ATHENS, Ga. (AP) — The newcomer in the middle of No. 10 Georgia's defense used brain power, as well as brawn, to win a starting job.
Alabama-Birmingham transfer Jake Ganus started at middle linebacker and had three tackles in the Bulldogs' 51-14 opening win over Louisiana Monroe on Saturday.
Ganus said Tuesday "one of the first goals I had was to start" after his transfer from UAB.
Georgia opens its Southeastern Conference schedule at Vanderbilt on Saturday.
Ganus (6-2, 233) moved to Georgia for spring practice after UAB temporarily shut down its football program. While outside expectations may have been low, Ganus quickly began moving up the Georgia depth chart.
"It's what he knows," Georgia tight end Jeb Blazevich said Tuesday.
Blazevich said Ganus was "so annoying" in preseason drills by consistently identifying new wrinkles in the offense's plays.
"He could pick it up just like that," Blazevich said, snapping his fingers. "He's one of those guys, he just has a mind for football. He can just see things other people can't see and he can react and he has the ability to make plays on it, too."
Outside linebacker Davin Bellamy said Ganus earned respect from coaches and players by mastering defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt's scheme.
"He knows the playbook like the back of his hand and that just shows in his preparation," Bellamy said. "I think the coaches take notice of that, too. He's also a great football player, very instinctive."
Georgia's depth and talent at linebacker may make it tough for Ganus to keep the starting job.
The depth chart released by Georgia on Tuesday listed Ganus as a co-starter with Reggie Carter, who missed the opener with a shoulder injury.
Among other names at linebacker are Jordan Jenkins, Leonard Floyd, Lorenzo Carter and Tim Kimbrough. Jenkins led the unit with a sack and seven stops against ULM.
Ganus said he has moved past his initial bitterness when UAB shut down its program.
"I think I'm past the anger stage," he said. "I was angry when it first happened. I'm here now, at the best school in America. It's awesome. I couldn't be happier."
Coach Mark Richt said the defense must correct mistakes on ULM's two touchdown drives.
"We really got hurt when the ball got thrown down the field," Richt said. "There were two plays where they took advantage of us being out of position in the backfield."
The defense will face a difference challenge against Vanderbilt's offense, led by dual-threat quarterback Johnny McCrary and running back Ralph Webb.
Vanderbilt gained 393 yards in its 14-12 loss to Western Kentucky but was hurt by mistakes. On three trips inside the 10, McCrary threw two interceptions and the Commodores missed a field.
Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason said Tuesday the Georgia defense will "be a great test for us."
McCrary (6-4, 220) threw passes to nine different players for 217 yards and ran for 66 yards.
"That means we're moving the chains," Mason said.