Georgia Bulldogs: Kolton Houston
“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.”
When LSU meets Georgia in Athens on Saturday, Ego Ferguson expects a slugfest up front.
LSU's junior defensive tackle knows playing with the big uglies in the SEC means constant fights each week, but this one feels different. Georgia has experience and comfort, while LSU walks in with inexperience and hunger.
The sledgehammer that hits hardest could pave the way to a 2-0 conference start.
"It's like watching a heavyweight fight. It's like [Muhammad] Ali and [George] Foreman go at it," Ferguson said. "It's going to be a battle all day. The way we look at it, we're coming in to prove a point that we can still do it on the defensive line. It's going to be a great challenge, but we're going to be at our best."
It's been nearly 39 years since Ali claimed his second heavyweight title, knocking out Foreman in the eighth round of the historic "Rumble in the Jungle" in Kinshasa, Zaire. It was a fight for the ages and Ferguson, who is second on LSU's team with 21 tackles and has 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack, expects a dogfight to break out up front inside Sanford Stadium.
He has every reason to think this will be quite the bout between these two lines. Georgia returned all five offensive line starters this season and added a top-end piece to the starting lineup with the return of Kolton Houston. After giving up four sacks in the season-opening loss to Clemson, Georgia's line has allowed just two sacks since then and the Bulldogs are second in the SEC in offense, averaging 574 yards per game and 7.8 yards per play.
Tight end Arthur Lynch says a reason for the line's turnaround has been comfort. Communication and nerves hurt this line in a hostile environment at Clemson, but the line's composure has improved greatly in the last two games. It started in the dramatic, 41-30 win over South Carolina, when the line surrendered two sacks and 39 negative yards. It continued with Georgia giving up no sacks and just four negative rushing yards in the blowout of North Texas.
The line would like to clean up the negative rushing yards in big games -- there were 72 combined against Clemson and South Carolina -- but with the mistakes decreasing every week, Lynch has high hopes for Saturday.
"It all starts up front; that's the nature of it," Lynch said. "No matter what you think or how you think football is played, the battle is one up front on the offensive or defensive side of the ball. For us to have some confidence in our offensive line and to know that they get better each week, as it continues to grow knowing the stuff that we have built around it, the sky is the limit for us as an offense."
The Tigers have been impressive on defense, allowing 310 yards per game, and 5.5 of LSU's seven sacks have come from linemen. But they've had some hiccups. They let teams such as TCU and Auburn hang around with 38 combined second-half points. LSU gave up a season-high 213 rushing yards and three touchdowns to Auburn.
It's a bit of a concern, but defensive tackle Anthony Johnson said the defensive line embraces the challenge Saturday, trying to stop Georgia's high-powered passing and rushing attacks.
"Our linebackers felt it was their job to [put pressure on Georgia's offense], but honestly, it starts up front," Johnson said. "We have to set the line of scrimmage and get everything together. If we play like we're supposed to play, it'll be a great day for us."
So how does LSU beat a line that's seemingly getting better every week? Johnson, who has 2.5 tackles for loss this year, says it starts inside. Georgia's line is clicking, but Johnson thinks he knows what the Tigers can exploit Saturday.
"Honestly, we've seen guys beat them on the inside," he said. "We've watched a lot of film on Georgia and they can be beaten. There's nobody that's invincible. We just have to work hard and play our technique."
Winning the battle inside would do wonders for LSU's pass rush, which has to improve if the Tigers are going to stop Georgia. LSU hasn't had the same production as years past, but that past aggression must be present Saturday. However, it won't be easy with Houston and Kenarious Gates manning the outside.
You have to respect Johnson's confidence, especially considering the fact that LSU's defensive line lost four NFL draft picks, but you also have to respect what Georgia's line has done. It's helped engineer one of the nation's best running duos in Todd Gurley (377 yards) and Keith Marshall (117). Quarterback Aaron Murray also is inching closer to more Georgia and SEC records with his 1,040 yards and seven touchdowns.
"Are we the most physically imposing bunch of guys up front? We're not," Georgia coach Mark Richt said, "but we have a bunch of guys collectively that when they get on the same page and they get after it, we've been able to create enough space for our backs and enough time for our quarterback to succeed."
It should be quite the rumble between the hedges.
