Only a sophomore, John Theus provides a solid foundation for the future at tackle.
Who’s ready to move up for more playing time?: One positive development for the Bulldogs in 2012 was that they began building depth along the line that hadn’t existed in previous seasons. Beard and Austin Long, in particular, saw their playing time increase in the second half of the season. Xzavier Ward and Kolton Houston -- should he ever resolve the NCAA eligibility issues that have cost him three seasons -- could also be names to watch.
High-profile commits: Early enrollee Aulden Bynum (Valdosta, Ga./Valwood School) is the only offensive tackle in the Bulldogs’ current crop of commitments.
* Additional targets on the board: Perhaps no prospect will be more closely watched between now and signing day than Laremy Tunsil (Lake City, Fla./Columbia), one of the nation’s highest-rated uncommitted prospects. Thought to be a Georgia lean, Tunsil -- the No. 1 tackle and No. 5 overall prospect from the ESPN 150 -- has upcoming visits with Georgia, Ole Miss and Florida State after visiting Alabama last weekend. It’s possible that the Bulldogs could also land ESPN 300 selection DeVondre Seymour (Suwanee, Ga./North Gwinnett) in a sign-and-place arrangement.
2013 gameplan: Gates and Theus both started all 14 games in 2012, so the Bulldogs have two seasoned players capable of handling the starting roles, plus Beard as an alternative who would allow Gates to shift inside to guard if necessary. Tunsil signing with the Bulldogs would likely affect offensive line coach Will Friend’s plans for the fall. He is every bit the prospect that Theus was a year ago, and Theus became one of the rare offensive tackles in program history to start his very first college game.
And 2014?: The versatile Gates and Long will be seniors in 2013, but the Bulldogs should still have plenty of options at the tackle spots in 2014. Theus will be entering his junior season. Others like Ward and maybe Zach DeBell might be contributing in more significant roles. On the recruiting front, keep an eye on 6-foot-8, 345-pound tackle Orlando Brown Jr. (Duluth, Ga./Peachtree Ridge), and Christian Harris (Suwanee, Ga./Collins Hill).
What about 2015?: The youngest players on Georgia’s depth chart should be peaking by this point -- particularly Tunsil should he sign with the Bulldogs next month. Georgia had four first- and second-year tackles on its 2012 depth chart, so the 2014 and 2015 recruiting classes will be significant as those veterans become upperclassmen and the coaches look to attract new talent to replenish their supply of tackles.