eligibility left now that he’s enrolled at Georgia. And that’s a good thing, as the big defensive lineman is still in many ways a project as a football player.

Mayes was a basketball player until the coaching staff at Spalding High School in Griffin, Ga. -- wowed by the athleticism displayed by a 6-foot-4 player who tipped the scales at nearly 300 pounds -- convinced him to play football for the first time as a junior.

“He came in and he had all the measurables,” said Clint Ashmore, who coached Mayes at Griffin. “That’s what all the recruiters and so forth, when they came in and they just kind of took a look at Chris and said, ‘Oh my gosh. What kind of specimen is this?’ The thing about it is if you saw him on the basketball court, we knew that he was an athletic kid, so getting him out for football was kind of a priority.”

Mayes was incredibly raw as a football player, but his agility and sideline-to-sideline pursuit skills made him a college prospect. He earned a four-star grade from ESPN and was the nation’s No. 23 defensive tackle prospect when he initially signed with the Bulldogs in 2011.

However, he took a detour to Mississippi Gulf Coast -- the same junior college where Georgia found All-SEC nose guard John Jenkins -- after failing to qualify academically. He totaled 17 tackles as a freshman and redshirted in 2012 before re-signing with Georgia and enrolling last month, now up to 330 pounds.

“It’s a little different than a traditional juco guy, meaning that we’ll actually have three years of eligibility with him,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “He’ll obviously be a guy that we’ll be counting on to be part of our rotation.”

Perhaps in part because of that time at junior college, Ashmore believes Mayes will be better prepared to help Grantham’s defense at either nose or defensive end. The time there, Ashmore said, helped him “continue to kind of work on sharpening his football tools” before hitting college football’s biggest stage."

Yet he will very much be the green football player Grantham and new defensive line coach Chris Wilson can instruct as to how they want things done, without conflicting with a lengthy history of previous coaching methods.

“They’re going to be able to mold him and not necessarily have to break bad habits that maybe I taught him or something like that. They’re not going to have to worry about that,” Ashmore chuckled. “He’s going to go in there and they’ll have a blank slate to work with, and I think sometimes that can be a good thing, especially when you’ve got a guy that has all the measurables and the athletic ability where he can go in there and they can shape him into the player they want him to be.”

The question with Mayes is how quickly he can make that transition. Ashmore said Mayes still had a lot to learn when he was in high school about playing with physicality, although he saw progress in that area while watching Mayes' film from Mississippi Gulf Coast.

He said Mayes must learn to keep his pads low when engaging blockers, but he did a good job against the run and has potential to become an effective pass-rusher at Georgia.

“I think one of the big things with Chris is he’d be engaged and that head would pop up because he’s looking for the football rather than maybe reading his key and doing the things that kids have played football for maybe six, seven, eight years before they get to high school, that they kind of had ingrained and understood as part of the game,” Ashmore said.

“I think once he gets to doing those things, he becomes more of a complete player and that much more of a factor for you.”