With Jadeveon Clowney and South Carolina’s fearsome defensive front on deck Saturday, that is not a particularly encouraging sign for the Bulldogs. But Georgia’s linemen realize they can’t allow themselves to think that way.
Such a philosophy might not be particularly useful for Georgia’s coaching staff, which knows it must frequently commit more than one blocker to Clowney -- a player widely viewed as one of the top pro prospects in college football.
Clowney got off to an unimpressive start in last Thursday’s win against North Carolina, but he has made his impression felt in two games against Georgia to date.
As a freshman in 2011, he twice sacked Bulldogs quarterback Aaron Murray and forced Murray into a fumble that teammate Melvin Ingram recovered for the win-clinching touchdown late in a 45-42 South Carolina victory. Last season, Clowney had two tackles for a loss and a sack as the Gamecocks harassed Murray into the lowest single-game QBR (8.4, when his season average was 78.2, 13th-best in the nation) of his college career.
“Whatever happened last year is last year,” said Georgia’s Kenarious Gates, who struggled mightily against Clowney a season ago. “The thing about me is I learned to move on and focus on what’s ahead of me.”
What’s ahead is a chance for redemption, not just for Gates, but for an entire offensive line that turned in an embarrassing effort in last season’s 35-7 loss to the Gamecocks. But it’s unclear who will line up on the edge to defend against Clowney, Chaz Sutton and South Carolina’s other pass rushers.
Friend experimented with several lineups in Saturday’s opener, to mixed results at best. While Georgia generated more first downs, rushing yards and passing yards, averaged more yards per play and led in time of possession, the line also committed a handful of costly penalties and surrendered four sacks -- more than in any game last year except one, when they allowed five to Ole Miss.
Three of those sacks came in the second quarter, when Clemson’s defense put the clamps on a Georgia offense that moved the ball at will early in the game. Tigers defensive end Vic Beasley zipped around flailing left tackle Gates on one third-down rush to nearly decapitate Murray with a vicious blind-side blow that forced a punt.
On Georgia’s next possession, Stephone Anthony got around right tackle Houston and knocked the ball away from Murray at the Bulldogs’ 20-yard line, forcing a fumble that Clemson’s Spencer Shuey recovered at the 16 to set up a short touchdown drive.
And on the final possession of the first half, Tavaris Barnes blew past Houston -- now playing left tackle -- to take down Murray near midfield and short-circuit Georgia’s attempt to drive for the go-ahead points just before halftime.
Clemson added one more sack on Georgia’s first possession of the second half and the Bulldogs otherwise kept Murray upright. Some key damage had already been done, however, and Georgia’s offense never regained its early momentum.
“We definitely had our ups and downs, but at the end of the day it’s a loss and Aaron got his jersey dirty,” Houston said.
Gates lost weight in the offseason, partially out of a desire to be quicker on his feet so he could more easily contend with speed rushers like Beasley and Clowney.
“I felt like that would make me a better player -- lighter on my feet and quicker and it’s lighter on my knees, as well,” Gates said last week. “I feel like doing it for me, doing it for the team, it would make me a more athletic player. I want to be that guy, and overall it’s been helpful.”
Clowney presents the biggest challenge of the season for Georgia’s pass protectors, though, and it seems unlikely that Friend and Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo will make one player responsible for the Gamecocks star. Count on Georgia to devote tight ends and running backs to Clowney’s side, as well, to assist the tackles against the player who totaled 23.5 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks a season ago.
And as Bulldogs coach Mark Richt pointed out, the Bulldogs will also enjoy the benefit of playing at home, unlike in Saturday’s loss. Georgia relied on silent snap counts because of the noise present in Death Valley, but the friendly confines of Sanford Stadium will allow the Bulldogs to vary their cadences and prevent Clowney and company from jumping the snap count so easily.
“I think the times we got beat in my opinion, we just got beat off the snap,” Richt said. “We’ll have our cadence next week and that will help. If we were at South Carolina, it would be a little bit tougher, but I think it will help when we get off on the cadence.”
ATHENS, Ga. -- If the last month taught Sheldon Dawson anything about Georgia’s green secondary, it’s that capability is not the Bulldogs’ issue.
“For us to be counted out so bad, we actually look good,” Dawson said earlier this week.
