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Thursday, January 13, 2011

The offensive line in 2011

Now that Cordy Glenn has announced his return for his senior year, we can safely take a look at what next season’s offensive line could look like. Georgia isn’t known to be actively recruiting any more offensive lineman, and even if it was they wouldn’t be likely to play right away.

As we project now, it seems three players, and probably four, are all but guaranteed a starting spot. But only two of those are locked into a specific position.

So it seems likely that when spring practice starts a number of more inexperienced players will be competing for one starting spot, but at several positions. I’d be surprised if Stacey Searels, the offensive line coach, doesn’t carry that competition into the summer.

In fact, Searels probably wouldn’t even grant that anybody is guaranteed starting spots. But I will, because I have a blog and can’t hedge everything, safely assume the following:

- Trinton Sturdivant is the starter at left tackle. It’s not just that the senior, when healthy, is the team’s best blind-side protector. He’s also just more comfortable at that spot.

- Ben Jones is the starting center. He’s made 35 starts in his college career.

- Glenn will start at one of the guard spots. He was the left guard all of 2010, but that was when the Bulldogs had Chris Davis there, or Clint Boling available to rotate over. I’ll be interested to see if the staff wants to keep Glenn on the left side, or shift him to the right, where he'd be next to a more inexperience right tackle.

- Kenarious Gates seems likely to start somewhere. As a freshman he made three starts at right guard, but Searels has said that Gates could also play tackle. If Sturdivant had left, it’s a good bet Gates would have been given first shot at left tackle. Now with Sturdivant and Glenn each back, the staff has the luxury of deciding whether Gates is more valuable at any of three positions.

So that leaves - assuming all of the above is correct, and I’m never wrong so it absolutely is – one starting spot open, at either left or right guard or right tackle. And here are the main candidates:

- Tanner Strickland, who would be a senior if he comes back. Strickland, who appeared in every game this year, making three starts, hasn’t said publicly yet whether he’s going to play. He graduated last month and has battled injuries. Listed at 6-foot-5 and 319 pounds, he would likely be a candidate at each guard spot.

- Brent Benedict (6-5, 301) sat out this year as a true freshman because of a serious knee injury. Once he’s healthy, he will get a shot somewhere.

- A.J. Harmon (6-5, 320), who will be a redshirt junior, appeared in four games in 2010. But he was academically ineligible for the Liberty Bowl, which can’t help his cause.

- Dallas Lee (6-4, 300) appeared in three games as a guard this year. Next year he’ll be a redshirt sophomore, and Searels and head coach Mark Richt brought Lee up several times as someone who had looked good in practice.

- Kolton Houston (6-5, 291) redshirted as a freshman this year. He’s listed as a tackle, but recruiting services had him as a guard. Houston was a pretty highly-touted prospect, so look for him to be involved in the competition.

- Chris Burnette (6-2, 300) will be the backup center and would have played more this year as a redshirt freshman if he hadn’t gotten hurt. But the staff seems really excited about him, so other than preparing him to replace Jones in 2012, they could also give him a look at guard.

- Austin Long (6-5, 302) was also mentioned several times by coaches as having some potential. He’ll be a redshirt sophomore.

- Someone from the defensive line: Justin “Bean” Anderson played offense before shifting to nose tackle. If the Bulldogs are able to land JUCO standout Johnathon Jenkins, they’ll think about moving Anderson back to offense – and could always consider the same with Kwame Geathers, if you believe Buck Belue.

- A true freshman: The Bulldogs have commitments from David Andrews (6-2, 275), Watts Dantzler (6-7, 316), Hunter Long (6-3, 293) and Nathan Theus (6-3, 255). Theus is a long-snapper. Dantzler, because of his size, seems the most likely to contribute right away.

So there you have it. A whole lot of options, which should make for a fun spring and preseason trying to sort it out. But whether it makes for a fun fall for the Bulldogs, well …


walter sobchak said...

if your academically ineligible for bowl game, are you out for that whole semester including spring ball?

Anonymous said...

what about zach debell from FLA? He is listed as a OT commit on Scout. Did he decommit?

matt b. said...

won't matter who the starting 5 is, if they aren't coached up.