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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

O Line Finally Taking Shape

If you follow me on Twitter, you got some of this information yesterday, just minutes after I spoke with Georgia left tackle Trinton Sturdivant. If you're not following me on Twitter... what are you waiting for?

Since Sturdivant first hurt his knee last August, Georgia's offensive line has been in flux. Seven different players started games on the line during the season, and since the Bulldogs' bowl game, three linemen have undergone surgery. Still, the strength projected to return in the fall is staggering, but the question has remained: What exactly will the line look like when Georgia takes the field against Oklahoma State to start the season?

While the ongoing answer throughout the offseason so far has been, "We don't have a clue," Sturdivant said the team is actually working on solidifying a starting five now.

"Right now we have a set lineup that we're going through at and we look really good," Sturdivant said. "We're just focusing on getting used to the player beside us because last year, everybody was mixed up, switching positions every week."

That lineup features Sturdivant back at left tackle where he starred as a freshman in 2007. He said he's 100 percent recovered from the severe knee injury he suffered in the second week of fall practice last year and says he injured knee actually feels stronger than the healthy one now. He has completed treatment and is a full go.

Next to Sturdivant is Vince Vance at left guard. Vance is also recovering from ACL surgery, but is getting closer to a complete recovery. Although Vance started the first six games of last season, he's never played with Sturdivant, and building that relationship has been a focus of the past few weeks of drills, Sturdivant said.

Ben Jones reprises his role as the team's center after grabbing the job as a true freshman last season. Jones underwent surgery this offseason, but is already back at full speed.

Cordy Glenn was Georgia's other true freshman starter on the offensive line last season, and while Sturdivant said Glenn prefers to work on the left side of the line -- and he has been practicing some at left tackle, too -- he's currently slotted as the right guard.

Clint Boling, last year's MVP of the line, is currently working at right tackle after holding down the job on the left side after Vance's injury midway through the year last season.

"We're just getting better with knowing each other, how our tendencies are on the field, on pass situations, run situations," Sturdivant said. "Right now, we're focusing on getting better with the lineup that we have now."

Of course, there are still a few other linemen with eyes on playing time. Josh Davis started four games last season but has undergone two shoulder surgeries this offseason and isn't a sure bet to be ready when the season starts in September.

Chris Davis played all of last season with a nagging and painful hip injury. He's been getting work at left guard and center this offseason, but Sturdivant said he still hasn't fully recovered from surgery to repair the hip injury and has been unavailable during a number of the team's drills. Whether Davis can recover completely in time to make a run at a starting job remains to be seen.

"We really don't know how he will pan out as far as the injury," Sturdivant said. "We know he's an excellent player, but we're just hoping he can get back his strength to where he was."

Justin Anderson found his place at right tackle midway through the 2008 season as well, but a foot injury limited him during the team's final three games. He still has a shot at the starting lineup in 2009, too, but for now he's been working behind Glenn at right guard.

Perhaps the most intriguing name still in the mix, however, is freshman Chris Burnette.

Burnette arrived on campus earlier this month but has already impressed his teammates with his physical skills.

"He's really quick, really fast, explosive," Sturdivant said. "He's not as strong as he wants to be right now in the weight room, but that will come. He's very explosive, has really good technique. He's going to be a really good player."

Beyond the physical tools, however, Burnette has picked up the playbook astoundingly fast. Burnette was nearly named valedictorian at Troup County High School and his academic accomplishments have been obvious on the playing field, Sturdivant said.

"He already knows all the calls and the plays and it's really amazing how fast he's caught on since he's only been here about three weeks," Sturdivant said. "But everything that we've put in front of him, he knows. We can call any call, and he just spits it out just like that. I know he had a 5.8 GPA in high school, and it's definitely transferring."

So, does Burnette really have a shot at significant playing time his freshman year? Considering the track record of offensive line coach Stacy Searels, Sturdivant thinks it's likely.

"With Coach Searels, I feel like anybody has a shot," he said. "And of course we have a lot of experienced players, and it may seem like he may not play, but if he gets on the field and puts those pads on and is showing great technique and blowing people off the ball, I don't see signs of him not playing."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a pretty star-studded cast. Simply being able to get into a rhythm with eachother is going to be a big improvement from last year.