ATHENS - Offensive line and backup quarterback are two of the more intriguing areas of position battles this spring for Georgia. Head coach Mark Richt provided some insight into both following Thursday's practice.
First, on the offensive line:
- Kolton Houston is expected to be able to play in 2012, after sitting out his redshirt freshman season with an unspecified NCAA issue.
"We anticipate him to be able to play but it's not set in stone yet on him," Richt said.
Richt again didn't elaborate on Houston's reason for not being able to play.
Houston has been getting the first-team snaps this spring at left guard, with Dallas Lee on second-team. But Richt cautioned that offensive line coach Will Friend is rotating the line in and out.
"I wouldn't say Kolton is ahead of Dallas Lee right now," Richt said. "On any given rotation he may be in there and Dallas will be with the twos, but they're both moving back and forth with the ones and twos."
Richt did add that "we think Kolton can play. Kolton's got a ways to go."
- David Andrews is the projected starter at center, Richt re-affirmed. Andrews has consistently been taking the first-team snaps.
Richt said that at one time they would have projected Chris Burnette, the backup center in 2010, would be the replacement for Ben Jones. But now, according to Richt, he thinks "it would be better for Georgia" if it's Andrews, and Burnette stays at guard.
"Right now he is the No. 1 center," Richt said. "So if he can get it done that will help us a lot to free up a guy like Burnette to stay at the guard position. We wouldn't line up David at anything but center at this point. But he's doing a great job. As far as knowing what to do, working hard on communicating. It's a tough job up there at center. Next to the quarterback he's got the toughest job there is far as recognizing things, communicating things and doing it really fast and in short order. He has all that he's just gotta continue to get stronger and continue to improve his technique. We think he can do it."
- As for the backup quarterback position, the only thing that remains certain is that Aaron Murray will start. While Hutson Mason is projected to redshirt, a condition of his deciding not to transfer, the sophomore is still getting most of the second-team snaps.
Christian LeMay, a redshirt freshman, and Faton Bauta, a true freshman, are also candidates to back up Murray.
"We definitely want Hutson to get as many reps as any other year. As we said before, we hope that Aaron stays healthy, plays great, that Hutson will be able to redshirt. We don't know what's gonna happen in the future, so Hutson really has to stay in a state of readiness. We also want to make sure the other young men are having a chance to get their work in too in case it does turn out that Hutson doesn't take a snap.
"So it's kind of a balance. But at this point we can't put Hutson on the shelf and think 100 percent he won't play next year, at this point."
One guy who isn't an option at quarterback is Michael Tamburo, the transfer from Boise State who was a walk-on last year. Tamburo has stopped playing because of injuries, according to Richt, but will stay on as a student assistant.
In any case, the quarterback room is pretty crowded, with walk-ons Greg Bingham and Parker Welch also still around, along with another walk-on. That makes seven guys and a crowded room.
"We almost had to kick coach Richt out," Mason said.
- Finally, Richt broke down how he saw the young members of the secondary: cornerback Damian Swann, safety Corey Moore and cornerback Devin Bowman.
"I think (Swann) is ready to play SEC football," Richt said. "I'm not sure Corey is yet. He's getting there. And not that Swanny has perfected his trade but I think he's ready to go out there and go compete. Bowman his still making great progress. But I'm not sure we're ready to throw him out there yet."
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And oh yeah, Malcolm Mitchell.
"Malcolm's already played SEC football at a high level. He's just gotta kind of learn what to do," Richt said. "I think we have all the confidence that he'll be able to play good ball for us."