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Shaky O-line's hopes might hang on Beard

3/17/2012

To get ready for the start of Georgia’s spring football practice Tuesday, DawgNation will do a position breakdown each day and feature one player to watch at that position. Today we look at the offensive line and newcomer Mark Beard.

ATHENS, Ga. -- There are few positions on Georgia’s roster where many players will make their first career starts this fall -- not counting the offensive line.

Georgia has three experienced guards in Dallas Lee, Chris Burnette and Kenarious Gates, but the line will otherwise be about as green as it gets.

The Bulldogs have five scholarship offensive tackles on their spring roster, none of whom has started a single college game. And if that is not the scariest position on Georgia’s roster, it’s center, where Ben Jones started nearly every game since 2008.

In short, the Bulldogs have serious holes to fill on the offensive line -- and they hope junior college transfer Mark Beard can fill one of them.



The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Beard was an honorable mention junior college all-American last year at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College before choosing Georgia over offers from Arkansas and Mississippi State.

The native Alabamian said on national signing day that he hopes to win the Bulldogs’ left tackle spot, since he has been playing the position since seventh grade. But he might not play tackle at all.

Some recruiting services -- including ESPN -- view Beard as a more natural fit at guard in college, so offensive line coach Will Friend will have time this spring to experiment and see where Beard can best help the Bulldogs.

Actually that applies to several of Georgia’s linemen, many of whom are possibilities at multiple positions. Watts Dantzler and Gates could easily play tackle or guard. Burnette could play guard or center.

Obviously it will be a work in progress this spring and that will continue to be the case throughout the summer months.

With key offensive tackle signee John Theus (Jacksonville, Fla./Bolles) and Greg Pyke (Baltimore/Boys Latin) not on campus yet, it’s hard to imagine Friend settling on his starting tackles until after they join the competition. But players like Beard, Dantzler, Austin Long, Xzavier Ward and Zach DeBell get an early start on that preseason competition by having spring practices to use to their advantage.

For now, Beard is the newest figure in that rotation, so he has a clean slate as he fights to win a role on Friend’s line. If he proves he can hold his own against SEC competition this spring, that would help alleviate some of the concerns about the offensive line as the season nears.