ATHENS, Ga. -- Kenarious Gates doesn’t feel like a veteran yet. It will take more than three starts to consider himself one.
Still, in a year that the Georgia offensive line was disappointing overall, Gates was one of the few bright spots. Once a candidate to redshirt, he played well enough in seven games at guard to enter this spring first on the depth chart.
“That starting experience gave me a lot of confidence,” Gates said. “So this season I’ve kept my head straight. Just keep working hard, keep working hard and keep my starting job.”
The 6-foot-5, 307-pound Gates was a three-star prospect coming out of Greenville (Ga.) High, according to Rivals and Scout.com. Gates was expecting to redshirt last year, especially with five proven linemen returning to start.
But the unit’s struggles prompted Gates to get the call the week of the Tennessee game.
“I was shocked,” Gates said. “I didn’t think I would get a chance to play in the season. I was just going to work. But when they told me I was going to start that week, I knew I had to start working hard that day. When I first got out there, it was a bit But once I got in the game, I had fun, and they kept me in there.”
Gates started the next three games at right guard, then came off the bench when Trinton Sturdivant entered the starting lineup at left tackle. (Cling Boling, who had started there, shifted to right guard.)
Now, Boling is gone, and with Cordy Glenn shifting from guard to tackle, so both guard spots are up for grabs. Gates appears in the most secure position, with three others -- Justin Anderson, Chris Burnette and Kolton Houston -- getting work at right guard.
Any of those three, and Brent Benedict, could move over and push Gates at left guard. But it appears to be Gates’ spot to lose.
“I’m going to work real hard, knowing that spot could go away any day,” he said.
The middle linebacker and safety spots were reaching deep down the depth chart Thursday, thanks to a rash of injuries.
Both inside linebackers – Christian Robinson and Alec Ogletree -- were out. Robinson is day-to-day with a concussion, and Ogletree’s time out was given as “indefinite” with a strained groin. Reserve Mike Gilliard (knee) was also out.
That left Richard Samuel and Brandon Burrows working with the first team at Thursday’s practice.
“Brandon Burrows was out there today, and he did a real good job,” outside linebacker Cornelius Washington said. “He made a few plays that I really liked. He’s adjusting to it real well, I think he’s going to be real good right there.”
The safety position might have been hit harder, enough so that cornerback Sanders Commings was playing free safety, according to Marc Deas, himself one of the hurt safeties. Deas tweaked his hamstring in practice last week.
Jakar Hamilton (concussion) is also out day-to-day. Projected starter Bacarri Rambo (sprained knee) is sitting out the rest of spring practice. So Shawn Williams and Deas were the only remaining safeties, necessitating the Commings move.
“Shawn Williams is the only true safety that we have. Because Sanders, he’s new to it. He’s learning plays and stuff,” Deas said.
The coaches were not available to the media. Deas said he had no idea whether the Commings move was just for practice or longer. “I’m pretty sure we’ll find out after G-Day, see how he does at that position, if they like him there,” Deas said. “Sanders is a pretty big dude for a corner.”
Backup receiver Israel Troupe was also out with an unspecified injury.
Tailback Washaun Ealey (hamstring) sat out again. Ealey has missed most of spring practice.