As Saturday’s game at Clemson approaches, the young players stepping into big roles on Georgia’s defense remain the team’s biggest question mark, although Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said Tuesday he is “probably more curious than concerned” about how they will perform.
Nonetheless, with one of the nation’s most prolific offenses on deck, Richt admitted that a secondary that features five players who have never started a game -- including Dawson and true freshmen cornerbacks Brendan Langley and Shaq Wiggins -- listed on the two-deep depth chart will be tested.
“Those guys aren’t good receivers, they’re great receivers. They’re really prolific guys in the college game that are going to play on Sundays,” Richt said of a Clemson receiving corps that includes 2011 All-American Sammy Watkins. “So here you’ve got some young pups in there that are going to try and hook it up with them, it’s going to be tough. … It’s not a good matchup for us right now.”
Compounding the issue is that the Bulldogs dealt with an assortment of injuries in August. Junior safety Corey Moore is likely out against Clemson after spraining his knee. Dawson returned to practice last week after a number of ailments forced him to miss time during preseason camp. And freshman safety Tray Matthews missed several weeks before returning to his presumed starting role this week in practice.
“Obviously communication is crucial between safeties, so him not being out there, it creates challenges,” Norman said. “But at the same time, he’s been there, he’s been working and we talk all the time. So I think we’ve been doing the best we can when it comes to getting comfortable with each other. We had all spring together, also, so it’s not like he got here and he was out the entire camp. He had a spring here, so I think some of that chemistry was already created.”
Norman, who started twice last season, is one of only six players on the two-deep who has a start under his belt. Included on that two-deep of 22 players are eight freshmen and a junior college transfer who will make their college debuts Saturday night in Death Valley.
“Those guys have really embraced their opportunity to be out here and that comes with learning the defense and knowing it a lot better,” Norman said. “All the credit goes to the guys that have earned the opportunity to play because they’ve taken responsibility for themselves.”
Opportunity abounds on Georgia’s defense, but it exists at certain positions on the Bulldogs’ veteran offense as well -- perhaps nowhere more than along the offensive line.
After his three-year NCAA eligibility battle ended this summer, Kolton Houston has battled 2012 starter John Theus for the right tackle job in August. The two have split first-team reps at tackle, while Theus has also filled in at right guard while team trainers took it easy on starter Chris Burnette in his return from offseason shoulder surgery.
“I was the kind of guy for three years that I don’t want to slack off and hold back the past three years because I always thought that there was going to be a time that I could play, so I always wanted to be ready,” said Houston, on the verge of playing his first college game since arriving at Georgia in January 2010. “And so now I definitely have a little more of a spark, but I’ve always practiced competitively since I’ve been here. I think that’s what’s helped me now.”
Redshirt sophomore Justin Scott-Wesley also seems ready for an increased role at receiver after earning substantial playing time for the first time in his career in Georgia’s last game, its Capital One Bowl win over Nebraska. The UGA track star is listed as Michael Bennett’s backup at split end and is one of a number of less experienced wideouts -- including freshman Reggie Davis and Kenny Towns -- who received a longer look in August thanks to injuries to veterans.
“Anytime you can get game reps and experience on the field, it’s good for your confidence and it’s good for the coaches’ confidence in you and your teammates’ confidence in you,” said Scott-Wesley, who had three catches for 67 yards against Nebraska. “So me coming out and showing that I could handle myself in a gametime situation is good for me moving forward.”
More than any spots on offense, however, the young players in the secondary and at linebacker will be under the microscope in Saturday’s opener. This will be their opportunity to prove they deserve further playing time before Harvey-Clemons and the assorted injured veterans return to the lineup.
“Even a week from this game, we’re going to be in better shape from a safety standpoint, as far as health and guys that are available to play,” Richt said. “Do we have all hands on deck right now? We don’t, but the guys that are in there have to step up and play and do well.”
- Listen to The Paul Finebaum Show live weekdays Monday-Friday from 2-6 p.m. ET.
- With Kiehl Frazier stepping aside to play safety, newcomers Jeremy Johnson and Nick Marshall are now the frontrunners to win Auburn’s starting quarterback job.
- Meanwhile, Alabama senior AJ McCarron is helping train the young quarterbacks who will succeed him once his career is complete.
