March 16, 2013

5 questions: The offensive line



Is this Georgia's best offensive line in the Mark Richt era?

It's much too early to go that far, but there are obviously some very good pieces in place.

Georgia's projected starting offensive line for the fall includes John Theus who is a future All-SEC performer, while you could see Chris Burnette push for those honors as well. David Andrews has done WAY better than many thought he would, while Kenarious Gates, Mark Beard and Dallas Lee have obviously proven to be solid SEC performers, while position coach Will Friend can also plug in senior Austin Long into the fray and not miss a proverbial beat.

But the best?

Time will tell.

There have been some other pretty good offensive lines under Richt, including the 2002 group which started five seniors - Jon Stinchcomb, Alex Jackson, Ian Knight, Kevin Breedlove and Kareem Marshall that helped win Richt's first SEC title.

Who will Georgia's left tackle be this fall, Kenarious Gates or Mark Beard?

This will continue to be an open battle in the spring and into preseason.

At 6-foot-5 and 318 pounds, Gates started the first nine games at left tackle, then moved to left guard for the games against Auburn and Georgia Southern before moving back to left tackle for the final three games.

Beard (6-5, 302), meanwhile, moved into the left tackle spot for the Auburn and Georgia Southern games and more than held his own.

For arguments sake, we'll say the senior Gates will keep his job, with Beard capable of backing up at every position up front sans center.

Either way, having quality depth is a good problem for coaches to have.

Would the Bulldogs ever consider moving John Theus to left tackle?

Although there's no doubt that Theus could play the position if asked, there's no need.

As mentioned above, there's outstanding quality currently in place with Beard and Gates. Plus, in conversations with Theus, he likes right tackle just fine.

The sophomore definitely lived up to his five-star hype, starting all 14 games, becoming just the third true freshman since 1973 to start at tackle. That fact is made even more impressive when you consider Theus played with a bad ankle for much of the season.

Theus earned a spot on the All-SEC Freshman Team last year. Don't be surprised if he makes the big boy list in 2013.

How many members of Georgia's offensive line are "SEC Ready?"

This is why some believe this may be one of Georgia's best offensive lines under Richt - it's because of the depth.

We've mentioned Beard and Austin Long, but Watts Dantzler and Xzavier Ward also lettered last year and received some valuable playing time. A preseason foot injury likely kept Hunter Long from joining this group.

Walk-on Preston Mobley also showed he can play, while redshirt sophomore Zach DeBell just missed lettering after appearing in five games.

Although it remains to be seen how the Bulldogs might rotate their line over the course of a normal game, for the first time in a few years, Georgia has at least nine players you can consider "SEC ready."

Of the freshmen, will anybody need to provide additional depth?

Although the Bulldogs signed four offensive linemen in February, it would appear that center/guard Brandon Kublanow (6-3, 290) is the closest to being able to contribute.

Fans will love the hard-nosed Kublanow as he drives through on every play and does so with that little bit of a mean streak you like all your offensive linemen to have.

The question is, will the Bulldogs need to throw him into fray?

Probably not. Although it appears Kublanow could certainly hold his own. Georgia has enough depth where it could afford to redshirt the former Walton High star.

Devondre Seymour (6-5, 295) is close, Josh Cardiello (6-3, 283) and Aulden Bynum (6-5, 270) will need a redshirt year to improve their strength, but they will and their futures are bright.