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Monday, April 11, 2011

Analysis: What now for the offensive line?

Trinton Sturdivant was a great story for the Georgia football team. He was one of the few positive, uplifting angles that came out of the dreary 2010 season.

But the senior tackle was more than that to the 2011 team: He was to be one of the keys to a revamped, improved offensive line.

For both reasons, the news of his third ACL tear has to be a shot in the gut to the program.

We’ll find out later what Sturdivant plans to do; he would be a likely candidate for a sixth year if he wants it. In the meantime, the North Carolina native will begin rehab.

As for his team, new offensive line coach Will Friend almost has to go back to the drawing board.

At a minimum, it will be a patchwork line. Maybe by the time they trot out a starting five against Boise State they’ll feel confident about the unit as a whole.

But for the moment the most likely starting tackle, Cordy Glenn, was a guard the past few seasons. The only other returning starter is Ben Jones, who’s a center. There doesn’t seem any way to avoid having a couple inexperienced starters, perhaps even a true freshman.

Friend, who should be available to the media after Tuesday’s practice, appears to have three options:

- Kenarious Gates can shift from guard to tackle. That would take away the team’s chance to have a returning starter at guard (Gates played there as a freshman last year) but it would at least give the team experience on both ends of the line.

- One of the returning linemen – likely Brent Benedict, Kolton Houston, Austin Long or A.J. Harmon - could get a shot at right tackle. Benedict (6-5, 301) and Houston (6-5, 291) are redshirt freshmen, Long is a redshirt sophomore who hasn’t played yet, and Harmon (6-5, 320) is a redshirt junior who has appeared in seven games in his career. There’s also Dallas Lee (6-4, 300), a redshirt sophomore who played three games at guard last year.

- Friend could wait for one of the incoming freshmen. Zach Debell (6-7, 285) and Watts Dantzler (6-7, 315) would seem the most likely candidates, followed by Hunter Long (6-3, 293). Xzavier Ward is seen as more of a project, and David Andrews is projected at center.

Ideally, a team doesn’t want to play true freshmen on the offensive line, and especially not right away. (Gates earned his spot midway through the year.) But I suspect this staff, given the importance of this season, will burn a redshirt or two if they have to, then worry about getting it back later.

This also puts a lot more pressure on Glenn. He was an NFL prospect at guard – which could still be his eventual position in the pros – but now he may have to anchor the line and protect Aaron Murray’s blind spot.

“He’s rusty there,” Friend said of Glenn earlier this spring. “The biggest thing he’s got to do – he’s got a lot of potential. … He could be a dominant player. We need him to be one.”

Especially now.

It also may be a bit tougher for Friend to make personnel decisions, being a new hire. He wasn’t around to see how Benedict, Houston and Austin Long did on scout team. He didn’t recruit Debell, Danztler and Hunter Long.

Then again, maybe a fresh approach helps. Plus, Mark Richt, Mike Bobo and other staff members can also provide some perspective on the available linemen. Richt and Bobo have their own problems to settle, but the offensive line is so paramount that I’m sure they’re huddling with Friend these days.

Friend has said he’ll start the best five. Of course, everyone says that. But if he truly means that, based on the word that’s seeped out of spring practice, it would mean Option 1: Justin Anderson and Chris Burnette start at guard, allowing Gates to shift out to tackle.

But there’s a long way between now and the opener. There were already going to be a few unknowns on the front five. The Sturdivant news means the uncertainty now extends to almost the entire line.

It doesn't bode well.


Matt said...

This is why I do not have any high hopes for the Dawgs in 2011. We might have a running back and a stellar defense, but our O-Line is worrisome.

If the lines can't play, you will not win.

I'm very worried about our offense. I think our defense will be decent, but our offense will have issues, especially if our O-line underperforms.

Gotta feel bad for Sturdivant. What a DGD.

BulldogBen said...

Just heartbreaking about Sturdivant. He's most likely done playing football. I can't see how anyone would ask him to rehab a 3rd time to try and play. It's sadistic. He needs to get healthy and move on. He's done enough for this program and will always be part of the Dawg Nation.

As for the O-line, just chalk it up to more question marks on this team. Receivers? Defense that gave up 30, 4 out of our last 6 games?

I simply haven't been following spring practice updates much this year because it just seems like we hear the same positive spins with a little varience every year the last few years with diminishing results. It's time to put up or shut up.

Stretched-out Dawg said...

It really stacks on the pressure, seems to me Murray will have a little less protection and of course a little less time. If he has an exceptionally good season it will mean that much more.

You really have feel for Trinton, 3 is pretty much the end. The only way forward is to put trust and faith into the rest of what we have, and stay positive.

Anonymous said...

Good thing Murray is fast.

