- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s starting offensive line appears to be set.
Now the Bulldogs must develop depth behind the six players with whom the coaches are comfortable -- tackles Kenarious Gates and John Theus, guards Dallas Lee and Chris Burnette, center David Andrews and reserve guard/tackle Watts Dantzler -- and a couple of areas of concern still exist.
The right tackle spot was probably the biggest question mark as the Bulldogs opened preseason camp, with Theus and Dantzler looking to replace still-ineligible Kolton Houston. But both players have been solid this August and are SEC-ready players, according to their coaches. A more glaring issue now is the depth on the left side of the Bulldogs’ line.
“The reality is we have a little more depth at the right side than we do at the left right now,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said after Monday’s practice. “We want Austin Long to become a guy we can be comfortable with at left tackle, but he’s not there right now. If something happened to Gates … either Watts or Theus would probably have to go out there.”
Likewise, the Bulldogs are working only Lee and junior college transfer Mark Beard at left guard, so Lee realizes that he faces some pressure to stay in the lineup.
“Everybody’s goal is to stay healthy,” Lee said. “And with just one new guy behind me, it’s definitely pressure to stay healthy.”
Lee and Burnette are also practicing behind Andrews at center -- Hunter Long had been backing up Andrews before breaking his foot in practice last week -- although Lee said Andrews continues to make progress.
“Every now and then,” Lee replied when asked how often he practices at center. “Me and Chris Burnette will take turns a couple of periods a day. David’s doing a really good job right now, so we need him to keep coming along.”
Dantzler has practiced at both right tackle behind Theus and right guard behind Burnette, so his versatility creates built-in depth on the right side. Freshman Greg Pyke has also practiced at right guard and redshirt freshman Xzavier Ward -- still working his way back to full strength following knee surgery -- has earned praise for his potential to become a productive right tackle.
That group’s presence -- plus the possibility that Houston could rejoin the lineup should the NCAA declare him eligible at some point this fall -- leaves the right side of the line in good shape.
The Bulldogs need Beard to become a consistent backup to Lee and particularly for Austin Long to perform well enough before to the season that the coaches wouldn’t have to reshuffle their lineup completely if Gates were to suffer an injury.
“Right now we ain’t playing,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said, “so if something happened, we’d move somebody and figure it out.”
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