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 HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -Vernon Gholston was a dominant force in college, capable of taking over games with his pass-rushing prowess.
A few weeks into his first NFL training camp with the New York Jets, the big rookie is still trying to figure things out.
``You're just trying to learn what's going on and where to be at,'' the No. 6 overall pick said. ``It's a little frustrating, but it's what you go through when you first start out. Everybody can relate to that.''
Gholston has been refreshingly open and humble about his struggles to catch on to the Jets' 3-4 defensive system and his switch from defensive end to outside linebacker. Early in camp, Gholston said he was ``drowning'' in practices and was anxious to contribute.
``When I first came, it was more, 'Wow, we have to know this, we have to remember this, we have to remember to do that,''' he said. ``Now, it's more, 'What was this on this play?' as opposed to not knowing anything.''
The 6-foot-3, 264-pound Gholston set an Ohio State record with 14 sacks last season and is expected to improve the Jets' pass rush. In New York's 3-4 defense, Gholston will be asked to stand up as a linebacker more after playing mostly from a three-point stance in college.
``My biggest thing is always knowing where you need to be, knowing what's going on,'' he said. ``From there, you can get the job accomplished. It's not necessarily easy to go out there and play hard, but if you go out there and not know what you're doing, you may accidentally make a couple of plays, you may accidentally give up some plays. More likely, you'll give up more than you make. My thing is, if I know what I'm doing, know where I'm supposed to be, hopefully I won't give up too many at all.''
Gholston has had a somewhat quiet camp and wasn't much of a factor in the Jets' preseason opener last week at Cleveland, when he had two solo tackles. He'll get another chance to make an impact Saturday at home against Washington.
``It was a little rough, I was a little nervous, wasn't sure of plays,'' Gholston said of his game against the Browns. ``Now, I had a chance to get into the playbook a little bit more. I obviously got that first experience out of the way, so hopefully I will be a little more comfortable out there.''
After the draft, coach Eric Mangini recalled the moment he first saw Gholston on tape. He said Gholston jumped off the screen, making plays all over the field. Mangini is confident his top pick will eventually do that at this level.
``There's been some times where you see the pass rush ability, the raw power,'' Mangini said. ``He's got very strong hands. He's got a great ability to control the line of scrimmage, and those traits just naturally come out especially in a one on one drill or something where it's less processing, but you want to see it translate into the game and into the practices. It will come.''
Gholston has felt as though he's been trying to catch up for the past few months. He missed the last three weeks of organized team activities and the first day of minicamp because of an NFL and NCAA rule that prohibits rookies from participating in more than one camp before their college class is finished with the semester. Gholston then missed the first day of training camp as a holdout before signing with the Jets.
``I started out late, but that's something I couldn't control,'' he said. ``Once I got here, I was focused on what I'm doing. Doing some extra meetings, doing some extra things on the field and I'm getting up to speed.''
Gholston had several games last season in which he was dominant, including notching the only sack allowed by No. 1 overall pick Jake Long of Michigan last season. He had four sacks against Wisconsin in November, and had three other games in which he had two or more sacks. His combination of speed and power made the Jets believe he's a perfect fit for their defense.
``I think the longer he goes and the more comfortable he gets with the system, I think he's going to be fine,'' defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. ``We think he's going to be a good football player and he's shown at different times that he can help us. We just need to keep trying to speed up his indoctrination. He's worked hard at it. He's spent a lot of time after practice, both on the field and in the classroom to try to catch up.''
Meanwhile, Gholston is trying not to put too much pressure on himself by putting a timetable on when he expects everything to click.
``It's just one of those things where you'll be out there, and sooner or later, you'll realize you're making plays and not thinking at all,'' he said. ``I've kind of had those couple of periods in practice, for the most part. Some things I'm not sure about, but I'm still learning and growing.''
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