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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Boling's Only Constant is Change

By the end of Georgia's 17-play, 11-minute drive in the fourth quarter against Tennessee last season, Clint Boling was gasping for air, summoning every ounce of energy he had to line up for another battle as the Bulldogs marched their way down the field to secure a victory. The sophomore had played every snap of the drive. There was no one left on the sideline to give him a break.

Earlier in the game, Vince Vance had torn ligaments in his knee forcing Boling to take over at left tackle. It was the fourth position on the line Boling had played in 2008. It was where he would remain for the remainder of the season, although it never quite felt like home.

Amid chaos, however, Boling offered consistency. No matter what position his coaches needed him to play, he succeeded. No matter how long his coaches needed him to stay on the field, he thrived. During a season in which five starting linemen missed action due to injuries, Boling was Georgia's rock.

"I think it has helped me," said the sophomore lineman, who earned first-team All-SEC honors for his work on Georgia's battered line. "I know what every person is doing at every position. It just gives me a better understanding of what's going on, what the defense is about to do and things like that."

As Georgia readies for spring practice, there is hope that Boling will be rewarded in 2009 with a permanent home, but he's not holding his breath. With four of Georgia's linemen still on the mend and out of action for a few more months, Boling is once again likely to shift from one end of the line to the other and get more than his share of reps during practice. When it's all over, he isn't likely to be any closer to knowing where he'll line up in September than he is now. And he's not complaining. He's just a little curious.

"It would be nice because you can just focus on that one position, focus on the guys you're going against, focus on the footwork and everything," Boling said of nailing down a permanent job, "but you've just got to be able to move around and whatever happens, happens."

Those long drives a year ago took their toll, however, and Boling's body paid the price.

"Toward the end of last year, I don't know if I came off the field," he said, "which is a good and bad thing."

While it's impossible for Boling to prepare for a specific role next season, he's using the offseason as a chance to get himself in better shape to handle the rigors of SEC play with a bit more firsthand knowledge of just how hard it can be.

Boling said he had trouble keeping his weight up last year, something he hopes to remedy during the next few months.

"I've always been a smaller guy," Boling said. "I've always had a hard time putting on weight, and then when we start practicing every day, it's hard for me to keep it on. I've to do all the shakes and everything like that and be able to eat a ton just to maintain."

Right now, Boling said he weighs in around 297 pounds. He would like to add about 15 pounds to that total by the time fall practice begins in August.

Getting bigger and stronger is one thing. Where he'll put that size and strength to use, however, remains a mystery. Georgia is likely to open the season with eight offensive linemen with starting experience -- although Josh Davis may have a bit later timetable to return to health -- and the only certainty among the group is that Boling tops the list of candidates likely to have a starting job in 2009.

Of course, Boling isn't taking anything for granted. If last year taught him anything, it's to expect the unexpected. So when spring practice begins, he'll be secure in the knowledge that he doesn't know a whole lot, and he'll be ready to try a little bit of everything once again.

With a little luck, however, he hopes this year he might get a breather from time to time, too.

"We've got so many players that are capable of playing right now, and we have a lot of options, and I think Coach (Stacy Searels) knows I'm able to play a lot of positions, and that helps out a lot," Boling said. "I think Coach Searels will also have the confidence to put some other guys in so we're not just playing the same five guys the whole game."

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