What does Georgia offensive line coach Stacy Searels have in common with groundhog General Lee? One emerges from his den on Feb. 2 to see his shadow; the other talks to the media on Feb. 3.
Wednesday, there was much to discuss.
During a brief interview with UGASports, Searels touched on a number of subjects, including his newest offensive line signees - Brent Benedict, Kolton Houston and Kararious Gates, along with his thoughts on Georgia's offensive line heading into the fall.
"I think Kenarious is very athletic, a smart kid, a really bright kid who is a leader in his school," Searels said of the Greenville High star. "Everyone in his area loves him. We can't wait to get him to town."
Gates, who signed with the Bulldogs after originally committing to Kentucky, has been compared favorably to current right tackle Josh Davis.
Gates is thought to be in line for a redshirt his freshman year.
Whether or not Houston redshirts remains to be seen. Along with safety Jakar Hamilton, Houston has already enrolled at Georgia and will be on hand when the Bulldogs kick off spring practice in early March.
"Going through the off-season program helps you mature quicker, although all the kids who arrive in June will be ready by August to start," he said. "But it (enrolling early) does give you a chance. You get a chance to see what big-time college football is all about, but you have to come in and be ready to fight every day because it can be a long spring if you're not. But I think he (Houston) has the ability to help us and I see him being a tremendous player in the future."
Benedict, meanwhile, continues to rehabilitate from the torn ACL he suffered late last year.
According to Searels, Benedict just returned from Birmingham, Ala., where he met with surgeon Dr. James Andrews who apparently gave the young tackle a good report.
"(Dr. Andrews) was very positive and Brent is on track," Searels said. "It's just a matter of time. I'm not sure when he'll be back, but when he's ready, he'll play."
Despite the injury, Searels sees Benedict having an extremely bright future with the Bulldogs.
"We targeted Brent very early and we thought he was as fine as any tackle in the country," Searels said. "To get his commitment was a big day for us. He stayed solid the whole time; he had the injury, but things are getting better. He will continue to develop and I think will be a tremendous player for us."
But even if Benedict isn't quite ready to come back, Searels feels good about the players he has returning.
The Bulldogs only lost Vince Vance to graduation, and will have the same five starters - Clint Boling, Cordy Glenn, Ben Jones, Chris Davis and Josh Davis - as they did to end the 2009 campaign.
Searels also seems pleased with the progress Trinton Sturdivant is making from his second ACL injury, and along with A.J. Harmon, Tanner Strickland, Chris Burnette, Jonathan Owens, Ben Harden and Dallas Lee the depth is such where coaches are considering moving Justin Anderson over to the defensive line.
"My first two years we started four freshmen," Searels said. "But we've been able to redshirt some guys, to get them bigger, get them stronger in the weightroom and help them develop so we're not just throwing them into the fire and I believe that's going to make our offensive line better in the future, I really do."
Searels also had kind words for Josh Davis, who he credits for helping finally solidify the Bulldogs' offensive line against Vanderbilt, which not so ironically was the game when Georgia finally turned its maligned running game around.
"I think Josh Davis is the ultimate team player. Here's a young man who was coming off two shoulder surgeries when he came back to practice, and I'm not sure when he did that he was totally well," Searels said. "But he got back out there and when he did, everything seemed to click. He's a smart, tough kid and he cares. He's been a real leader for us this off-season. I appreciate the effort of Josh Davis."
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