January 14, 2009

Looking ahead: The OL

Hang on guys, reinforcements are coming.

That might as well be the rallying cry this spring for Georgia offensive line coach Stacy Searels, who for arguably the first time next fall, will be working from a position of strength.

"It looks like it will be," Georgia head coach Mark Richt said last week. "With everyone coming back, it would have been fun to see what Matthew (Stafford) and Knowshon (Moreno) would have done working behind it. As long as we can stay healthy, it's going to be one of the strongest parts of our team."

Richt has his fingers crossed.

When left tackle Trinton Sturdivant went down with a torn ACL in preseason it started a domino effect of bad injury news for the offensive line, which also lost Vince Vance for the year due to a torn ACL resulting in more shakeups along the line of scrimmage than a bottle of Mexican jumping beans.

But when the Bulldogs kick off preseason drills come August, Georgia will do so with a full compliment of offensive linemen, something everybody associated with the position will be glad to see.

Clint Boling can vouch for that.

After Vance went down against Tennessee, Boling slid over to left tackle for the first time in his college career.

Couple with the fact that the Bulldogs were already playing three freshmen in Ben Jones at center, Cordy Glenn at left guard and Justin Anderson (redshirt freshman) at right tackle, Georgia's youth up front was definitely a much-talked about topic during the 2008 campaign.

Oddly enough, the unit held its own.

The Bulldogs only surrendered 17 sacks, the third-fewest in the SEC, a number that should prove quite comforting to new starting quarterback Joe Cox.

"We've definitely got some good experience and those guys are going to make the job easier," Cox said last week. "I'm looking forward to it."

There are questions that need be answered, but they're not the kind of issues that coaches mind dealing with.

For example: With Sturdivant sliding back to left tackle, it will free up Boling to move back to either guard spot or right tackle, which would allow Anderson to slide back to guard, his natural position.

However, he'll have plenty of competition.

Jones returns as the starting center.

But with Boling assured a starting position, Anderson, Vance, Glenn, Josh Davis and Chris Davis (coming off hip surgery) will be the early favorites to battle it out for the remaining two spots.

The competition should prove interesting.

Glenn started 10 of Georgia's 13 games as a true freshman while Davis started all 13 contests despite a painful hip injury that bothered him for most of the year.

It remains to be seen how Georgia's incoming freshmen will fit into the equation, along with returnees Ben Harden, Jonathan Owens and Kevin Perez.

Former Buford standout Dallas Lee is already enrolled in school and will gain some valuable practice time, but last year Glenn did not arrive until August and wound up earning himself a starting role.

That could bode well for verbal commitments Chris Burnett and Austin Long, who will also get to Athens in the summer.

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