Ray Drew

Ray Drew and Hairy Dog celebrate with the fans. Drew had a disappointing freshman year, but has played beyond expectations in the latter part of 2012. MAX BEECHING/Staff

When Ray Drew coined the term ‘Dream Team,’ referencing the members of the 2011 Georgia recruiting class, high expectations were set for the now-second-year athletes.

Drew will be the first to tell you things have gotten off to a slower start than he originally anticipated.

“As a player, anyone wants to see the field in day one until the day they leave. Sometimes it doesn’t happen that way,” Drew said. “Sometimes you have to go through a process. Sometimes you’ve got to change before you get your opportunity, but it’s all about what you do when you get that opportunity.”

When senior Abry Jones went down with an injury, it was finally Drew’s turn to rise to the occasion.

He did so with four tackles against Georgia Southern two weeks ago — a career-high at the time — and then accomplished the same feat last week, when he totaled eight tackles against Georgia Tech.

Drew is pleased with his progression.

“I’m happy where I’m at right now. We’re working toward something big here,” he said. “We’re at a point right now where we’ve got a guy that went down in Abry Jones, so we’re having to rotate people in and out, and I’m having to try and step up for the guys that are in front of me. I’m just doing what I can, stepping in and filling the void.”

The 6-foot-5, 253-pound behemoth is helping fill Jones’ role at defensive end, something that comes as some surprise to Drew, who was recruited as an outside linebacker.

Georgia defensive coordinator Rodney Garner points to that position transition as an explanation for why Drew's career has taken a little added time to develop.

“He came in at a different position, he was an outside linebacker, his body sort of took over,” Garner said. “He started growing and he ended up moving inside to defensive lineman, which, that’s an adjustment. He’s coming along, he’s working and he’s going to continue to improve.”

Nonetheless, Drew is beginning to have a greater influence every week.

“Ray has improved tremendously,” Garner said. “We need to just keep continuing his development, keep him coming.”

His increased production, coupled with the success of certain members of the 2011 recruiting class, proves to Drew the ‘Dream Team’ still has a lot of noise left to make.

“When we’re out there and we have people like Malcolm Mitchell making catches, you have myself in the Georgia Tech game, and Jay Rome out making touchdowns,” Drew said. “We haven’t really referred to it as the Dream Team, but just our class coming in, the impact that we’ve made along with the other teammates and their class, it’s come together, and it just makes some great unity.”

For now, however, there is a larger task at hand.

“Being in the position that we’re in now, we look back at last year because we were in this same position — maybe not this same exact position — but we’ve been in a position to play for the SEC Championship,” Drew said. “We know what it’s like to get there, and we know what it’s like to lose. Now, we want to know what it’s like to win it.”