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Saturday, August 16, 2008

Dawgs to Watch No. 14: Justin Houston

Before camp started, head coach Mark Richt was asked to name one player from each side of the ball who might surprise fans this season. His answer on defense was Justin Houston.

"That motivates me to work harder, knowing I've got people looking at me, expecting big things," Houston said.

The redshirt freshman from Statesboro has all the tools to wreak havoc from his defensive end position, and with injuries hampering starters Roderick Battle and Jeremy Lomax during preseason, Houston has had his shot to show what he can do.

"I think he's really coming on," Richt said of Houston. "If he can get to the point where he doesn't have to think so much, and he can really turn it lose, he's going to play."

With the starters out, however, that meant plenty of extra reps for Houston, and the injury bug eventually caught up with him, too. The 6-foot-3, 240-pounder battled a tight hamstring for much of this week's practice, but decided he was ready to go by Friday afternoon.

Houston returned to action for a scrimmage and tore through the offensive line, making three tackles and earning two sacks an impressive task when you're not allowed to bring the quarterback to the ground.

It's that combination of toughness, determination and skill that has coaches particularly Richt so intrigued. Houston may not have a starting job yet, but when he gets on the field, he has already shown he can be a major asset to the Bulldogs' defense.

"There's no specific number (of plays) I want to see, I just want to be on the field," Houston said. "I'm just waiting for that moment to step on the field."

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