Georgia Bulldogs: David Andrews
Today, we'll look at No. 2: The 2011 class initially dubbed as “The Dream Team,” which immediately helped the Bulldogs rebound from the only losing season in Mark Richt's tenure, a 6-7 mark in 2010, and could further cement a winning legacy in the next two seasons.
The stars: Tailback Isaiah Crowell was initially the crown jewel in this class, and he won SEC Freshman of the Year honors in 2011 before getting dismissed from the team the following summer after an arrest. Several players in this class have flashed star potential including receivers Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley and Justin Scott-Wesley, linebackers Ramik Wilson (who led the SEC in tackles in 2013) and Amarlo Herrera (who was third) and defensive lineman John Jenkins, who earned All-SEC honors and became an NFL draft pick by the New Orleans Saints.
The letdowns: This class' legacy could have been ridiculous, but it will always be remembered for the numerous departures within its first year. Crowell's exit drew the most attention, but an arrest-related dismissal cost Georgia possible starting defensive backs Nick Marshall and Chris Sanders. Marshall, of course, developed into a star quarterback at Auburn last fall after spending the 2012 season at a Kansas junior college. In all, six players from this class -- most recently, quarterback Christian LeMay -- have transferred or been kicked off the team.
The results: Let's see what happens this fall. Mitchell, Herrera, Jenkins and Crowell were all important players as the 2011 Bulldogs won 10 straight games and claimed the program's first SEC East title since 2005. That group (minus Crowell) and several other Dream Teamers helped Georgia take another step forward in 2012. And it wouldn't be a surprise to see a number of them earn All-SEC honors this fall if Georgia bounces back from a disappointing 2013. Despite the numerous early exits, the Dream Team's legacy is already positive on the whole, but the group can still further solidify its spot in UGA history if it wins big in 2014.
Today we continue a series where we examine five position groups with room to improve. After touching on the inside linebackers on Monday, we move on to the offensive line group that must replace three starters.
4. Offensive line
Strength in numbers: Georgia finally has depth along the line that seemed to be lacking for far too long. Guards Watts Dantzler, Mark Beard and Greg Pyke could all be candidates for legitimate playing time -- and maybe even starting jobs – but reserve tackles Xzavier Ward and Zach DeBell only add to the mystery at their position, having contributed very little on game day to this point. Reserve center Hunter Long is in a similar situation since rising senior Andrews has taken essentially every significant snap over the last two seasons.
New on the scene: In guard Josh Cardiello and swingman Aulden Bynum, the Bulldogs add two candidates to the rotation after redshirting last fall. Both players participated in spring practice as early enrollees last year, although it was apparent they were unlikely to contribute on a veteran line in the fall. This year's line signees -- tackles Dyshon Sims, Jake Edwards and Kendall Baker and guard Isaiah Wynn -- are not expected on campus until summer, so they will need to have surprisingly strong August camps in order to crack Friend's rotation in the fall. Sims and Wynn, who was the No. 106 overall prospect in the ESPN 300, seem like the most probable contributors among the freshmen.
That said, the redshirt junior plans to compete over the next 10 months like he hasn't won anything yet.
“I've been here for four years, obviously, and everybody wants to say, 'He's the next guy, he's the next guy,' but no one owes you anything,” Mason said. “Just because you're here for four years doesn't mean that you're going to walk in the day when Aaron leaves and you're going to be the starting quarterback. … That's the way our coaches coach, that's the right way to go about it and I know that there's other guys in that room that are capable of making plays and they're capable of being really good quarterbacks.”
He has performed adequately as Murray's replacement – he has completed 46 of 71 passes for 648 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, which should only solidify his place for next fall. The more interesting aspect of the competition might be the jockeying for the position behind Mason among a group of young quarterbacks who could take over the reins in 2015.