Anonymous said...

it will be tougher and goodness I feel for the kid. Hope Murray can do what Greene did for the Dawgs. There were times where our o-line play was not too stellar but he rallied the troops.

Also, last year, the line was supposed to be all world and didn't live up to it. Hopefully the line will play up and blow our minds.

Anonymous said...

The Fat Lady is just warming up for Mark Richts swann song. Its a shame that the offensive line is now a huge weakness at UGA.

Anonymous said...

The young man should focus on getting healthy and finishing his degree. He has done all that he can up to this point.

haney said...

What about Justin "Bean" Anderson? He was moved back to the OL and has some experience. Did you just forget to mention him or am I missing something.

As for Sturdy, feel HORRIBLE for him and his family. He would be a candidate for a 6th year but will he want to go through it all for the 3rd time, tough thing for a kid.

haney said...

Sorry, just read you did included Bean in there. I think he or Gates can be plugged into OT, I think Harmon or Benedict can play guard. Losing TS is a BIG loss but one of the younger guys MUST step up and Glenn needs to take care of business as well.

Look at it this way, the veteran line didn't play up to expectations last year, I look at the new OL and new players as maybe a positive as much as a negative. New blood my equal new results.

Tim said...

Tough to see it happen to TS while the likes of Stephen Garcia blow opportunity after opportunity and still screw up.

Michael said...

Is this just incredible bad luck or do some people just have weaker ACLs and thus they are destined for this sort of thing if they try to play college/pro football?

Anonymous said...

I hate it for TS as well, but the show must go on. The fact that it happened now instead of Fall camp or the season is a huge help. The coaches and players will have 4+ months to work on continuity which is very important on the OL. Also most of our recent OL recruits have been 4 star or Top 10 nationally at their position so now is their time. I am going to hold judgement on the OL until I see them play some.

PTC DAWG said...

My thoughts are if we were relying on Sturdivant to play 12 games, we are worse off than I realized.

IF we can't withstand one injury on the OL, well, I don't have much more to say.

OldDawg55 said...

Like another blooger put it: Players will just have to step up and be accountable. These are linemen for the University of Georgia, not people who just fell off the turnip truck in Athens! You have a stable of real hosses in reserve..just ask who wants to play for the Dawgs..step up..this is what you came here for@ Go Dawgs, GATA!! Regrets to TS..he has been a damn good dawg!

Anonymous said...

It's not like we are relying on walk ons to step up. All the "inexperienced" alternatives were four star prospects with two or three years in the program. Could be worse.

Anonymous said...

I hate seeing what happened to Sturdivant, but we've had trouble on our offensive line since about 2006. The long-term nature of this deficiency says more about past coaching than about bad luck.
Our 2007 #2 in the nation team had like 3 freshmen starting on it. We have a lot more to work with this season than we had back then.

In fact, four of the guys currently on the OL have starting experience, 2 with significant experience: Glenn and Jones, and GAtes and Anderson. This is not so bad. The remaining replacements to choose from: AJ Harmon, Chris Burnette, Austin Long, Benedict were all big time recruits, and many of these guys have been in the organization for several years.

We certainly have a challenge, but we are way ahead of where we were back in 2007.

dawgjammin said...

From Seth's Tweet:

why the hell are ben jones and aaron murray on separate teams for GDay?

Let me guess. Ben Jones is probably on the same team as Kwame Geathers too...

I think in light of the Sturdivant injury, maybe the first team Oline and the top OG and OT sub should be on the same team as Murray.

This scrimage looks like it will be a waste as far as a meaningful measuring stick for who responds to as close to game like conditions as they will have before the dome vs Boise...lets hope no one else gets hurt during this fiasco.

This feels like it will turn into a game of individual match ups vs developing possible cohesive units and chemistry for the fall.

Anonymous said...

give up? get a new coach. that's whAT'S NOW.

Anonymous said...

These coaches at UGA are a bunch of clowns in a million dollar circus. Guess UGA wont be "In The Hunt" like McGarity expects. What a joke!

Joeski said...

Oh no... the sky is falling... again. News flash, losing one player to injury doesn't doom the team to a bad season, especially when it was someone we were forced to do without before.

I can't wait for Richt to not get fired, so you guys can whine some more, and (hopefully) choke on your own bile.

Anonymous said...

Joeski is heavy into the kool aid once again. Excuse him folks...

Anonymous said...


I've been wondering the same thing. The only thing I can think of is you've got around 300 lbs on a kid that's about 20 yrs old. That has to wreak havoc on one's knees. But it's not like he's the only college player his age at his weight, so maybe tremendous bad luck has something to do with it.

Joeski said...

Anon @ 1:03-

Nope, not in the 'kool aid'; I'm into is called "reality". You people who seem to think they know more than the people who actually have careers in collegiate athletes are the ones who are the 'clueless aid'.