May 17, 2011

What now for the OL?

GAINESVILLE - Georgia coach Mark Richt[/db\ had little more to say about Tuesday's announcement revealing that offensive lineman A.J. Harmon will transfer to another school for "personal reasons."

"No, that's why you say its 'personal reasons' because it's personal," Richt said prior to meeting with alumni and supporters at the Gainesville Civic Center. "That's all I can say about that one."

Richt was asked he had an inkling that Harmon was about to make the decision he did.

"I don't know what that means, but all I can tell you is he's leaving the program for personal reasons and we wish him the best," Richt said. "He's a good kid."

Although he declined to speak specifically of Harmon's situation, he wasn't afraid to talk about what his absence will mean in regards to the depth of the offensive line.

"It's less," Richt said. "He ended spring as kind of the backup for both positions at right and left tackle, so it's going to be an opportunity for someone else."

Harmon's absence appears to be an opportunity for redshirt freshman [db]Kolton Houston.

According to Richt, if coaches decide to move Kenarious Gates from left guard to right tackle, Houston would likely get the starting call.

"I've got confidence in Kolton Houston's ability to play football and if something happened to one of the tackles and Gates had to go out there, Kolton would be the next guy inside," Richt said. "It would probably be Kolton moving up."

Richt said questions remain in regards to Austin Long (back/pec) and Brent Benedict (knee), being the two are coming off rather severe injuries.

"I think the jury is still out on Austin Long right now because of the injuries and the lack of productivity to this point, so I'm not sure I can say he's ready to play," Richt said. "But by the time camp is over, we may feel comfortable enough with him."

Ditto for Benedict, who is going on two years removed from the devastating knee injury that saw him tear the ACL, PCL and MCL in his right knee, along with suffering some nerve damage.

"Brent Benedict is a guy who we all know is playing football for the first time after a pretty devastating injury," Richt said. "The good news was he made it through spring, he didn't miss any practices but he knows he's got a ways to go to get where he can perform well, but as he continues to heal and work, maybe by the end of camp, he'll be in really good position too."

As for redshirt sophomore Dallas Lee, Richt said he hopes the Buford native who missed all of spring practice for what was termed an "asthma-like" condition, will be ready for the start of preseason drills.

"He's got this condition - I guess is the best way to describe it - that's kept him from being ready to go," Richt said. "I don't think it is asthma, but it's similar to that in nature. We're hoping he'll be ready to go by the preseason."

Richt said he doesn't want to rely on any of the six incoming freshmen, but did not rule anyone out.

"I think the good news is I think we've got enough guys who can line up and play football at a very high level, but you'd like to have more depth by now, you'd like to have more guys kind of waiting in the wings for their opportunity," Richt said. "I'd rather not go through another cycle of freshmen playing and they kind of go through the program and when they leave, you wind up playing freshmen again. I think we've got enough guys to play well, but as everybody knows, when you're short on depth, you've got to stay healthy."

• When asked if he anticipated any players falling victim to academics, Richt said "I don't. I expect everybody to be here in the fall."

• Richt said Tuesday he's sorry that he used the word "hell" in response to a question during the recent Macon Bulldog Club about the status of running backs coach Bryan McClendon.

"I just know if I had said I know what the 'heck' I was doing then it probably would not have been a story," Richt said. "I didn't prepare mentally and spiritually well enough for that answer. He asked two or three more questions that night and after it was over we talked, we hugged, he was happy and I was happy."

The coach laughed that he thought the individual would be an "Internet phenom" by now.

• Richt said he hopes to include at least six offensive linemen in the 2012 signing class.

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