“I don't see Hutson doing anything to self-destruct and make himself lose that job,” center David Andrews said. “But these young guys, they'll understand. Hutson, he came out every day and he competed no matter what, even in his redshirt year , when he knew he wasn't going to play. I think those young quarterbacks seeing that can understand, 'Even if I'm not going to play, this is setting it up and every day you don't try to get better, you're going to get worse.' I believe that, so I think Hutson sets a great example in that aspect.”
As of now, the Bulldogs have three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster who will have eligibility remaining next fall: redshirt sophomore Christian LeMay, redshirt freshman Faton Bauta and freshman Brice Ramsey, who is redshirting this season. Georgia also has a commitment from Jacob Park (Goose Creek, S.C./Stratford), ESPN's No. 94 overall prospect in the 2014 recruiting class and No. 4 dual-threat quarterback.
Exhibiting a strong work ethic and intriguing run-pass skills, Bauta seized the backup spot behind Mason and will reportedly be tough to beat for the No. 2 role next season.
“He's really come into his own, not beating himself up every time he makes a mistake and going back out there to make another play,” said receiver Chris Conley, who predicted that Bauta would claim the No. 2 job next fall. “He's a hard worker, so he's always going to be his toughest critic. But he's made a lot of plays this year out there. He made a lot of plays in the spring and that kind of turned people's heads to say, 'OK, I didn't know that he could play like that.' ”
Ramsey is also an interesting prospect, having impressed coaches and teammates with his prototypical 6-foot-3 size and possibly the strongest arm among any of the quarterbacks on the roster.
As with most freshmen, Ramsey made use of his redshirt year to settle into a college routine and learn Georgia's offense.
“He has a gun on him,” receiver Michael Bennett said. “He has a very good arm. He's just a freshman. You've got to mature a little bit, but he's going to be a good player, too.”
That redshirt year was a particularly valuable experience for a green quarterback like Ramsey who executed a run-heavy Wing-T offense in high school – a far cry from the pro-style offense he'll run in college.
“I've grown so much,” Ramsey said. “In January [when he enrolled], I couldn't have even have told you what a zone was or what all that was. It was just coming in and actually having to put forth effort and trying to learn the playbook and study and everything. Now I'm picking everything up and just excited for the future.”
For now, though, the starting job in 2014 is Mason's to lose. He's the only quarterback aside from Murray to have attempted a pass this season – Bauta has run three times for 29 yards in mop-up duty and LeMay hasn't played this season at all, although he saw the field as a reserve in 2012 – and Mason will be far and away the most experienced quarterback on the roster next fall.
That will be a major departure for Mason, who up until 10 days ago has spent his entire career playing second fiddle to SEC career passing leader Murray.
“It's going to be weird just not having the guys that I'm used to being around, like Parker [Welch, a senior walk-on] and Murray,” Mason said. “We've had a core group of guys that have been around for a long time in that QB room and we're going to be a whole lot younger with a lot of new faces. It's going to be different.
“It's exciting, though. It's what you come to Georgia for. I've been waiting for four years to go out there and compete for that starting position and I know every other guy in that room, that's why they're here. So that's an exciting time.”
That bond between players will face an unusual test on Saturday when former Dream Teamer Nick Marshall – now Auburn's starting quarterback after Bulldogs coach Mark Richt dismissed him, Sanford Seay and Chris Sanders following the 2011 season after getting caught stealing from teammates – will stand on the opposite sideline from his former classmates.
Georgia was coming off a disappointing 6-7 season when the Dream Team signed with the Bulldogs, and the group was never shy in expressing its intention of helping the program get back on track. They had the nation's top tailback and No. 4 overall prospect in Isaiah Crowell, another five-star talent in Drew, the No. 1 tight end in Rome and a large group including Mitchell, John Jenkins, Amarlo Herrera, Chris Conley and Damian Swann who would contribute soon after becoming Bulldogs.
There was a level of self-assurance within the group that was somewhat unusual for a group of freshmen.
