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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Bobo Tempers O Line Expectations

The popular notion among most pundits is that Georgia's offense will miss Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, but a healthy and experienced offensive line will make up a good chunk of the difference. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo isn't exactly buying into that notion just yet.

"We've got some experience coming back at O line, but we don't have five guys who have played the same position next to each other," Bobo said. "I know everybody thinks we're going to be awesome on the offensive line, but we've got to find some continuity right now."

While Georgia does return nine linemen with playing experience this season, the numbers aren't quite as impressive as they might seem at first glance.

Two potential starters -- Trinton Sturdivant and Vince Vance -- are both coming back from ACL surgery, and Sturdivant hasn't played a single down since the 2008 Suger Bowl.

Two other former starters may not see much action at all, at least early on. Josh Davis underwent two shoulder surgeries during the offseason and is not expected to participate in practices during the preseason, while Chris Davis, who started all 13 games last year, has been slow to recover from offseason hip surgery.

"We'll have to observe Chris Davis some more coming off the injury, and the same is true of Trinton and Vince, but Chris was not quite as far along," head coach Mark Richt said.

Tanner Strickland played in reserve duty last season but will miss all of 2009 with a shoulder injury he suffered while lifting weights this offseason, and Kiante Tripp, who started three games at left tackle last year, has moved to the defensive line this season.

Richt said the battle for starting jobs this fall is essentially between just six players -- Sturdivant, Vance, Ben Jones, Clint Boling, Cordy Glenn and Justin Anderson. Anderson also battled injuries down the stretch last season but appears healthy now.

That leaves just three linemen -- Boling, Jones and Glenn -- who return with both significant playing experience and no questions about health. The depth behind that group is still thin, too, Bobo said, but Richt sees a few players capable of stepping up.

"Casey Nichols is a guy who has put himself in a pretty good position to be a very reliable guy. I don't know if he'll break the starting lineup, but he could be productive," Richt said. "A.J. Harmon had a productive spring, and from what I've seen just looking at his body, he's done a really good job there. But again, he's got to learn what to do and get comfortable in that area. Then you have a bunch of young guys that are trying to prove that they're ready to play."

That group includes freshmen Dallas Lee, who enrolled early this spring but missed the G-Day game with an injury, and Chris Burnette, who Boling thinks could be ready if pressed into service.

"Chris is a really smart guy, and this summer he picked up things right away," Boling said. "I think if we had to, he could play for us right away."

So the question of the offensive line's success is really more a matter of perspective.

For Bobo, he's taking a cautious approach. There is ability, he said, but seeing is believing.

"We've still got to find five guys that we feel comfortable with in there right now on what we can do," he said. "Just because those guys have played, they haven't played together, and we've got a long way to go."

Richt, on the other hand, is a bit more optimistic. After seeing a patchwork line piece together a strong season a year ago, any sense of stability seems like a dramatic improvement.

"We're counting on the offensive line to perform well," Richt said. "We do have more maturity, more experience under our belt, so we're expecting better play. I think we progressed pretty darned well considering what we were playing with (last year), but now I think we can expect a little more. Their bodies are certainly bigger and stronger. Their knowledge is better. I really do think they'll perform better."


Anonymous said...

I am more concerned with the play calling than the line.

IveyLeaguer said...

It's so nice to see a little reality in the conversation concerning the OLine. I haven't bought into the "awesome" OL, either. The potential might be there, but right now our OLine isn't anywhere close to being very good. This stuff doesn't happen automatically. We have ZERO experience performing at that level.

Sure, I'm excited about the OLine but like Bobo said, there's a long way to go and hopefully, at least these six guys can stay healthy. As I've said all year, I'll believe we have a great OLine when I see it execute against a top level DLine.

Right now, that is nothing but a dream.