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Thursday, October 11, 2012
UGA midseason report card: OL

By David Ching

Editor’s note: Georgia’s football season is at the halfway mark, and the Bulldogs will take this weekend off before resuming SEC play next Saturday at Kentucky. We'll take a look at a different position group each day this week and evaluate how it performed in the first half of the season in our DawgNation midseason report cards.

ATHENS, Ga. -- The public opinion of Georgia’s offensive line was, for a time, much more positive than it is today, after the Bulldogs’ numerous breakdowns led directly to a 35-7 loss at South Carolina.

Will Friend’s rebuilt line had been surprisingly effective in the first five games, paving the way for Georgia to rank among the nation’s most explosive offenses.

Although the Bulldogs lost former tackles Justin Anderson and Cordy Glenn and center Ben Jones to the NFL, the new offensive line -- featuring converted guard Kenarious Gates at left tackle, true freshman John Theus at right tackle and sophomore David Andrews at center -- was far from the liability coach Mark Richt feared it might be when spring practice opened.

Then South Carolina embarrassed the group last weekend and the old questions emerged.

Although it was painful to experience, the Bulldogs believe their nightmare in Columbia will be helpful to look back on when the season resumes, because it was their first real test against a top-tier defensive front. They know other defenses will attempt to attack them the way South Carolina’s did -- and now they know what they must do to more effectively handle opponents.

Let’s examine the first half for Georgia’s offensive line:

OFFENSIVE LINE REPORT CARD
STARTERS: LT Kenarious Gates, LG Dallas Lee, C David Andrews, RG Chris Burnette, RT John Theus

RESERVES: OG/OT Mark Beard, OG/OT Watts Dantzler, OT Zach DeBell, OG/OT Kolton Houston (ineligible), OG/OT Austin Long, OG Hunter Long, C Preston Mobley, OG Greg Pyke (redshirting), OT Xzavier Ward

HIGHLIGHT: The games against Florida Atlantic, Vanderbilt and Tennessee were all impressive for Georgia’s line, but we’ll select FAU as the high-water mark. The Bulldogs rolled up a school-record 713 yards -- 385 through the air and 328 on the ground -- averaging 11.3 yards per play.

LOWLIGHT: Led by defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina terrorized Gates and Georgia’s offensive front throughout the night. The Gamecocks didn’t surrender a point until Georgia’s final drive and allowed just 224 yards to a Bulldogs offense that came in averaging 536 per game.

OVERALL EVALUATION: It was still a positive first half of the season for Georgia’s offensive linemen. They obviously didn’t get the job done against South Carolina, but they exceeded all reasonable expectations before that meltdown.

The Bulldogs will face a couple of strong defensive fronts in the second half -- particularly when they square off with No. 4 Florida on Oct. 27 -- so this group will have another chance to prove itself. Georgia desperately needs a more effective performance from the line against the Gators or it will be another long outing for quarterback Aaron Murray and company.

POSITION GRADE: B-minus