February 11, 2011

Offensive line has holes to fill

When all is finally said and done in regards to the upcoming 2011 campaign, Georgia's best recruiting news may not have a single thing to do with players like Isaiah Crowell, Johnathan Jenkins or Ray Drew.

Getting Trinton Sturdivant and Cordy Glenn to return for their senior seasons may be.

Don't take it the wrong way. Being able to cap off the Dream Team with the three incoming freshmen is certainly a feather in the collective cap of the Bulldog coaching staff.

But considering where Georgia would have been from a depth perspective on the offensive line, entering spring practice without Sturdivant (6-5, 312) and Glenn (6-5, 320), well, that would have been a scary proposition indeed, following the graduations of Clint Boling, Chris Davis, Josh Davis, Ben Harden and Tanner Strickland.

With them, it gives new offensive line coach Will Friend a deeper base with which to start figuring who plays where come the start of the 2011 campaign.

"We're going to put the best five out there," Friend said, citing a common mantra from predecessor Stacy Searels.

Along with two-year starter Ben Jones (6-3, 300) at center, Sturdivant and Glenn at least give Friend some experienced faces with which to start building for next year.

But where will they play?

Sturdivant, who suffered no reoccurring effects from his most recent ACL injury two seasons ago, wound up starting seven of the Bulldogs' 13 games and barring anything unforeseen will anchor the left side for one final campaign.

Glenn's role is still somewhat up in the air.

According to the Riverdale native, coaches have indicated that he might get the opportunity to see time at tackle - presumably right tackle - after starting all 13 games at left guard a season ago.

The question is, how will the rest of the offensive line shake down?

That's what Friend is no doubt anxious to see.

Sophomore Kenarious Gates (6-5, 307) started three games at right tackle as a true freshman, but has the versatility to playing to play guard should the situation require.

His versatility certainly bodes well for the Bulldogs, especially after Strickland's decision to forgo his senior year leaves another void, while A.J. Harmon's status is still up in the air, after academic issues forced him to miss the Liberty Bowl against UCF.

Until Harmon can get his situation in order, Friend will have to assume he won't be available, meaning youngsters like Brent Benedict (6-5, 301), Austin Long (6-5, 302), Kolton Houston (6-5, 291), Dallas Lee (6-4, 300)and Chris Burnette (6-2, 300) will receive plenty of opportunities to show what they can do. Junior walk-on John Bodin (6-6, 314) won't be ignored, either.

Before he tore his ACL, MCL and PCL, Benedict was considered a 'can't miss' prospect as far as offensive linemen go.

Rivals.com recruiting analyst Barry Every even said Benedict (before his injury) was a guy who would no doubt get taken in the first day of the NFL Draft.

Although it remains to be seen if Benedict can regain his old form, the former Bolles School standout returned to practice late last year and will enter spring practice March 10 with a clean bill of health.

Long is another player coming off a serious injury (back) that appears ready to make his mark in the two-deep rotation.

Like Benedict, Long returned to full-contract drills late in the season and during Liberty Bowl practice told UGASports that he's "100 percent."

Burnette, Houston and Lee also have the versatility to play different positions, but will need to show Friend that they're ready to contribute this coming season.

Any doubts in his mind, and you could see former offensive lineman Justin Anderson swapped back to the offensive line to provide additional depth, something defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said could enter the coaches thinking after the signing of Jenkins last Saturday to play nose.

Come August, Friend will see what he's got in incoming freshmen Watts Dantzler, David Andrews, Hunter Long, Zach DeBell, Xzavier Ward and Nathan Theus before making any final decisions regarding redshirts for fall.

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