Bulldogs Blog

Camp preview: Breaking down the offensive line

One can imagine, if foresight were possible, Will Friend's job interview in January:



"So, you want to be Georgia's new offensive line coach, huh?"

"Yes I do, very much. I used to work here as a GA, and after the last few years at UAB, I'm ready for a new challenge."

"OK, great. You're hired."

"Great! Thanks so much, I just want to tell you how much - "

"Yeah OK, quiet down a second. Here's the deal: You're taking over an offensive line that was supposed to be the pillar of the offense last year, maybe even the strength of the entire team."

"Right."

"And it ended up not being that."

"I saw some of the tape, yeah."

"You lose three seniors who began last year as starters, including Clint Boling, a fourth-round pick."

"Yes."

"The good news is Cordy Glenn is coming back for his senior year, and center Ben Jones is also still around."

"Yay!"

"But Trinton Sturdivant will tear his knee up again, so there goes your projected starting left tackle."

"Oh no ... poor kid."

"Poor us too. Anyway, we have this other tackle prospet, A.J. Harmon, a junior ..."

"Yeah, I know he's got potential -"

"Forget him too. Transferring."

"Oh."

"And Brent Benedict, stud recruit a year ago, could help at tackle or guard ..."

"I don't like where this is leading ..."

"Gone too. Now at Virginia Tech."

"Um ..."

"So here's what you've got left: Glenn is moving to left tackle, where he hasn't played in a couple years, to protect Aaron Murray's blind side. Jones stays at center. At left guard, Kenarious Gates, a sophomore who started a little bit last year. At right guard, Chris Burnette, who used to play center and didn't play at all last year. At right tackle, we're moving back Justin Anderson, who was at nose tackle for five minutes last year before getting hurt."

"Uh-huh. And the backups?"

"We signed a bunch of freshmen, but they're freshmen. Entering preseason camp the backup left tackle will be a walk-on, the backup right tackle will be a guy who was a scout-teamer last year, and the other guy with the most experience played three games last year."

"Gulp."

"Oh, and by the way, everyone's pretty much counting on the stud recruit tailback to be the next Herschel Walker, so the run-blocking has to be better, and we need to protect Murray because we're pretty much screwed if he gets hurt. ... So, Mr. New Offensive Line coach from UAB, even though you lost three seniors, Sturdivant, Harmon and Benedict, we still need your unit to actually be better this year.

"Um ..."

"And the first game is against Boise State, which led the nation in sacks last year. And the second game is against South Carolina, which has a freshman defensive end who NFL scouts said could play in the league right now."

(Silence.)

"Well ... good luck!"



***



It may not be rosiest of pictures on the line, but Friend has a few weeks to get his unit up to snuff. Here's how each spot stands as preseason begins:



LEFT TACKLE



The battle: Glenn is entrenched as the starter. The backup spot is up for grabs, however. Redshirt freshman Hugh Williams (6-5, 254), a walk-on, is second on the depth chart, but freshman like Watts Dantzler (6-7, 315), Zach DeBell (6-7, 265) and perhaps even Xzavier Ward (6-7, 270) will get a look. The coaches could also give redshirt freshman Kolton Houston (6-5, 291) some reps here.



The skinny: Ultimately, if something were to happen to Glenn, then guard Kenarious Gates would slide over to play left tackle. So look for Gates to get some snaps there in practice. As for the freshman, Friend has said he'll play the best available, even if that means burning a redshirt. And he might have to do that eventually.



Best bet: Don't count out Williams, who did something to impress coaches. But look for Dantzler, DeBell or Houston to start the season second on the depth chart - although Gates would probably still be the first option.



LEFT GUARD



The battle: It's Gates' job, with Houston and redshirt sophomore Dallas Lee (6-4, 300) next on the depth chart. Freshman Hunter Long (6-3, 293) will also get reps.



The skinny: Gates made three starts at right guard last year. Houston and Lee will be competing for essentially the third guard spot, which will be critical if Gates has to move to tackle - or if Gates or Burnette struggle. Houston seems to have the best shot, but Lee has the game experience. ... Anderson, the current right tackle starter, can also play guard, so don't be surprised if he becomes a factor.



Best bet: It's a toss-up between Houston and Lee, but both have to be ready to play.



CENTER



The battle: Redshirt sophomore Ben Reynolds (6-2, 255) or freshman David Andrews (6-2, 275) as the backup to Jones.



The skinny: Reynolds, a walk-on from Bainbridge, has the practice experience. But Andrews has been recruited as a future center for some time, and Friend might like to groom him for the job with some extensive practice time and game experience. In a pinch, Burnette can also move back to this spot.



Best bet: If something were to happen to Jones early in the season, Burnette would move back to center and either Houston or Lee would replace hiim at right guard. If it happens later, Andrews could be ready to step in.



RIGHT GUARD



The battle: Burnette was handed the job after a strong spring. But No. 2 on the depth chart was Benedict, and he's gone now. So once again, it's a Houston-Lee matchup for playing time, with Hunter Long also a factor.



The skinny: Same as left guard.



Best bet: Same as left guard. It also bears mentioning here that Friend - out of necessity, not coachspeak - will cross-train the backups and some starters at a bunch of positions. The current starting unit is a patchwork, and if someone goes down the result will almost certainly be more juggling. You'd think Anderson would shift back to guard if need be, but the tackle spots are pretty thin too.



RIGHT TACKLE



The battle: Anderson begins the season as a starter, with redshirt sophomore Austin Long (6-5, 304) second on the depth chart. The aforementioned freshmen will get looks too.



The skinny: If Benedict or Harmon were still around, Anderson would be more of a threat to end up at guard. But now Anderson, and his few practices at right tackle in the spring, can be called a veteran of the position.



Best bet: All this will be rendered moot at some point in the preseason, when an injury or a struggling player will result in severe juggling.

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