February 27, 2013

Offensive line breakdown



Flash back to this time last spring.

Remember all the questions fans had about Georgia's offensive line? This year, the opposite is true.

After having to replace three starters for the 2012 campaign, the Bulldogs are in the enviable position of returning all five of last year's starters, plus every one of their returning lettermen are back for another season.

As UGASports continues its position breakdown heading into the upcoming spring drills, we take a look at the offensive line and take a look at the players the Bulldogs will have at their disposal. (For the purpose of this article, we only include players currently on scholarship):

Returning letterman

Kenarious Gates - Gates started all 14 games for Georgia last year in his first season, including 12 starts at left tackle. At 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds, Gates and Mark Beard will get most of the looks at left tackle this spring.

Dallas Lee - Lee (6-4, 300) bounced back from a broken leg he suffered as sophomore to start all14 games for Georgia last fall, 12 coming at left guard. Two of those starts came at right guard late in the year in place of the injured Chris Burnette.

Chris Burnette - Burnette missed the games against Auburn and Georgia Southern last year but the rising senior is healthy now. He'll remain the starter at right guard, where at 6-2 and 322 pounds, has a chance for All-SEC honors.

David Andrews - A lot of people wondered if Andrews would hold up in his first year as the starter at center, but he did that and more. The 6-2, 295-pounder started all 14 contests, got better as the season went along, and is primed for another solid year.

John Theus - A member of the SEC All-Freshman Team, Theus (6-6, 315) started all 14 contests for the Bulldogs as a true freshman. Some have wondered whether or not Theus might get a look at left tackle, but at last report, Bulldog coaches are adamant about keeping him on the right side where he could contend for All-Conference honors this fall.

Mark Beard - The junior college transfer made huge strides throughout the season and actually pushed Gates for playing time at left tackle. He actually got to start a pair of games at the position, when Gates slid over to left guard after Chris Burnette missed games against Auburn and Georgia Southern. A versatile performer, Beard can play any of the offensive line spots except center.

Austin Long - Long was finally healthy all of last season and this year the 6-5, 310-pounder will provide backup help at both tackle spots. He can also play guard in a pinch, only adding to what should be some of the best offensive line depth Georgia has had in a number of years.

Hunter Long - After appearing in three games as a true freshman, Long broke his foot in preseason camp and did not play the entire year. Now healthy, the 6-4, 300 pounder is expected to provide backup help at both right and left guard.

Watts Dantzler - Dantzler appears healthy after only appearing in five games last year due to an ankle injury. At 6-7 and 320 pounds, Dantzler is expected to primarily provide backup help for Theus at right tackle.

Zach DeBell - DeBell (6-6, 295) is still maturing into the type of offensive lineman that position coach Will Friend and will be looking to make a good impression come spring. DeBell did appear in five games last year as a backup at right tackle.

● Xzavier Ward - Ward (6-6, 295) finally got himself healthy after sitting out a year to recover from a torn ACL and began to open some eyes. He did appear in five games last year, and coaches feel has the potential to one day become a starter.

Redshirt

Greg Pyke - Pyke (6-6, 327) redshirted last year and this spring is expected to continue to alternate working between left and right guard. The Baltimore native probably won't see a lot of playing time this fall, but moving forward is definitely someone to watch.

Early enrollees

● Aulden Bynum - The former Valdwood standout (6-5, 270) obviously still needs to add some weight, and a barring injuries to other players is likely headed toward a redshirt season. Bynum, who also held offers from Auburn, Ole Miss, Miami and Nebraska, among others has the perfect frame and length to become an outstanding tackle, but will need time to develop.

Josh Cardiello - Cardiello is Georgia's center in waiting, and like Bynum, will use this fall to get bigger and stronger while he learns the Bulldog system. Also offering Cardiello were Florida, Florida State, Nebraska and South Carolina.

Incoming Freshmen

DeVondre Seymour - The son of Bulldog great Richard Seymour, paved the way for a North Gwinnett rushing attack that averaged 1,862 yards last fall. One of his more memorable games came against Grayson when he did an outstanding job handling No. 1 player Robert Nkemdiche. Questions still remain, however, as to whether or not Seymour will have to go the prep school route before arriving at UGA.

Brandon Kublanow - The four-star performer is a tough, no-nonsense lineman who plays the game with more than a little attitude. At 6-3 and 290 pounds, Georgia can probably redshirt the former Walton High standout if it wants, but physically, he's ready to help out now and could if the Bulldogs find themselves in a pinch. He could back up at center as well.