In 2002, the first year they played together, it was easy to see why neither inspired any pitched recruiting battles.
“I heard they came a long way,” defensive end Charles Johnson said.
Now Daniel Inman and Dennis Roland are book end tackles for the seventh-ranked team in the country, and not just that. They are the back-to-back reigning SEC offensive linemen of the week
“If you had looked at us two or three years ago,” Roland said, “I don’t think anybody would think that we’d be at this kind of level.”
Inman and Roland were a part of the offensive line that gave up 47 sacks in 2003. This year, Georgia (3-0, 1-0 SEC) has allowed just two sacks (fewest in the SEC) and is second in the conference and 17th in the nation in rushing offense (232.7 ypg). The Bulldogs’ average of 6.3 yards per carry is the best in the SEC and seventh-best in the country.
Inman and Roland will get a challenge this week when they face Mississippi State defensive end Willie Evans, who leads the conference in sacks with five.
“You get out of it what you put into it, and those guys are hard workers,” guard Nick Jones said. “They’re just reaping what they sow.”
When Inman goes back and watches games from his first season, he thinks, “Wow, was I really that bad?” he said. Still, it’s no great shock to Georgia’s coaches that he is a starter. He was an all-state player in high school and was 6-foot-7, 300 pounds when he arrived on campus.
“Dan, I thought was a good player in high school,” offensive line coach Neil Callaway said. “If there’s a surprise, you’d have to say it’d be (Roland).”
Roland was 6-foot-9 and just 270 pounds when he signed with the Bulldogs out of Bolivar, Mo., where his highest honor was being named first-team All-Central Ozark Conference.
“Dennis Roland has come so far it’s unbelievable,” Coach Mark Richt said. “As a freshman, he really did look like Bambi right after Bambi was first born, all spindly legs. We were hoping that he would develop into something, but I don’t think we envisioned him growing into what he is now.”
Roland moved like “molasses” when he first arrived on campus, Richt said.
“Basically, we took him just because he’s a big kid,” Callaway said. Roland said the distance he and Inman have traveled makes this month’s awards that much more meaningful. Now the Bulldogs’ three other starting offensive linemen have to catch up.
“Big Dan’s kind of holding it over our heads,” center Russ Tanner said.