Magic number is now eight for Georgia's offensive line

semerson@macon.comAugust 22, 2013 

Offensive line coach Will Friend.

PAUL ABELL — UGA sports communications

ATHENS - Will Friend isn't saying yet whether John Theus or Kolton Houston will start at right tackle next week. But both will apparently get a shot at Clemson.

Friend, Georgia's offensive line coach, said he will head into the game with eight players he feels comfortable using, and he plans on using them. Those eight include all five of last year's starters (left tackle Kenarious Gates, left guard Dallas Lee, center David Andrews, right guard Chris Burnette and right tackle Theus) along with Houston, Mark Beard and Watts Dantzler.

Friend said he fully plans to use all eight players at Clemson. It won't be a case of waiting for an injury or a blown assignment from one of the first five.

"No, we'll play guys," Friend said. "Those eight we feel like they can play, and we'll play them," Friend said, then started laughing: "Obviously if somebody's not getting the job done it may mean you get off your schedule a little bit. But we don't have any problem with playing those guys."

Theus and Houston continue to both work with the first-team at right tackle, and if one has an edge, Friend isn't saying.

"Who performs the best during game week, and who does the best assignment-wise and is ready to go is how we'll handle it," Friend said. "I feel good about both of them playing in a game. They're both better than they've been. I mean John's better than he was a year ago, and Kolton's better than he was a year ago. So it's really more a matter of seeing who the starter will be and compete it out."

Burnette's ability to play a full game has been somewhat in question, as he has been eased back this preseason following pre-spring shoulder surgery. But Friend said Burnette is a "full go."

"We kind of brought him along a little slower to get him back. He's in good shape and he's practiced well and he's ready to go," Friend said.

Bobo plays it coy

While other SEC teams are engaged in starting quarterback battles, the biggest question at Georgia is who will be the No. 3 quarterback. So of course reporters were asking offensive coordinator Mike Bobo about that, and Bobo found it amusing.

"One is Murray, and two is Mason. If people wanna worry about the third quarterback ...," Bobo said, then laughed. "If the third quarterback goes in the game then you'll see who it is. Now Claude (Felton, the sports information director) may give you a piece of paper, that might not mean who No. 3 is, OK?"

Bobo was still laughing. A reporter followed up by (jokingly) asking for the starting 11.

"The starting 11," Bobo said. "Murray and Gurley will start. Other nine, we'll see what personnel group we're in."

Bobo also wouldn't reveal who would be the third-string tailback, with the battle apparently being between freshmen J.J. Green and Brendan Douglas. (A.J. Turman remains out with a knee and ankle sprain.)

One thing Bobo did make clear: Quayvon Hicks remains the clear No. 1 fullback, Bobo reiterated. Top backup Merritt Hall will definitely play too, but Bobo said Hicks has had a strong preseason and deserves to play.

Follow Seth Emerson at @sethemerson.

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