“Coming in I do believe the guys did have some confidence about themselves – that this was going to be the class that did some big things,” Drew recalled. “And there's still that possibility. We still can. That swagger you're talking about, I can see that being there. It was. You can't deny it.”
Truth be told, they've already been part of some big things. Crowell was named the SEC's Freshman of the Year in his lone season on campus – he was dismissed in the summer of 2012 after a weapons possession arrest and is now starring at Alabama State – and the Bulldogs won their first SEC East championship since 2005.
They played in a second straight SEC championship game at the end of last season and fell only a few yards short of playing for a BCS title – with multiple Dream Team members playing key roles on a team that would finish fifth nationally.
“I think we've actually got a good resume being here,” said Swann, now in his second season as a starting cornerback. “We beat Auburn twice, we beat Florida three times, we've been to the SEC championship two times since I've been here. We're 1-1 in a bowl game. I think with the resume that my class has put together, I think it's actually one to look at, and I think we're continuing to improve it and make it better.”
That they are. Linebacker Ramik Wilson leads the SEC with 92 tackles, with Herrera's 79 stops ranking fourth. Drew is sixth in the league with six sack. Wideouts Mitchell, Conley and Justin Scott-Wesley have all flashed star potential, although injuries have struck all three players this season. Center David Andrews, also a second-year starter, is one of the leaders of the Bulldogs' offensive line.
And junior college transfer Jenkins is already in the NFL – the New Orleans Saints picked him in the third round of this year's draft – after solidifying the middle of the Bulldogs' defensive line in 2011 and 2012.
“We've done some pretty good things,” said defensive end Bailey, who has started eight times this season in his first significant dose of playing time. “You had some players from the Dream Team come in and make an impact and then you had some players behind some great players who are playing in the NFL right now and got experience and now being in the third year, we're putting all that experience to work.”
The Georgia journey ended early for several members of the class. Marshall, Seay and Sanders were all dismissed together and Crowell followed them out the door a few months later. Safety Quintavious Harrow left shortly after his former Carver-Columbus teammate and close friend Crowell.
In all, seven members of the 26-man signing class are either gone or never enrolled at Georgia at all (linebacker Kent Turene). But the remaining Dream Teamers still maintain a close bond, Drew said.
“There's a tightness between us,” he said. “I think even though we're tight as a team, I think there's just one more stitch or two between us that pulls us close. Whenever you see one person, you're always going to see someone else from the same class right there with them just tagging along.”
The bulk of the class should remain intact for at least one more season, with several more Dream Teamers who redshirted still carrying two seasons of eligibility after 2013. That time, they said, is what will determine whether they meet the high expectations that accompanied their arrival.
“We're still in the process,” Wilson said. “A lot of us are just now starting to play, so it's in the process of something becoming great.
“We all had high expectations of playing early and turning this program around. As soon as we stepped on this campus, we went to the SEC championship from that 6-7 year. So all we had was nothing but success here, 10-win seasons, since I've been here. So we're just trying to keep that going.”
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Mark Richt hardly seemed to be in a celebratory mood after Georgia's 23-20 win over Florida gave him three straight victories against the Gators for the first time since he became the Bulldogs' coach in 2001.
He had just watched the Bulldogs (5-3, 4-2 SEC) nearly melt down in the second half for the second consecutive game only to be saved by a late defensive stand and a clock-eating drive that ran out the remaining time in the fourth quarter. So perhaps it's understandable that Richt felt far more relieved than jubilant.
Imagine how Will Muschamp felt. Florida's coach saw his team claw back from a 20-0 deficit at the start of the first quarter, pull within three points at the start of the fourth and then ruin its comeback bid with regrettable penalties at the end of the game.
The Gators (4-4, 3-3) would have gotten the ball back for one final possession, but defensive lineman Darious Cummings was flagged for a personal foul -- illegal hands to Georgia center David Andrews' face -- to spoil a third-down stop with barely more than a minute remaining. Despite four personal foul calls between the two sides, the resulting first down after Cummings' penalty allowed Georgia to run out the clock and earn its first three-game winning streak in the series since 1987-89.
