Georgia Bulldogs: Greg Pyke

SEC's lunchtime links

April, 25, 2014
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We've arrived at the final weekend in April, which is somewhat bittersweet for SEC football fans. It's a weekend – and that's always a good thing – but it's also the final weekend for the conference's spring football games (Arkansas and Kentucky both play Saturday), meaning no more SEC football until late August.

Enjoy it while it lasts before the long summer – and take a quick look at today's lunchtime links before it begins.
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

[+] EnlargeMark Beard
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsRising 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.

Players to watch: Brandon Kublanow

February, 25, 2014
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With spring practice still a few weeks away, this week we'll discuss five players to watch once the Bulldogs open workouts on March 18.

Today we take a look at a young offensive lineman who should be in the mix to replace one of the Bulldogs' two departed starters at guard.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Kublanow
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesGeorgia hopes Brandon Kublanow builds off late-season playing time to become a starter at guard.
Brandon Kublanow (Offensive guard, So.)

2013 review: As is typical for an offensive lineman who actually plays as a freshman, Kublanow got off to a quiet start. He appeared in just one of the Bulldogs' first five games -- a blowout win against North Texas -- before eventually playing his way into the rotation. He appeared in each of the Bulldogs' last eight games and was offensive line coach Will Friend's choice to replace injured senior Dallas Lee in bowl loss against Nebraska.

Why spring is important: There will be significant turnover on the line this season with Lee, right guard Chris Burnette and left tackle Kenarious Gates -- all of whom started nearly every game over the previous three seasons -- out of the picture. Kublanow and rising senior Watts Dantzler appear to be the early favorites to start at the guard spots, but Friend has no shortage of options at those positions, including Mark Beard, Greg Pyke and redshirt freshmen Josh Cardiello and Aulden Bynum. The feisty Kublanow just needs to keep doing what he's been doing and he should be part of a rotation at minimum.

Best case/worst case: Kublanow is the classic “road grader” guard, so it wouldn't be much of a surprise to see him jump into the starting lineup this season and stay there for the next three falls. Friend was clearly impressed with his potential when practice opened last season and he made it a point to work him into the lineup more and more as the season progressed. Now it might be his time. However, his spot as a starter or member of Friend's rotation could be in jeopardy if he doesn't show enough consistency this spring. It seems unlikely that he won't play a prominent role this fall, but older players might grab those spots if Kublanow struggles.

UGA position groups to improve: No. 4

February, 11, 2014
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Georgia doesn't open spring practice until March 18, so we'll use the next few weeks to look ahead to those all-important workouts and preview what to watch once the Bulldogs get started.

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

[+] EnlargeDavid Andrews
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMIDavid Andrews returns to anchor the offensive line.
Battling for No. 1: This is perhaps one of the most interesting position groups to watch this spring. Offensive line coach Will Friend seemed fairly comfortable with most of his lineup last fall, with center David Andrews, left tackle Kenarious Gates and right guard Chris Burnette starting all 13 games and left guard Dallas Lee starting 12. It was the right tackle spot that felt like a revolving door at times, with John Theus starting eight games and Kolton Houston six. With Gates, Burnette and Lee all out of the picture now, there should be plenty of competition to fill their spots -- and just as much at essentially every position but center, where Andrews seems entrenched as a starter. Friend seemed to like what then-freshman Brandon Kublanow brought to the lineup last season at guard, so he might be one candidate to keep an eye on during the spring. But who Friend will insert into the tackle spots seems difficult to predict. Theus and Houston certainly had their ups and downs last season, but they are far and away the most experienced tackles on the roster at this point.

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.
ATHENS, Ga. -- Despite all the offseason handwringing about how Georgia’s offensive line depth chart might change this season, Will Friend still trotted out the exact same starting five for Thursday’s first preseason practice that he deployed in nearly all 14 games last fall.

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 [2010], 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.”

Post-spring position review: OL 

April, 19, 2013
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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)

ATHENS, Ga. -- The Georgia Bulldogs are enjoying spring break after having their first three practices of spring camp last week. As we wait for the players to return to Athens and resume camp life, we will take a moment to answer the questions from our readers in our weekly DawgNation mailbag.

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?


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UGA spring preview: 5 positions to watch 

February, 28, 2013
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Coaches always emphasize the importance of competition during spring practice, and there will certainly be more than enough at Georgia once the Bulldogs start spring drills on March 2.

The competition on the defensive side of the ball will be the story of the spring, as coordinator Todd Grantham and company work to find replacements for the 12 departed regulars who figured heavily into the Bulldogs’ defensive plans last fall.