- LSU offensive lineman Vadal Alexander is making an unusual position flip after a career-threatening injury suffered by starting left guard Josh Williford.
- Catch video of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier discussing injuries to defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and receivers Bruce Ellington and Damiere Byrd -- ailments that he claimed might keep them out of the opener against North Carolina.
- Georgia’s Jordan Jenkins and Alabama’s Chris Black are among the 25 SEC breakout candidates listed today by Athlon Sports.
- Florida’s Will Muschamp fills in a group of reporters about the status of the team as the Gators push toward their opener against Toledo.
- Speaking of the Gators, Muschamp’s program picked up three big commitments on Monday.
- Two of Missouri’s top players, running back Henry Josey and cornerback E.J. Gaines, sat out Tuesday morning’s practice with injuries.
- Deciphering Saban speak: How good is Alabama really going to be this year?
- Georgia’s Kolton Houston was only recently reinstated by the NCAA. Now he’s competing for a starting job along the Bulldogs’ offensive line.
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.”
ATHENS, Ga. -- After spending more than three years in NCAA purgatory, Kolton Houston's reinstatement occurred with lightning-quick efficiency.
Just like that, years of frustration caused by approximately 100 positive drug test results and the NCAA’s unwillingness to make a special exception in his case are not daily mental hurdles for the 22-year-old. Houston finally has a chance to compete for playing time, and he wants to focus on that opportunity.
“I think the NCAA serves a good purpose, and I’m grateful for what they’ve done for me,” Houston said. “It wasn’t easy the task that was handed to them and I respect what they had to do. I never blamed them. I’m thankful that they were finally able to reinstate me.”
Houston’s ordeal -- which gained national attention a year ago when Georgia took its case for his reinstatement public and picked up steam this spring when ESPN featured the story on “Outside the Lines” -- was a potential minefield for college sports’ governing body.
While Georgia’s well-respected director of sports medicine, Ron Courson, insisted for some time that the miniscule levels of the drug remaining in Houston’s system did not create a performance-enhancing benefit, the NCAA was in a tricky position. How could it allow a player to compete against others who were competing cleanly when he was unable to clear the NCAA’s minimum allowable threshold on a drug screening -- even if only trace elements from a 2009 steroid injection remained in his system?
Georgia’s administration argued its case and voiced its frustration with the NCAA’s unwillingness to bend, but it also understood the governing body’s reasoning.
“The NCAA, they’re in a tough position because they’ve got policies that have to cover so many student-athletes, so we understood their reasoning on having to clear the mark,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said. “We wish that maybe some of the other information that we provided would help, but we just knew that we were going to do everything we could to prolong it and to fight for Kolton.”
Over the past two-plus years, Houston underwent a battery of tests, experimental therapies, antibiotic treatment and even a surgery to remove fatty tissue where the drug was concentrated, all in an effort to get the steroid out of his system. Gradually his levels on ensuing drug tests began to approach the NCAA’s threshold of 2.5 nanograms per milliliter, but the decreases stopped and hovered around 4 and 5 for about 18 months. This after his initial failed test showed 260 nanograms per milliliter of the steroid in his system.
Finally, last Thursday, he took the test that came back negative a week later, showing an acceptable 1.8 nanograms per milliliter and allowing the NCAA to reinstate Houston immediately -- three years and three months after his initial failed test.
“I’ll be forever indebted to Ron,” Houston said. “He’s one of the best in the country at what he does. From day one, he said he wasn’t going to quit until I wanted to quit. He believed in his heart that what was happening wasn’t fair to me and he wanted to fix it.
“He dedicated a lot of hours that most people would have never done. He didn’t have to, but he told me from day one he was going to treat me like his son and he was going to do everything for me that he would do for his son. And after three and a half years of long work, he finally got it.”
Expecting to eventually be reinstated, Houston ended Georgia’s 2012 spring practice as the Bulldogs’ starting right tackle. He’s listed as the third-string left tackle on the summer depth chart, but he can also play guard and isn’t entirely sure where he will land now that playing time is a possibility.
“To be honest with you, I don’t care. You can line me up at tight end or receiver. I’m going to leave that up to Coach [Will] Friend and Coach [Mike] Bobo,” Houston said, referring to Georgia’s offensive line coach and offensive coordinator. “They get to have fun with that. I’m just going to show up and work and do the best I can do.”
