Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Georgia's offensive line depth dwindling
By Chris Low
Much of the focus in Athens has centered around who will replace A.J. Green as Georgia's big-play receiver and whether prized freshman running back Isaiah Crowell can come right in and pump new life into the Bulldogs' running game, especially now that Washaun Ealey is gone.
But as we creep toward June, a new issue has surfaced -- depth on the offensive line.
Georgia's depth took a hit Tuesday when A.J. Harmon left the team.
Junior tackle A.J. Harmon left the team Tuesday for what coach Mark Richt said were personal reasons, although academics sidelined Harmon for the Liberty Bowl last season. Harmon was a potential starter at right tackle, and at the very least, was going to be the Bulldogs' third tackle capable of filling in on both the left and right side. That's two tackles that the Bulldogs were counting on for next season that won't be around. Senior Trinton Sturdivant, who started seven games at left tackle last season, suffered a season-ending knee injury during the spring.
Undoubtedly, first-year offensive line coach Will Friend will be working a few guys in different spots when preseason camp begins in order to build some depth.
Senior Cordy Glenn will open the preseason at left tackle and was probably going to be the starter there even before the injury to Sturdivant, who was expected to slide over to right tackle. Senior Justin Anderson, who was on defense last season before undergoing surgery for turf toe and missing all but one game, is the starter at right tackle entering the preseason.
Senior Ben Jones is solid at center with sophomore Kenarious Gates penciled in at left guard and sophomore Chris Burnette at right guard.
As it stands now, Gates would probably be the Bulldogs' third tackle and could end up moving there. He started three games as a true freshman last season at right guard.
Redshirt freshman Kolton Houston showed enough promise this spring that the Georgia coaches feel like he could also come in and play guard if Gates moves to tackle.
But among Gates, Burnette and Holston, they have a combined three college starts.
The two wild cards at tackle are redshirt freshman Brent Benedict and sophomore Austin Long, but there are health concerns with both players. Benedict had a serious knee injury his senior season of high school that also included nerve damage. Long underwent back surgery and missed the entire 2009 season. He was also out this spring after tearing a pectoral muscle in practice.
The Bulldogs may have to look to a true freshman or two for depth next season. Watts Dantzler, Zach Debell and Xzavier Ward are all projected to play tackle in college.