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March 5, 2007Georgia's tentative depth chart for its start of spring training Monday is an eye-opener.
Offensive line, defensive end and linebacker are all in need of major overhauls, and the departure of Tra Battle leaves a void at safety.
Coach Mark Richt will look for redshirt freshmen or transfers to move in as starters at some spots on the offensive line.
But there is one notable difference from last year's spring. This time, there is an established starter at quarterback in Matthew Stafford. The quarterback competition eventually won by Stafford was the major focus in last year's spring and preseason drills, but this year Richt and his staff will have a long list of worries at other spots.
"I certainly will be keeping a close eye on how that offensive line comes together," Richt said.
Among the offensive linemen lost from the 2006 team were Daniel Inman, Nick Jones, Michael Turner and Ken Shackleford. Starting tight end Martrez Milner also was a senior.
Guards Fernando Velasco and Chester Adams are the most experienced returning linemen, but either could move to another position. The only other returning player with significant experience, center Ian Smith, is suspended for the first five games. The long suspension makes it impractical to give Smith significant practice time with the top lines.
Vance is a transfer from Georgia Military.
The newcomers will have new position names as Georgia moves back to using the terms "right tackle" and "left tackle" and allows its linemen to remain on one side of the line.
Quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo, when asked if it may be difficult to come up with two offensive lines for the April 7 G-Day spring game, said he's not looking past Monday's first practice.
"It's a concern about lining up the first day of practice, to be honest," Bobo said. "We're going to have a bunch of young guys, freshmen and JUCO guys that are going to be fighting for roles."
Added Bobo: "It's going to test our patience."
Georgia should be deep at tailback, even with junior Thomas Brown held out of contact drills as he continues to recover from knee surgery.
"I think he's definitely going to make an impact on our football team," Richt said.
"Knowshon will come and he'll compete and he'll try to win the starting job and he will leave every ounce of energy out on the field. He's a very fierce competitor. He seems to have a very good focus on what he wants to accomplish. He's not easily distracted."
Brannan Southerland returns as the starting fullback, and his blocking will be important as the new starters settle in on the line.
One of the highlights of the first week of spring drills will be the return of receiver Sean Bailey, who missed last season with a knee injury.
Bailey has full clearance for spring drills and could join returning starter Mohamed Massaquoi as Stafford's top receivers.
"He looks good," Stafford said of Bailey. "We've thrown a couple of times in the past couple of weeks. He's moving well. He's definitely going to be a big weapon for us. He's a deep threat with a good pair of hands."
Georgia also must replace defensive ends Quentin Moses and Charles Johnson and linebackers Tony Taylor, Jarvis Jackson and Danny Verdun Wheeler.
Marcus Howard and Roderick Battle will open spring as the top ends. Brandon Miller is moving from outside linebacker to middle linebacker. Darius Dewberry and Dannell Ellerbe are the other projected starting linebackers.
"I think all three of them will be able to relax and be able to play a little better and not worry about where they are in the pecking order," Bobo said.