Here are five positions that bear close watching this spring:

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Position scouting report: OG/C 

January, 22, 2013
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Editor’s note: Over the next several weeks, we’ll take a look at each position on Georgia’s depth chart and project how it might look in the future. Today we examine Georgia’s offensive guards and centers.

2012 two-deep depth chart:
LG: Dallas Lee (Jr.), Kenarious Gates (Jr.)
RG: Chris Burnette (Jr.), Lee (Jr.)

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UGA midseason report card: OL 

October, 11, 2012
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Editor’s note: Georgia’s football season is at the halfway mark, and the Bulldogs will take this weekend off before resuming SEC play next Saturday at Kentucky. We'll take a look at a different position group each day this week and evaluate how it performed in the first half of the season in our DawgNation midseason report cards.

ATHENS, Ga. -- The public opinion of Georgia’s offensive line was, for a time, much more positive than it is today, after the Bulldogs’ numerous breakdowns led directly to a 35-7 loss at South Carolina.

Will Friend’s rebuilt line had been surprisingly effective in the first five games, paving the way for Georgia to rank among the nation’s most explosive offenses.

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Notebook: Injured Dogs still need work

September, 12, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Although five of Georgia’s defensive starters were limited by injuries in Wednesday’s practice and two more -- Bacarri Rambo and Alec Ogletree -- might still be suspended, Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said Saturday’s game against Florida Atlantic is no time to sit the regulars.

“In the NFL, you get paid. In college, you get to play,” Richt said after Wednesday’s practice. “I think they all want to play. We want to be careful, no matter who we’re playing, with these guys. But I think they all want to play.”

Richt said he believes all five starters -- outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (groin/shoulder), nose guard John Jenkins (shoulder), defensive end Cornelius Washington (hamstring) and cornerbacks Malcolm Mitchell (ankle/shoulder) and Damian Swann (knee) -- should be physically able to play Saturday against the Owls (1-1).

Florida Atlantic, by the way, is rated No. 122 out of 124 teams in the Massey Rankings -- one of the components in the BCS computer ranking formula. Georgia (2-0) is No. 8 according to Massey, but defensive coordinator Todd Grantham was even more adamant that the Bulldogs can’t expect to take it easy on Saturday. Especially after watching a fellow highly ranked SEC team, Arkansas, fall as a heavy favorite against Louisiana-Monroe last weekend.

(Read full post)

UGA freshmen already fill key roles 

September, 3, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Keith Marshall didn't take long to get any freshman jitters out of his system.

The former five-star tailback prospect was on the field for the very first play of Georgia's season-opening win against Buffalo as a member of the Bulldogs' kickoff coverage team.

"It felt good. It was nerve racking because I was excited," Marshall said. "It was good to get the first hit out of the way."

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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia coach Mark Richt played it coy when asked about safety Bacarri Rambo and linebacker Alec Ogletree being listed atop the depth chart for the Bulldogs’ game against Buffalo on Saturday.

“We’ll just have to wait and see. Time will tell,” Richt said about what to expect from the two players Saturday, provoking uncomfortable laughter from the media members gathered in the room. “I’m glad we can laugh about that.”

Although Richt has never acknowledged a punishment for either player, suspension rumors have surrounded Rambo and Ogletree since the spring, when both players reportedly failed drug tests.

(Read full post)

Depth a concern on left side of O-line 

August, 14, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia’s starting offensive line appears to be set.

Now the Bulldogs must develop depth behind the six players with whom the coaches are comfortable -- tackles Kenarious Gates and John Theus, guards Dallas Lee and Chris Burnette, center David Andrews and reserve guard/tackle Watts Dantzler -- and a couple of areas of concern still exist.

The right tackle spot was probably the biggest question mark as the Bulldogs opened preseason camp, with Theus and Dantzler looking to replace still-ineligible Kolton Houston. But both players have been solid this August and are SEC-ready players, according to their coaches. A more glaring issue now is the depth on the left side of the Bulldogs’ line.

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Notebook: Murray's accuracy improves 

August, 11, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Mike Bobo has established an exact completion percentage that he wants redshirt junior quarterback Aaron Murray to hit this fall. If Murray’s progress from August practices carries over into the season, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Bobo, Georgia’s offensive coordinator, credited Murray’s improved footwork for his substantially improved accuracy during preseason camp.

“His accuracy has improved I think as of yesterday almost 14 percent compared to what it was last camp,” Bobo said after Saturday morning’s special teams practice. “That’s a credit to his footwork and a credit to a lot of other things. But the No. 1 thing you look at with accuracy is the footwork and he’s done a nice job.”

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