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Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Spring cleaning: Ray Drew

By David Ching

Editor's note: Over the next couple of weeks, we'll clean out our notebook from Georgia's spring practice to tell the stories we didn't get to before the Bulldogs' G-Day game. Previously we featured fullback Quayvon Hicks and tight end Jay Rome. Today we recap a conversation with defensive end Ray Drew from a few days before the G-Day game.

ATHENS, Ga. -- Ray Drew decided before spring practice to stop worrying so much about what everybody else thinks, and the junior defensive end believes that new approach made a world of difference.

Ray Drew makes the tackle
Ray Drew is hoping a fresh approach helps him reach the potential he brought to UGA.
Regarded as one of the top prospects in the country when he signed with Georgia in 2011, Drew waded through two quiet seasons where he says he put too much pressure on himself to live up to the sky-high expectations that accompanied his arrival in Athens. And that mental weight led to tentative play.

“I come out with the attitude in practice that no matter what is said or no matter what is done, I’m just going to go out and play,” Drew said. “And I’ve been a lot more relaxed in practice, whereas my first years I was very tense. It was always, ‘OK, I’ve got to do this right’ or ‘I’ve got to do that perfect’ or ‘I’ve got to show the coach this or that.’

"Actually I’ve seen myself progress as far as not having as many mental mistakes, because I just let go and trust that I know what I know.”

Before this year, Drew had always entered seasons and spring practices with specific goals that he set out to achieve. That’s common practice among most players, so Drew was certainly not unique, but an offseason conversation with his mother convinced him that he should stop sweating the details so much and instead have more fun and play loose.

“If you have goals that you have set, that pressure’s going to always be on you. ‘I have to get this many sacks. I have to get this many tackles. I have to get this many whatever,’ ” he said. “But I believe it takes a lot of stress off of you if you just go out and play and have fun, instead of just saying, ‘I’ve got to do this or do that.’ So that’s my way of looking at it this season, is to just trust my ability and what I’ve been coached to do.”

The jury obviously is still out on whether Drew’s new mental approach will allow him to reach his potential. First-year defensive line coach Chris Wilson seems prepared to include Drew as a main member of his rotation, but Garrison Smith and Sterling Bailey exited spring practice as the presumptive starters at end.

Nonetheless, Drew said he believed he made progress during the spring and expected that to continue into the fall -- thanks in part to a more philosophical approach to competition.

“My mom always says to not count your eggs before they’ve hatched, which means don’t look forward to saying, ‘I’m going to do this or do that’ before it happens,” Drew said. “It’s OK to have goals, but don’t just say, ‘I’m going to do this or do that,’ because everything is in God’s time, and it’s in His hands.”