At 280 pounds, Houston is only about five pounds away from his expected playing weight of 285, so he does not anticipate many problems getting into playing shape. However, aside from spring scrimmages at Georgia, Houston hasn’t played in a game since the 2010 Under Armour All-America Game and understands that cracking the Bulldogs’ offensive line rotation will be a gradual process. Houston redshirted in 2010 and has two years of eligibility left, plus the option to apply for another year of eligibility.
If there is one attribute that his experience over the past few years has strengthened, it’s patience. Now that patience is finally being rewarded with the opportunity he thought might never arrive.
“I never planned on quitting,” Houston said. “I was going to beat that horse until there was no more life in it. But [my friends and family] just gave me a little extra support and they just showed me what’s important in life. They made me realize that this is your dream. Don’t quit on it until you’re forced to quit, so that’s just what I did.”
ATHENS, Ga. -- Kolton Houston will explain his side of a lengthy NCAA eligibility dispute for the first time on Sunday morning.
ESPN reporter Bob Holtzman visited the Georgia offensive lineman and his family at their Buford, Ga., home in March and assembled a piece for "Outside the Lines" that will air at 9 a.m. ET Sunday on ESPN.
Although the NCAA has accepted Courson's extensive testing data that indicates Houston has not reused the performance-enhancing drug, it has not wavered in its decision that Houston will remain ineligible until tests reveal that the drug remains in his system only at an allowable level. In dozens of tests since the initial positive result in 2010, the remaining trace elements of the drug have not dissipated enough to reach the minimum threshold set forth in the NCAA's rulebook. Thus he has yet to appear in a college game, and the Bulldogs have been forced to play without a player who was projected to start at right tackle after spring practice concluded last year.
What will happen next remains unclear. UGA sports information director Claude Felton said Wednesday morning that Houston is "currently on the roster," but "as of this moment still ineligible."
Courson made his first public appeal on Houston's behalf last August, when the Bulldogs opened preseason practice. He had privately lobbied college sports' governing body that the trace elements of the drug that remain in Houston's system do not provide a performance-enhancing benefit, but the NCAA has not made an exception to its rules for Houston.
Courson and Bulldogs coach Mark Richt have spoken to reporters about the case in the past year, but the "Outside the Lines" interview will represent the first time Houston has publicly addressed his situation.
In addition to its Sunday morning time slot, "Outside the Lines" will air next week at 3 p.m. ET Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Mark Richt would like to keep the Buford pipeline open, and this time he is eyeing a linebacker.
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GAbread: I am curious about your thoughts on Rodney Garner. Quotes coming out lately from recruits have not put him in the best light. Did you hear these rumblings before? Or is this just recent? And how would you summarize his time at Georgia?
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UGA sports information director Claude Felton confirmed on Monday morning that Morant has “left the university due to academic considerations.”
Morant is officially the eighth member of Georgia’s 19-man 2010 signing class -- joining tailback Ken Malcome, safety Jakar Hamilton, cornerback Derek Owens, linebacker Demetre Baker, offensive lineman Brent Benedict, defensive end Jalen Fields and receiver Lonnie Outlaw -- who either failed to qualify academically, transferred or who has been dismissed outright. Meanwhile, offensive lineman Kolton Houston has yet to play in a game and linebacker Brandon Burrows made a limited college debut just last fall.
ESPN rated Morant as a three-star prospect and the nation’s No. 75 defensive end when he signed with the Bulldogs. However, he was frequently set back by injuries at Georgia and never actually appeared in a game in three seasons.
Morant quit the team minutes before his first practice in 2010, with Coach Mark Richt reporting that he “just felt like he lost the desire to play.” He returned to the team four days later.
2012 two-deep depth chart:
LG: Dallas Lee (Jr.), Kenarious Gates (Jr.)
RG: Chris Burnette (Jr.), Lee (Jr.)
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ESPN top five classes: Florida, USC, Texas, Georgia, Notre Dame
Georgia’s ranking: 4
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2012 two-deep depth chart:
LT: Kenarious Gates (Jr.), Mark Beard (So.)
RT: John Theus (Fr.), Watts Dantzler (So.)
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