Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Mark Richt likes progress of offensive line
By Edward Aschoff
At first glance, it appears that Georgia has all the parts needed to make another title run in the SEC this fall.
A quality quarterback is assisted by some talented skill players on the offensive side of the ball. And the defense is loaded with just about everyone who was a part of the nation’s fifth-ranked defense last year.
But upon closer examination, there is a glaring issue on the offensive line. Well, maybe there was.
Entering the spring, Georgia was down three starters up front, including potential NFL first-round draft pick Cordy Glenn at left tackle and All-SEC center Ben Jones.
The Bulldogs had the bodies, but not the experience, and it showed early. Georgia coach Mark Richt said he spent the first part of spring just trying to find the right pieces to plug in. He was constantly rolling different players in at center and experimenting with putting players in different places along the line.
The result: a lot of mistakes and some pretty good defensive highlights.
Richt said all of the stunts and different looks that defensive coordinator Todd Grantham threw at the Bulldogs’ line of young pups confused and frustrated the line. Things didn’t move smoothly on offense at first because the offensive line wasn’t comfortable.
“The bottom line was we just weren’t blocking very good and we weren’t handling our mature defensive line,” Richt said Tuesday.
But like good things, even bad things come to an end. And they did for Georgia’s line.
As the spring continued, players started to get more settled up front. By the midpoint of the spring, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he found three reliable linemen in tackles Kenarious Gates and Kolton Houston, and guard Chris Burnette. Leaving spring, the staff found five that it could call starters, with the additions of rising sophomore David Andrews at center and Dallas Lee, who started seven games last season before breaking his right leg against Florida, at guard
Gates might be the best of the bunch because of his athleticism and smarts. Richt said he has the option of moving Gates around on the line because he has the ability to play just about every position up there.
But the player who really stuck out to Richt and his staff was Houston. Richt said Houston was always viewed as either a guard or a center prospect until this spring when they threw him in at tackle and watched him excel.
“He held up pretty good, especially in the pass protection area,” Richt said. “I don’t know if you can sell the big mauler out there in the run game, but a big part of being able to play tackle is being able to pass [protect] and he did a nice job.”
While Richt saw improvement as spring continued, he’ll also get some more talent in two incoming freshmen, including top tackle prospect John Theus, so Georgia’s depth will look a little better this fall. Getting guys more reps and game ready is the main goal in fall camp.