Almost settled: Georgia's O-line comes into focus

semerson@macon.comApril 18, 2014 

ATHENS, Ga. - Some springs, or perhaps more than just some, Mike Bobo has left worried about the state of Georgia’s offensive line. This year, however, Georgia’s offensive coordinator was notably upbeat.

“I think the offensive line has played well. I think we’ve got a chance to be better up front this year,” Bobo said after Thursday’s final spring practice. “I think we’ve got a chance to be more athletic at all five positions. Maybe a little bit better physically stronger than years past.”

OK, there were a lot of qualifiers in there. But when Bobo talked about Georgia’s receiver position, he used words like “concerned” several times. So for him to be optimistic about the line, especially considering it’s been the offense’s main worry the last few years, might say something.

Georgia finished the spring feeling it has four of the five starting spots all but decided. The surprise is at right guard, where Greg Pyke is poised to be a starter after sitting his first two years.

Left guard, on the other hand, is up in the air.

“We played some guys to try to be there, but they’re not the guy,” offensive line coach Will Friend said after Thursday’s practice.

As the spring ended, there were three lineups Friend and Bobo feel comfortable with, and they all hinge on what happens at the left guard spot:

- If rising sophomore Brandon Kublanow wins the left guard spot, then John Theus stays at left tackle and Kolton Houston at right tackle.

- If rising senior Mark Beard plays his way into the starting lineup, he can be the left tackle, with John Theus moving to right tackle and Kolton Houston to left guard. (Beard could also play left guard.)

- And if rising senior Watts Dantzler can win a job at tackle, then Houston goes to left guard, and Theus is at the other tackle spot.

Here’s how Friend summed things up:

“Brandon’s been up and down. Kolton’s looked good the last week-and-a-half. Obviously Zach (DeBell) was moved there and kept there to see if he could figure it out. But that hasn’t gone as well as we wanted. So we’re still looking.”

As a result, hold off on anointing Theus the left tackle, at least all of the time. But that’s because Friend says he can rotate between both spots, and without more depth he has to be ready to play both.

“He can handle playing both,” Friend said of Theus. “He’s been in the system long enough, he’s a smart guy. Some guys struggle with playing more than one spot, more than one side. He can handle it. Kolton can handle it.”

But why all the rotating? Why not keep guys at one spot?

Hey, Friend wouldn’t mind that. Right now the rotating is out of necessity, not design.

“What I’ve told my guys, and they know this, when there is no doubt in our mind that somebody is without a question the best center, he doesn’t come out of the game. When there is no doubt in our mind that somebody is the best guard, he doesn’t come out of the game, if he’s healthy,” Friend said. “So they need to separate if they want to be one of those guys.”

Friend said he’s seen that at center, right guard, and both tackle spots, most of the time.

“I didn’t see that at the other guard,” he said. “The other guard was here and there with people. I guess that’s why you practice. I guess you gotta figure it out in August.”

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