“We did have Coach [Vince] Dooley come by and speak to our team this week,” Richt said, referring to the coach who led the UGA program from 1964-88. “That's one thing he mentioned. I didn't know the stat, but he said if we win, it would be the first time we got three in a row in like 30 years or something. I was frankly kind of embarrassed that was the truth. But that's where this series has gone. It's nice to at least, to this point, get it turned around a little bit.”
Richt has been on Muschamp's side of this rivalry, too, however. The early days of Richt's tenure saw Georgia blow numerous winnable games, including a 2002 loss that might have cost the Bulldogs a chance to play for the BCS championship. Richt was 2-8 against Florida until the Bulldogs launched their three-game winning streak in 2011, but perhaps now they have permanently removed the Florida monkey off the program's back.
“Three in a row's awesome,” said Georgia senior Aaron Murray, who threw for 258 yards and a touchdown and became just the third UGA quarterback since the 1940s to beat the Gators three times. “It's a great feeling and this is just such a great game. The environment's unbelievable. To be in that stadium, it's a true blessing. It's a great feeling to win three in a row -- something that hasn't happened in 24 years, and hopefully next year we'll keep it up.”
Saturday's win wasn't pretty by any means. In fact it was symptomatic of Georgia's season thus far, with self-inflicted wounds, costly penalties and general breakdowns combining to place what looked to be an easy victory in jeopardy. Coming off a 31-27 loss to Vanderbilt, where similar problems allowed the Commodores to close the game with a 17-0 run in the fourth quarter, Georgia had to feel as though it was experiencing deja vu against the Gators.
“We just shot ourselves in the foot. I've said that 100 times,” said Georgia receiver Michael Bennett, who had a team-high five catches for 59 yards. “It's just mental mistakes, I had a dropped pass. Stuff like that, you're going to end up having the other team start scoring points and giving them opportunities. You can't do that.”
Tailback Todd Gurley -- who scored Georgia's first two touchdowns and finished with 187 yards of total offense -- fell short on a fourth-down run at the Bulldogs' 39 in the fourth quarter, with Georgia clinging to a 23-20 lead.
Florida's Neiron Ball was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct after stopping Gurley, however, pushing the Gators back 15 yards. Their ensuing drive pushed the ball to Georgia's 43 before Bulldogs defensive coordinator Todd Grantham sent a third-down blitz at Gators quarterback Tyler Murphy.
Safety Corey Moore tracked Murphy down in the backfield for a 14-yard loss, forcing a fourth-and-26 midway through the final period that removed even the possibility that Florida would go for it on fourth down.
“I thought it was the right time to do it,” Grantham said of the decision to blitz and leave his defensive backs vulnerable in one-on-one coverage. “We had to go end the game, and that's what we did.”
Georgia took over with 8:17 to play and drove 67 yards in 15 plays -- including a huge third-and-7 conversion pass for 7 yards from Murray to Rhett McGowan and the Cummings penalty that produced another key conversion -- running out the remaining time.
The loss drops Muschamp to 0-7 in the Florida-Georgia series -- 0-4 as a Georgia player and 0-3 as the Gators' coach -- which undoubtedly creates a lonesome feeling with which Richt can identify.
Richt's team somehow held on for a win on Saturday, however, although the Bulldogs' stumbling style of late seems to be taking a toll on their coach.
“They must like it,” Richt said of Georgia's numerous games that have been decided in the waning minutes. “I don't like it. It makes you wonder if this is really a good way to make a living.”
“It's nice not to have to hear that question,” Richt told reporters after Thursday's practice. “Year after year, 'When are you going to beat Florida?' that gets pretty old. So that isn't the big topic of conversation this year. Everybody wants to talk about, what did we talk about injuries for the first 80 percent of this meeting so far? That's what everybody's talking about, but it's been the dominating story.”
