ATHENS – Speaking to DeAngelo Tyson is a different interview experience than most football players provide.
Perhaps his past has shaped his thoughtful approach.
He hears the question. Briefly pauses, seemingly to collect his thoughts. Puts his head down and then answers concisely, almost as if he knows the last word of each sentence before he says the first.
He’s polite and for the most part overly agreeable.
This style is fitting considering what the rising senior did for his teammates last season.
When Todd Grantham took over as defensive coordinator, the 3-4 scheme came with him. A nose guard was needed, but the Bulldogs were short on prototypical big bodies to man the spot, a position where multiple blockers must be occupied and disruption is a priority. It’s not a place where weak individuals—mentally or physically—find themselves.
Offseason surgery held the best bet, Kwame Geathers, out of the early running. So Grantham and defensive line coach Rodney Garner turned to Tyson, who is a natural tackle in the 4-3, but would be better suited at end in the current system.
Of course Tyson agreed without any urging.
“At first it was just doing it for the team, but it kind of grew on me,” Tyson said.
He appeared in every game, mostly playing the nose while totaling 36 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Teammates and coaches say he gave it his all on every play.
But there are some things a nose guard can’t go without—mostly weight. Tyson was vastly undersized, beginning around 300 pounds in fall camp only to see his weight drop as the season progressed. A midseason knee injury didn’t help.
Quite frankly, he should have been playing defensive end. By most accounts, Tyson should be able to thrive at that position.
But he never complained. And he never asked why. And he never requested to be moved.
Tyson celebrates during Georgia's loss to Arkansas in 2010. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)
“I’m pretty sure it probably was pretty difficult,” said fellow defensive linemen Abry Jones. “I don’t know how much he really wanted to play there, but I know he took it in good spirits. He didn’t complain at all. When coach asked him to do it he stepped up and said he would accept the job. I mean, everyone thought a lot of him knowing that’s a key position for this defense. That sets the whole thing off, so everybody looked up to him for doing that. I mean, I don’t think he took it in a bad way. I think he took it as a new role he had to take over and had to do the best he could.”
There are cases of undersized players succeeding at the nose (most notably Jay Ratliff of the Dallas Cowboys).
But Tyson’s strengths are more applicable on the outside in the 3-4, due to his size, agility and speed. He's not lacking for strength, but his makeup is not suited for the nose.
Luckily for Tyson’s sake, Geathers emerged this offseason, earning Defensive MVP honors in spring practice. And newcomer John Jenkins reportedly weighs well over 340 pounds, so there should be enough there to take care of the nose position.
So now Tyson is back where he needs to be—and although he won’t admit it, he’s back where he wants to be.
DeAngelo Tyson during Georgia's win over Tech in 2010. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)
“Well it’s just like anything—it’s weight wise,” Tyson said. “When I played nose last year I wasn’t really the weight I needed to be to play the nose. I did what I had to do. I sacrificed for the team. Moving out here to end is just good. It’s another thing I need to do to help our team win.”
“Definitely in our base package at the nose spot I think there’s definitely going to be some flexibility,” Garner said. “It gives us the ability to move DeAngelo out to end, which he has shown vast improvement out there too. I just think (Geather’s) development has made us better defensively overall because by him maturing and coming along, you know it facilitated us being able to move Tyson to end. We’ll be able to get our better players on the field.”
The trio of Tyson, one of either Geathers or Jenkins and Jones form a formidable starting line heading into fall camp. And there is some depth behind them. Compared to this time last year, there aren’t as many questions that start with how. And there aren’t as many answers that begin with if.
“Well actually it feels good that we’ve got depth,” Tyson said. “Well, we don’t have much depth, but we’ve got enough to carry us through. We just focus on getting better each and every day. Our coaches tell us that you don’t want to waste a day because you never get that day back.”
To the point. Polite. Refreshing. And through his selfless act last year, Tyson has already earned the respect of his teammates.
“He’s a team player,” said sophomore lineman Garrison Smith. “We needed a nose and he stepped up for the job. It was hard. Playing that nose guard ain’t no joke. You’ve got to be a man in there, and he played it.”
Now Tyson has a full season to look forward to at the position he could man at the next level. And he has a plan to earn the respect of NFL talent evaluators, in typical Tyson fashion.
“If I continue focusing and taking the coaching like I have and just focus on the little things like the coaches say, it should be a stepping stone to the next level. It’s just all the little things I need to work on.”
None of those little things include mindset or attitude. But those details in regard to DeAngelo Tyson have never been in question.
Tyson talks with Todd Grantham and Rodney Garner during Georgia's loss to Arkansas in 2010. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)