MACON - The 2008 season could not have been more frustrating for defensive end Roderick Battle.
Neck and shoulder injuries ruined what most would consider a forgettable year for the Atlanta native, who only saw action in nine games after starting all 13 contests in 2007.
In one way, the 6-foot-4, 262-pounder was the poster-child for all that went wrong injury-wise at defensive end. But that was then.
As the Bulldogs dive head-first into their summer conditioning drills, Battle is right there with them hoping to leave last year's season of disappointment behind.
"I've come a long way," said Battle, who underwent surgery in his labrum last January. "Right now I'm doing everything in the weight room. I'm almost there."
With two months remaining before the start of preseason camp, Battle believes that will be plenty of time to iron out whatever kinks remain.
"I don't expect to be limited in August at all," he said. "I assume if we were actually practicing now I would probably be cleared."
Battle admits sitting out hasn't been easy.
Prior to injuring his neck early last year, Battle said he had never been seriously injured playing football.
"It was the first one, probably the first time I had ever missed any practice," Battle said. "It was different having to get used to the training room."
Assuming he's healthy, Battle figures to be battling for a starting role.
With Justin Houston suspended for the first two games for violating team rules, Battle and junior Demarcus Dobbs (foot) would appear to have a leg up to start against Oklahoma State, with Kiante Tripp, Neland Ball, Cornelius Washington, Jeremy Longo and incoming freshman Montez Robinson also figuring into the mix.
Battle said he's interested to see how quickly Robinson fits into the group.
"I think he's got a good situation to come in to," Battle said. "You always want a situation where you can come can play and you know as well as I do that this is that type of situation. That should be a good motivation for him. Sometimes it might be hard to get the playbook and get enough reps, but he's got a great opportunity."
Robinson shouldn't be the only defensive end with motivation.
After Georgia's defensive ends combined for just 9.5 sacks last fall, Battle said it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that number simply won't cut it this fall.
"That (getting pressure on the quarterback) is going to be a big part of it (the defense)," Battle said. "We're going to have to rattle the quarterback because when you do that you're going to get more interceptions."
Could Battle be that man?
The former Douglass standout comes into the year with five sacks, but has never been thought of as a pass-rushing specialist in the same vein as former teammate Marcus Howard.
"I'd like to say that I can but I've still got to go out and make it happen," Battle said. "But it's not just me. It's the same as last year; somebody's going to have to step up, whether it be me or somebody else. That's what we're all working on. There's not a defensive end here who doesn't want to make something happen."
Battle does like what he's seen from linebackers Daryl Gamble and Marcus Washington, who were used at rush end toward the end of spring drills.
"I think they did pretty well," Battle said. "If we needed to have that spark, I think they could do it. I'm for anything that helps us win."
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