Richt is one of the most consistent winners among active FBS coaches, but his subpar record against Florida was one of the black marks on an otherwise sterling resume in his first decade as the Bulldogs' coach. Georgia beat the Gators just twice in its first 10 tries under Richt before winning in both 2011 and 2012 -- giving the Bulldogs their first back-to-back wins against the Gators since 1988-89.
The Gators announced this week that linebacker Jeremi Powell is out for the rest of the season, making him the eighth Florida player to suffer a season-ending injury -- a list that also includes starters Jeff Driskel, Dominique Easley, Chaz Green and Matt Jones.
Georgia has played the last two games -- both losses -- without most of its most dangerous offensive weapons, which is why Richt spent the first several minutes of Thursday's post-practice press gathering discussing injuries, how they have impacted his team and whether some of the injured players might return for the Florida game.
UGA director of sports medicine Ron Courson delivered the team's lengthy injury report to the sports medicine office while Richt was speaking to reporters . The list included 24 players and 12 who have started at least once this season.
Richt addressed some of those concerns -- most notably All-SEC tailback Todd Gurley's return to practice this week following a three-game absence with an ankle injury -- after Thursday's final practice of the open week:
On Gurley: “He practiced. He made it till the end. He ran sprints with everybody at the end. He did scout work, which is really all we asked him to do. But he did fundamental work -- the run polish and that kind of thing. He did good. I'm encouraged.”
On receiver Michael Bennett (knee): “He wasn't trying to break a land-speed record or anything, but he was sprinting and striding out pretty good and he looked fine. The drill I saw him do was kind of a sprint-jog-sprint-jog kind of thing down the field and he looked good. I would think he'll be practicing Monday.”
On center David Andrews (foot): “I think we expect him to play, but he did not go today. Dallas [Lee] was playing center with the first group. We're hoping it's such a temporary thing you don't think much about it, but we had Kolton [Houston] playing the left guard spot where Dallas was. Kolton's a good player, so I think we'd be OK, but we're better with [Andrews] at center.”
On safety Josh Harvey-Clemons (foot) and receiver Chris Conley (ankle), who both left last Saturday's Vanderbilt loss with injuries: “Neither one of them practiced. I would guess Josh Harvey is closer than Chris and I don't know if Josh will practice Monday or not.”
On freshman linebacker Reggie Carter (knee): “Reggie was not out there. Reggie hurt his knee Tuesday in practice. Don't know how severe yet.”
Bennett and safety Tray Matthews (hamstring) worked on the side with trainers, away from the team, during the portion of practice that was open to the media.
Gurley and fellow tailbacks J.J. Green (right shoulder contusion, left shoulder sprain) and Brendan Douglas (right knee sprain, left wrist sprain) worked in team drills while wearing green non-contact jerseys. Receivers Rhett McGowan (ankle), Michael Erdman (shoulder) and Tramel Terry (shoulder) also practiced in green, joining the lengthy list of players dealing with some physical ailment.
“We don't want to make it the story of the year,” Richt said. “We want to win ballgames. We want to prepare to win with who we have available. We want guys to get well as fast as they can get well. We want some guys that know they're going to miss the season, we want them to be ready as fast as they can so they can have a great year next year. But obviously that's been the thing that most people have talked about because it's been a little unusual in that regard.”
Let's pass out some credit with this week's helmet stickers:
Aaron Murray: You've seen the stats about how Georgia's quarterback can't win the big one. We all have. If it's true, then Saturday must not have been a big game because Murray was nearly perfect. He was 17-for-23 overall for 309 yards and four touchdowns and 6-for-7 on third downs with an average of 19.9 yards per attempt on third down alone. He avoided the turnovers that haunted him in previous losses to South Carolina and kept the Bulldogs afloat even when the defense struggled at points.
