ATHENS, Ga. -- Asked Tuesday to evaluate the progress his team's offensive line has made throughout the season, Georgia coach Mark Richt credited the newest member of his offensive staff, Will Friend.
"Some line coaches only see their picture. They don't really see the big picture. Will sees the big picture," Richt said. "I think some line coaches want to do nothing but hammer the run no matter what. It's kind of a macho thing. I think Will knows it takes a little bit of everything to be good up front. You just can't run the power every down and win."
Friend joined Richt's staff as offensive line coach after working for former Bulldogs offensive coordinator Neil Callaway at UAB. While the line was one of Georgia's biggest disappointments in 2010 -- and enjoyed little depth when this season started -- Friend's charges have improved steadily throughout the season.
Georgia ranks fourth or better in the SEC in scoring offense (third), total offense (second), passing offense (third) and rushing offense (fourth). That well-rounded production has been a major factor in opponents' difficulty stopping the Georgia offense this season -- and the line's protection obviously plays a key role in each category.
"Linemen are a bunch of guys who don't get a whole lot of credit and work like a bunch of dogs, but he's got them going, and that's an exciting thing," Richt said.
While Friend might see the big picture, his group's upgraded play allows the linemen to do what they like to do best. Georgia has improved from 10th in the SEC in rushing last year to fourth, rushing for 188.4 yards per game -- 46 more than in 2010.
"We realize in order for us to finish and complete the game, we really have to be able to run the ball," offensive guard Chris Burnette said. "All the guys up front, I think we're typical offensive linemen. We love to mash. We don't really want to set back and try to pass block, we want to run block, and the fact that we get those opportunities now, we want to take advantage of them."
Grantham's job prospects
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's agent might want a contract extension for his client, but Grantham himself refused to publicly lobby, when asked about his job prospects Tuesday.
"Honestly, all I think about is the next game, next opponent, next situation -- like tonight's third down. These guys [Kentucky] have got good pass concepts, so we've got to figure out a way to get off the field on third down," said Grantham who was on his way to a meeting to discuss third-down defense after meeting with reporters.
His agent, Michael Harrison, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Grantham has received interest from NFL teams and from colleges interested in talking with him about head coaching vacancies. He lobbied for Georgia to give Grantham a contract extension -- he is in the second year of a three-year contract that pays $750,000 per year, making him one of the highest-paid assistant coaches in college football -- as the Bulldogs rank fourth in the nation in total defense by allowing 273 yards per game.
Grantham simply shrugged off questions about the subject Tuesday night.
"There's a lot of demands to this job with the hours. The only thing I do is go to the next situation," he said. "How can we improve? How can we win that situation? That's my total focus right now is just, how can we win the game and what are we going to do next? And that's all I think about."
Locking down the coaching staff with new contracts was a favorite subject among the callers to Richt's Monday night radio show, and Richt happily agreed with the fans' sentiments.
"As far as locking down the staff, I'm all for that," Richt said. "I'm really pleased with everyone on this staff. It's a great bunch of players to coach, and it's a great bunch of coaches to be working with on a daily and nightly basis."
Ogletree at OLB?
Grantham praised sophomore linebacker Alec Ogletree for his versatility after Tuesday's practice. It appears Georgia's defensive coordinator is putting that versatility to the test.
Ogletree, who shifted from safety to inside linebacker this season, spent the early portion of Tuesday's practice working with the outside linebackers. Grantham said after practice that he is unsure whether Ogletree's eventual full-time position will be inside or outside in his 3-4 alignment.
"We'll just wait and see what happens," Grantham said. "We'll just kind of continue to work him, but he's a versatile guy and does a good job."
Ogletree missed six games after breaking his foot in the season-opening loss to Boise State but has accounted for 14 tackles -- 2.5 for a loss -- in three games since returning against Florida.
"He's a really productive guy and he has a chance to make the exceptional play, the flash plays," Grantham said. "He's a really smart player that can handle multiple things, and he's a young player, too. Really, he hasn't played a lot of football at linebacker, so I think as he continues to develop he's going to be a really good player for us."
After Blair Walsh hit 13 of 23 field goal tries in the first eight games, he and Brandon Bogotay rotated on kickoffs, extra points and field goals against both New Mexico State and Auburn. The Bulldogs might stick with the place-kicker rotation they employed in the last two games for the foreseeable future.
"It's possible," Richt said. "So far it's been good. So far it's been good for Georgia."
Georgia's entire senior class will be the captains this weekend against Kentucky for their final home game at Sanford Stadium. ... Georgia offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant, who has missed all or part of three seasons with three separate torn ACL injuries, will participate in Saturday's senior day festivities. Richt said a final decision has not been made whether Sturdivant might attempt to play football again next season. ... Georgia has outscored opponents 220-84 in the first half this season, including 84-10 in the last two games.
David Ching covers University of Georgia sports for DawgNation. He can be reached at email@example.com.