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Friday, April 19, 2013
Post-spring position review: OL

By David Ching

Editor’s note: Over the next two weeks, we’ll take a closer look at each of Georgia’s position groups at the end of spring practice. Today we examine the offensive line:

Returning players/stats: Chris Burnette, Sr. (12 starts in 2012); Kenarious Gates, Sr. (14 starts); Dallas Lee, Sr. (14 starts); David Andrews, Jr. (14 starts); Mark Beard, Jr. (Two starts); John Theus, So. (14 starts); Austin Long, Sr.; Watts Dantzler, Jr.; Zach DeBell, So.; Hunter Long, Jr.; Xzavier Ward, So.; Greg Pyke, RFr.

Newcomers: Brandon Kublanow, Fr. (ESPN's No. 145 overall prospect in 2013, No. 2 center. Expected to enroll this summer); Aulden Bynum, Fr. (No. 47 OT. Enrolled in January); Josh Cardiello, Fr. (No. 21 OG. Enrolled in January); DeVondre Seymour, Fr. (No. 14 OT. Could enroll this summer)

Chris Burnette
Senior Chris Burnette is a powerful presence on Georgia's O-line.
Key storyline: Georgia returns every single scholarship offensive lineman from last season, so position coach Will Friend had more players available this spring than he’s had at any point in his UGA tenure. The question is where Friend will choose to deploy those players once the season begins and how many will factor in as active members of Friend’s line rotation. He shuffled through a number of lineups during spring practice, trying multiple players at both guard and tackle. Friend said he hopes to at least nail down a starting lineup by the midway point in preseason camp.

Breakout candidate: Ward was simply not ready to compete when he arrived at Georgia in 2011 following an ACL injury at the end of his high school career. He played sparingly as a redshirt freshman last fall, but it appears as if he is physically ready to battle for a starting spot at right tackle this fall. Friend said Ward still must strengthen his lower body, but at 6-foot-7 and lurking around 300 pounds, he already looks the part of an SEC offensive tackle. Now he has to prove he can hold down the job.

Reviewing 2012: The offensive line was Georgia’s biggest question mark entering last season, and for good reason. Georgia coach Mark Richt often speaks of how bad the group looked when the Bulldogs opened spring practice last year, only to slowly jell over the summer and develop into a serviceable group during the season. They showed only brief flashes of dominance, so they’re probably still the least certain group within the Bulldogs’ veteran offense. But after a solid 2012, they’re much better off than they were at this time last year.

Projecting 2013: Check back in late August. At this point, we don’t know whether Theus will play right tackle or left tackle. We don’t know whether Gates will play tackle or guard. We don’t know whether Ward can handle a starting job or whether oft-injured guard Austin Long can stay healthy long enough to continue his upward trajectory. More than likely, Andrews is settled at center and Burnette and Lee will play most of the snaps at the guard spots. But there are still too many unsettled roles along the line to have a good idea of how it might look when the Aug. 31 opener at Clemson arrives.