Todd Gurley: Georgia center David Andrews told the Bulldogs' star tailback all week that he wanted at least 25 carries from Gurley against the Gamecocks. Gurley gave him 30, a career high, and pounded out 132 rushing yards. Gurley rushed for one touchdown and also caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Murray in another exceptional performance.
The offensive line: Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of Georgia's season-opening loss to Clemson was the play of its veteran offensive line, which surrendered four sacks and failed to generate enough running room for Gurley and Keith Marshall at points. The group was outstanding against South Carolina, however, and largely neutralized All-America defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who finished with one sack and two tackles for a loss. On Georgia's final drive, which started inside the Bulldogs' 1-yard line, the line pounded away at the Gamecocks' front, helping run the entire remaining 8:28 off the clock as the Bulldogs put away an enormous SEC East victory.
After three straight years of backbreaking blunders, key special-teams mistakes and offensive inefficiency, quarterback Aaron Murray -- who delivered perhaps the most impressive performance of his career -- and the Bulldogs gained redemption in the first big SEC East game of the season.
Twice in the last three years -- the other time it wasn't necessary as South Carolina won with a blowout -- the Gamecocks rode workhorse tailback Marcus Lattimore with run after pounding run in the fourth quarter, mounting long drives that used up the clock and secured huge division victories.
This time it was Georgia protecting a narrow lead when the Bulldogs took over at their own 1-yard line with 8:28 left on the clock. Thirteen plays -- including 12 runs -- and 81 yards later, South Carolina was out of time as the trio of Todd Gurley, Brendan Douglas and Quayvon Hicks teamed with a resurgent offensive line to pound South Carolina's defense into submission.
“When we got the ball on the half-yard line with eight minutes left, we knew that if we can control the clock, if we can keep the ball on the ground and just keep pushing it down their throat that we can win this game and close the door,” right guard Chris Burnette said. “That's the moments that you live for as an offensive lineman.”
Center David Andrews took it a step further, saying, “I think we made them quit tonight” in running 76 plays for 536 yards, including 53 for 227 on the ground.
In last season's 35-7 loss at South Carolina, Georgia's offense never got on track. Murray passed for a career-low 109 yards and a previously explosive offense delivered just four plays that covered at least 15 yards. The Bulldogs had four in the first quarter alone on Saturday, and finished the day with 11 that covered 15-plus -- none bigger than an 85-yard touchdown pass to Justin Scott-Wesley in the fourth quarter that gave the Bulldogs a 41-30 lead with 13 minutes to play.
Murray rolled left away from Jadeveon Clowney after his protection broke down and found a wide-open Scott-Wesley behind South Carolina's Ahmad Christian and T.J. Gurley down the left sideline. Once the UGA track sprinter -- and first-time starter at receiver -- hauled in Murray's pass, nobody was going to catch him.
“Murray got some pressure and I just stayed on the sideline uncovered and Murray got the ball out, great pass, and the rest is history,” said Scott-Wesley, who totaled 116 yards on three catches.
Clowney and South Carolina's defense seemed to intimidate Murray & Co. last season in Columbia, but that was far from the case on Saturday. Clowney, South Carolina's star defensive end, managed a sack and two tackles for a loss, but he was rarely a big factor for the Gamecocks.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Georgia averaged 8.3 yards per play in the 59 plays that Clowney was on the field, while the Bulldogs averaged 2.8 per play on the 17 downs where he was on the sideline.
Meanwhile, Murray was a nearly flawless 17-for-23 for 309 yards and four touchdowns -- and most importantly, no turnovers -- while facing a defense that had previously held him to the lowest career Total QBR (46.0) of any division opponent.
Gurley and his backfield mates certainly eased Murray's burden on Saturday. Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo lamented his abandoning the running game early in last season's loss when South Carolina built a big early lead. That would not be the case in the rematch, with Gurley and Keith Marshall accounting for 252 yards and three touchdowns after managing just 81 rushing yards on 25 combined carries against the Gamecocks last season.
