Friday, March 7, 2014
UGA spring position battles: OG
By David Ching
We're closing in on the start of spring practice at Georgia, so this week we will take a look at five position battles worth watching this spring.
After covering the competitions at safety, defensive line, offensive tackle and the star position, Friday we conclude with the offensive guards -- where the Bulldogs must replace a pair of longtime starters.
Returning starters: None
Rising senior Mark Beard, here locking up Jadeveon Clowney, has plenty of game experience.
Departures: Left guard Dallas Lee and right guard Chris Burnette handled nearly all of the starts over the past three seasons at the guard spots. Lee started 33 of Georgia's 41 games since the start of the 2011 season, and Burnette started 37. Their departures leave a huge experience void at the middle of the Bulldogs' offensive line.
Returning reserves: The good news for Georgia is that, unlike several seasons in the not-too-distant past, there is considerable depth along the line. Offensive line coach Will Friend has used a number of reserves at guard, including rising seniors Mark Beard and Watts Dantzler and sophomores Greg Pyke and Brandon Kublanow. Offensive tackles John Theus and Kolton Houston have even practiced at guard in the past.
Newcomers:Aulden Bynum and Josh Cardiello are both coming off redshirt seasons and both players are capable of playing guard. The Bulldogs also signed Isaiah Wynn -- ESPN's No. 6 guard and No. 106 overall prospect of 2014 -- who is not yet on campus.
What to watch: This competition should be wide open heading into the spring. Friend has publicly complimented each of the contenders at points, even if Burnette and Lee handled the majority of the significant snaps. We profiled Kublanow last week and mentioned that he could be a top contender after replacing an injured Lee in the Bulldogs' Gator Bowl loss to Nebraska. He doesn't have a job locked down, however. With Friend also looking to sort out his starting tackles -- the Bulldogs also lost starting left tackle Kenarious Gates, and Beard might figure into that competition -- it's entirely possible that he will shuttle players inside and out as he has done in the past. Georgia listed Kublanow and Dantzler as Lee and Burnette's backups for the bowl game, so it wouldn't be a surprise to see them start the spring in the starting roles, but don't be surprised if Friend rotates several other players through those spots during the spring.