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Tuesday, February 5, 2013
Coaches' take: Josh Cardiello

By David Ching

ATHENS, Ga. -- Although Josh Cardiello projects as an interior lineman in college, his talent and experience meant that his Buford (Ga.) High School coaches had to fortify their young offensive line with their most productive player at tackle.

The lone veteran on an extremely inexperienced offense, Cardiello was a dominant player at either tackle spot -- even if that is not where Wolves offensive line coach Chris Warbington sees him spending his college career.

“I think he’s going to wind up being a center before it’s all said and done,” said Warbington, who added that Cardiello is also capable of playing guard at Georgia. “And he worked some at center for us, just as an emergency guy. He never played it in a game. But in our offense, we’ve got to be strong at tackle. We’ve got to be really good at tackle.”

Even if he played a different position, the four-star prospect and No. 21 guard in ESPN’s position rankings, Cardiello still took some valuable experience away from his final season in Buford’s offense. Warbington said the Wolves employed more zone-blocking schemes in 2012 than they had in Cardiello’s previous seasons on the team, and he believes that having sharpened those skills will help the young lineman now that he is an early enrollee at UGA.

“It was very helpful having him when I came in here because he was somebody that I could sit down and talk to about what they’d been used to and what we were going to do,” said Warbington, who came to Buford from Ware County (Ga.) prior to the 2012 season. “So he helped me out with that a lot, too. And he knew that I could help him by teaching him how to zone block and getting him ready for the next level.”

But that’s not to say that it was an entirely smooth process. Cardiello was accustomed to simply blowing his opponent off the ball without bothering with the shared blocking assignments that come with zone runs. There was a learning curve that he had to overcome.

“There was a transition there,” Warbington said. “He was just frustrated because he was successful doing the other stuff that he’d always done and now he’s got to work combos with other people. It took him a little while to get used to it. It was obvious just watching him play that he was a dominant player. Once he bought in, he was just a great player for us.”

Unlike many of his fellow recruits who will officially become Bulldogs on Wednesday, Cardiello does not play a position of great need for this fall. The Bulldogs return all five starters on the offensive line as well as all of their top backups from last season, so line coach Will Friend will not be desperate for him to contribute in 2013.

And that’s a good thing, as a redshirt season -- should Friend and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo determine that is the smart step with Cardiello -- is often most valuable for linemen.

“I would hate to see him be thrown into that position [being asked to play in 2013],” Warbington said. “…There aren’t many guys right now that played in high school this year that can go play in the SEC in their first year. Physically I think he could do it and he’s a pretty smart kid. It’d be interesting.”

Even if he does redshirt this fall, Cardiello could easily figure into Georgia’s line plans the following year. Three of this season’s returning starters -- guards Chris Burnette and Dallas Lee and left tackle/guard Kenarious Gates -- will all be seniors in 2013, as will reserve Austin Long.

Thus a great opportunity will exist in 2014 for the Bulldogs’ many young and unproven linemen to grab playing time once the established veterans complete their careers. And Warbington believes his former pupil will certainly be in the mix.

Cardiello’s athleticism, sound technique and nastiness as a blocker will all be assets once he follows the traditional first-year plan for a freshman lineman and adds the necessary bulk to his 6-foot-3 frame.

“He’s going to have to get bigger, and he knows it,” Warbington said. “Right now he’s probably about 290 and he knows he’s going to have to play at about 305. He’s going to have to put on 15 good pounds.”