“The line, man, they kept telling me this week, 'You need 25 or more,' ” said Gurley, who rushed for 132 yards on 30 carries and scored on both the ground and through the air. “I was ready to give them 25 and we came away with the victory.”
Georgia enters its first bye week of the season back on solid ground after an uneven performance last week at Clemson gave the Bulldogs their first loss of the season. They have two weeks until North Texas visits Athens, with SEC power LSU waiting the following week to complete a demanding September schedule.
The Bulldogs knew they couldn't afford to open the season 0-2 if they were to maintain reasonable hopes of contending for SEC and perhaps BCS championships. Thanks to the past failings against South Carolina that they exorcised on Saturday, they won't have to spend the next two weeks stewing over another lost opportunity.
“That's a hypothetical that I'm glad didn't happen. It would be tough,” Burnette admitted. “We're just excited by the fact that all our goals are still on the table. If we win the next game and the next game and the next game, we can make it to Pasadena.”
But it was quickly evident that the Bulldogs’ offensive line coach seems ready to follow through on using a handful of players who were not regulars in 2012 -- with a number of substitutions during team running drills showing off depth that Georgia has not enjoyed along the line in some time.
“[It’s the best in my career] by far. Not even close,” said fifth-year senior right guard Chris Burnette, who returned to the starting lineup on Thursday after missing spring practice while recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. “I remember there was one time, probably going into , where we were getting really thin on numbers and a lot of guys had to crosstrain and play first and second team or second and third team, all that kind of stuff. So it’s good to finally have a good amount of numbers, and not just have numbers, but guys who can actually contribute.”
When the Bulldogs opened Thursday’s practice, Kenarious Gates and Dallas Lee manned the left tackle and guard spots, respectively, with David Andrews lined up at center. On the right side were All-SEC pick Burnette and tackle John Theus, who was listed behind Xzavier Ward on the team’s summer depth chart despite having started every game last year as a true freshman.
Ward worked with the starting unit before long, as offensive coordinator Mike Bobo recently predicted would happen, and a number of players filtered onto the line as the drill continued -- including guards Kolton Houston and Greg Pyke and tackle Mark Beard.
For now, Houston -- recently reinstated by the NCAA after a three-year battle to regain his eligibility -- will practice at left guard, although that position does not appear to be set in stone.
“I don’t know if Coach Friend has totally nailed down where everybody is going to be, but starting out he’ll be at the left guard position,” Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said before practice. “He’s going to cross train and he’ll know the right guard position. He’s athletic enough to play tackle, as well. We don’t want to give him too much, but day one he’s sitting at No. 2 left guard.”
The one notable absence was guard Austin Long, whose academic status remains in question, but otherwise the key linemen who appeared set to play roles in Friend’s rotation earned early opportunities on Thursday.
Over the next few weeks of camp, Friend and company will attempt to nail down whether that returning lineup will remain intact and which of the reserves to include in their plans.
“Who the best five are, that’s what we’ve got to decide,” Bobo said.
For the first time in years, however, Georgia’s offensive line should have more than just a starting five and few reliable alternatives. For a player such as Burnette, who was around in much leaner times, the line’s depth difference is easily detectable.
“I think it’s good to have so many guys who can contribute in so many different ways,” Burnette said. “Regardless of what the final lineup ends up being, I feel like we’re going to have the five best guys, literally, on the field that help us win games. I’m just excited to see how it all pans out and to see how dudes compete this fall camp and leading into the season.”
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)
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
Offensive line coach Will Friend wasn’t ready to proclaim him a starter at the end of spring practice, at all, but a more reasonable question is probably whether the sophomore starts at left or right tackle. Because it would be a considerable upset if Theus loses a starting spot at any point in his career.
