Georgia Bulldogs: Watts Dantzler

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.
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.

The first two installments covered the competitions at safety and defensive line. Today, let's move to the offensive tackles. Georgia lost a longtime starter in left tackle Kenarious Gates and have two part-time starters returning.

[+] EnlargeJohn Theus
Todd Kirkland/Icon SMIJohn Theus has started 21 games during his first two seasons at Georgia.
Returning starters: Entering his junior season, John Theus has already started 21 games. He manned the right tackle spot for all 14 games in 2012 and started the last seven games of 2013. He and the versatile Kolton Houston, who started the first six games last season, handled most -- if not all -- of the significant snaps at right tackle last fall.

Departures: Gates was never a star, but he was reliable, closing his career starting 33 consecutive games split between guard and tackle. He was exclusively the Bulldogs' starting left tackle for the last two seasons, so Georgia has a significant hole to fill in protecting new quarterback Hutson Mason's blind side.

Returning reserves: This is where things get interesting. We know that rising juniors Xzavier Ward and Zach DeBell are tackles, and we assume that Theus and Houston will remain at the position, but position coach Will Friend doesn't hesitate to juggle rotations. Seniors Mark Beard and Watts Dantzler and redshirt freshman Aulden Bynum are each listed as guards, but all of them have the size and ability to play tackle. If Friend doesn't like the way things are shaping up -- or even if he does and simply wants to weigh all of his options -- don't be surprised if he shuffles some of these guys inside and out.

Newcomers: Bynum is the only possible tackle who redshirted last season, but the Bulldogs signed three potential tackles last month in Dyshon Sims, Kendall Baker and Jake Edwards -- none of whom will arrive on campus until the summer.

What to watch: Offensive linemen are accustomed to players at other positions getting all of the attention, but the tackle races rank among the most important position battles for the Bulldogs this spring. Friend's offensive line had an up-and-down season in 2013, but it might get off to a much better start if Theus and Houston -- or a different candidate -- lock down the tackle spots by proving they can handle the job during spring practice. Houston didn't even know if he would be able to play at this time last year thanks to a long-running NCAA eligibility dispute. He definitely looked rusty at times, particularly when trying to anticipate the snap count in noisy road venues. Now he has a season of steady playing time under his belt, and most of the other leading tackle candidates have played in big games as well. Someone simply needs to prove to Friend that he deserves the job. Otherwise, expect to see Georgia continue to rotate players in and out until Friend discovers a combination that he likes.

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.
Continuing our run-up to Georgia's spring practice, this week we'll review the Bulldogs' five best recruiting classes of the last decade.

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.

[+] EnlargeRay Drew
Dale Zanine/USA TODAY SportsRay Drew started to play up to his potential last season.
The contributors: One of the class headliners, defensive end Ray Drew, finally started making an impact last fall and has one more season to live up to his five-star billing as a recruit. Tight end Jay Rome will be a redshirt junior this fall and should become the starter now that Arthur Lynch has moved on to the NFL. Cornerback Damian Swann and center David Andrews have also developed into valuable starters, while Sterling Bailey, Corey Moore and Watts Dantzler seem like the next most-likely players from the 2011 class to break through.

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.

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.

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)


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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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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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Position scouting report: OT 

January, 17, 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 tackles:

2012 two-deep depth chart:
LT: Kenarious Gates (Jr.), Mark Beard (So.)
RT: John Theus (Fr.), Watts Dantzler (So.)

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About Them Dawgs: John Theus

December, 25, 2012
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Editor’s note: Each day between now and Georgia’s Capital One Bowl date with Nebraska, we will review the season for a key Bulldogs player and attempt to project what’s next. Today we’ll look at right tackle John Theus.

No. 71 John Theus
Freshman/Offensive tackle


Role in 2012: Theus came to campus as one of the highest-rated offensive linemen to sign with Georgia in years, jumped into the starting lineup in Week 1 and held onto the job all season.

[+] EnlargeJohn Theus
AP Photo/Paul AbellThe much-hyped John Theus lived up to pretty much all those lofty expectations this season, earning SEC All-Freshman honors after starting all 13 games.
The good: You can count on one hand the number of true freshman offensive linemen who have started Georgia’s season opener through the last few decades -- and Theus is one of them. He was an enormous get on the recruiting trail and immediately fit in well on Georgia’s offensive line. He mostly lived up to the advanced billing, becoming one of two Bulldogs (along with one of his roommates, tailback Todd Gurley) to earn SEC All-Freshman honors from the league’s coaches.

The bad: Without question, there were moments when Theus looked lost out there. Then again, true freshmen don’t expect to come into the SEC -- with its trademark fearsome talent along the defensive lines -- without experiencing a few hiccups. Nonetheless, he started all 13 games after initially battling with Watts Dantzler for a starting spot during preseason practice.

Crystal ball: Make no mistake, it’s a major accomplishment for a true freshman to start every single game in his first season of SEC football. Georgia’s coaches clearly have huge expectations for Theus as his career progresses. Who knows what the future holds, but it appears as though he will remain at right tackle for now. Wherever he lines up, Theus must take several steps forward to fulfill his potential, but his ceiling is unquestionably sky-high.

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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ATHENS, Ga. -- Some highlights from Mark Richt’s Sunday media teleconference following Georgia’s 35-7 loss to South Carolina:

On whether Georgia might look at different combinations on the offensive line:
I don’t think we’ll do anything that would change right now. There’s a combination where [Mark] Beard would get to play some and we might look at that a little bit. I know Watts’ [Dantzler] ankle’s been bothering him a little bit, so he hasn’t had much of a chance to truly compete. But I still think we’ve got our best five in there, or at least our best six as we move that combination around.

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Notebook: UGA tries to solve punt issues 

September, 26, 2012
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ATHENS, Ga. -- Malcolm Mitchell is essentially a rookie punt returner -- and the Georgia sophomore admits he has made some rookie mistakes that could have proven costly.

Mitchell says the trick to his new responsibility is to quickly determine when to rein in his natural aggressiveness and when the smart move is to play it safe with a fair catch and hand the ball off to Aaron Murray and the offense.

“It’s just something to get used to,” said Mitchell, who is averaging 7 yards per return -- including a long of 22 yards on his first opportunity last week against Vanderbilt. “Of course when you’ve got an opportunity to make a play happen, you want to take it, regardless of what the situation is. What you’ve just got to know, punt return is a job that’s either you take it home or get as much yardage as you can or you fair catch it and get the offense on the field so they can do that.”

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ATHENS, Ga. -- If there is one attribute of Todd Gurley’s that most impresses his Georgia coaches and teammates, it would be his ability to break tackles and generate yards after contact.

That ability had Bulldogs defensive players raving from the first time they had to tackle the freshman tailback during preseason practice.

“A lot of times guys would just hit him and you think you’ve got him stopped and he just keeps driving his knees and there are people just falling off,” senior linebacker Christian Robinson said. “You never feel like, ‘Oh no, he’s stopped.’ There’s always a chance that he’s going to fall four more yards. A guy that’s always leaning forward, falling forward, is a great running back.”

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