Last season, Theus became the third true freshman offensive tackle to start Georgia’s season opener since freshmen became eligible to play in 1973. And while he wasn’t perfect, he won multiple freshman All-America rosters and validated the excitement that accompanied his signing with Georgia more than a year ago.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
Spring scrimmages rarely have much in the way of drama, but Jenkins insisted that the competitiveness between the offense and defense will carry over to Saturday’s game. The rising sophomore outside linebacker lobbed a number of good-natured zingers at his offensive teammates after Thursday’s practice, just two days from when they’ll square off in Saturday’s G-Day game.
“I hope we play the whole time,” Jenkins said of the Bulldogs’ defensive starters. “Right now I know [defensive coordinator Todd] Grantham wants to show the offense up and I know, as soon as they make a big play, if the two or threes go out and they make a big play, I think Coach Grantham is going to send the ones back in.
“He wants to make sure everybody knows the defense is still going to be on point. I feel like he’s going to want to prove we don’t have a dropoff.”
Cappy_88: Radi, give me a 2012 roster player (outside of Jordan Jenkins, Ray Drew, and Josh Harvey-Clemons) who you think will have a breakout year in 2013 and why?
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
ATHENS, Ga. -- No Georgia offense has ever scored more frequently than the 2012 bunch that averaged 37.8 points per game and ranked among the nation’s most explosive units.
That sets the bar awfully high for a 2013 offense that returns 10 starters, but they know they must be even more ambitious this offseason if they are to match that production, much less exceed it.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
2012 depth chart: Georgia returns 15 players who started the Capital One Bowl against Nebraska -- 10 on offense, three on defense and both kickers -- led by quarterback Aaron Murray, tailback Todd Gurley and the entire offensive line. The Bulldogs lost three defensive underclassmen -- All-America outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, inside linebacker Alec Ogletree and nose guard Kwame Geathers -- to the NFL draft and a total of 12 key defensive contributors.
Who’s ready to move up for more playing time?: The defense obviously must reload this season, but defensive coordinator Todd Grantham is quick to point out that the group might lack experience, but it has plenty of talent. Nose guard will be one of the key positions to watch this spring, with Jonathan Taylor, John Atkins (Thomson, Ga./Hargrave Military) and Chris Mayes (Griffin, Ga./Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College) all competing for playing time. Inside linebacker -- where early enrollees Ryne Rankin (Orlando, Fla./East River) and Reggie Carter (Snellville, Ga./South Gwinnett) are already in the fold -- and defensive back are also positions of interest. We’ll be interested to see whether rising sophomores Sheldon Dawson and Josh Harvey-Clemons can step into leading roles during the spring.
To continue reading this article you must be an Insider
Recruit Comparison: Murray to Allen
Final Washington State 45 Colorado State 48 Final 20 Fresno State 20 25 USC 45 Final Buffalo 24 San Diego State 49 Final Tulane 21 Louisiana-Lafayette 24
Final Pittsburgh 30 Bowling Green 27 Final Utah State 21 23 Northern Illinois 14
Final Marshall 31 Maryland 20 Final Syracuse 21 Minnesota 17 Final Brigham Young 16 Washington 31
Final Rutgers 16 Notre Dame 29 Final Cincinnati 17 North Carolina 39 Final Miami (FL) 9 18 Louisville 36 Final Michigan 14 Kansas State 31
Final Middle Tennessee 6 Navy 24 Final Ole Miss 25 Georgia Tech 17 Final 10 Oregon 30 Texas 7 Final 14 Arizona State 23 Texas Tech 37
Final Arizona 42 Boston College 19 Final Virginia Tech 12 17 UCLA 42 Final Rice 7 Mississippi State 44 Final 24 Duke 48 21 Texas A&M 52
Final Nebraska 24 22 Georgia 19 Final UNLV 14 North Texas 36 Final Iowa 14 16 LSU 21 Final 19 Wisconsin 24 9 South Carolina 34 Final 5 Stanford 20 4 Michigan State 24 Final 15 UCF 52 6 Baylor 42
Final 13 Oklahoma State 31 8 Missouri 41 Final 12 Clemson 40 7 Ohio State 35