Trinton Sturdivant says he has a lot to be thankful for, an awful lot.
When the Bulldogs' left tackle ambled into the team meeting room at the Butts-Mehre Building recently for a chat with UGASports, there was absolutely so sign of a limp or altered gait that would lead one to suggest that the redshirt sophomore won't be 100 percent for Georgia's season-opener at Oklahoma State.
Considering the extent of the knee injury that cost Sturdivant his 2008 season that is an amazing fact to consider. Besides tearing meniscus in his left knee, Sturdivant tore the ACL, MCL and PCL, an injury which at one point had some - including Sturdivant himself - wondering if he would ever play again.
But as the Bulldogs, along with the rest of the UGA student populace prepares for this week's final exams, there he was, taking a seat looking very much like the same player who earned Freshman All-SEC honors in 2007.
"It been a while since I've been able to sprint and do what I do without holding back," Sturdivant said. "It's just feels real good. I feel like I'm back to my old self. I'm just real excited about this year."
Although it's now been nine months since Sturdivant suffered the injury during a preseason scrimmage at Sanford Stadium last August, the North Carolina native admits he marvels at how far he has come.
"It's shocking. In the beginning it was so painful, I couldn't even walk. I couldn't even put pressure on it," Sturdivant said. "A few months ago it hurt just to walk around but now I'm sprinting, running, twisting, doing everything."
Taking part in actual contact will now be the next step. But first he has to get officially cleared by team trainer Ron Courson.
There's good news there, too. Although that "official" clearance won't come until June, Sturdivant said that Courson told him that if practices were to be held in May, he would be able to take part in all the drills, including all the hitting that goes with it.
Sturdivant sees no reason why he can't pick right up where he left off.
"I think that's going to come with my dedication over the summer, getting back used to the speed of the game, recognizing where this linebacker is on this play, versus this front, or what blitz is coming when," he said. "I know it but actually going out there and do it will be the challenge that I go out and face this summer."
He'll also be preparing himself for that first real contact when the Bulldogs strap on the pads again when camp begins in August.
Sturdivant concedes he'll always be a bit antsy until he gets that first contact, but again, he believes there's nothing that can't be addressed with a good summer workout program.
"Of course you're going to think about it, but you just have to prepare yourself over the summer. Of course you can't have equipment over the summer, but you can still have some major contact," he said. "Hopefully, I can have enough contact doing 1-on-1 drills or whatever drills that we do that can simulate the game environment."
The 6-foot-5 Sturdivant says he is currently at the weight he was before the injury - a solid 304 pounds.
But there were some early issues. Sturdivant said he lost 20 pounds following his surgery, but gained 35 back before getting back down to his current weight.
"I had to get back in shape," he said. "But when I got back to running and working out really hard with Clay (assistant strength coach Clay Walker) and the other guys on the strength and staff they got me back real quick."
Now healthy, Sturdivant's future appears as bright as it ever was. So too does Georgia's prospects on the offensive line.
Although offensive line coach Stacy Searels has yet to determine how the starting unit will shake out, one figures that Sturdivant will once again man the left tackle spot for Georgia this fall, the position he played so well his freshman campaign.
But as Sturdivant points out, he wasn't the only lineman coming back from surgery, citing Vince Vance (ACL), Josh Davis (shoulder) and Chris Davis (hip) as players going through rehab of their own.
Of the three, only Josh Davis is questionable for the start of fall camp, and Sturdivant said the experience it gave players like Cordy Glenn, Justin Anderson, among others, only figures to truly benefit Georgia this fall making the Bulldogs' offensive line what he hopes will be one of the best in the SEC.
"I would say so. That's our goal. It (the injuries) gave everybody a chance to play and being when me and Vince went down; a lot of guys had to step in. We had to have a lot of surgeries this offseason, being that Josh had to have two shoulder surgeries, Chris, me and Vince, but I still think we can come out and just ball," Sturdivant said. "I think time will tell if we'll be the best but I know we're going to go out there and work."
As Sturdivant put it, Georgia's success this fall will depend on it.
"This is our time that we are going to be seriously critiqued. If we don't go, the offense is not going to go," Sturdivant said. "Joe (quarterback Joe Cox) is a fifth-year senior, we believe in him 100 percent, but he's started like one game. That won't make a difference in his production level but that (knowledge) helps get our mind ready for what we are to face. I have a saying, 'To be ready for the worst but hope for the best.' We're just going to prepare like we're going out there with a freshman quarterback. We know he's the best so hopefully that will pay off in the end."
Sturdivant assures that offensive line depth won't be a problem.
He sees the Bulldogs being at least two-deep at every position, with the versatility each player has to line up at different positions giving Searels untold options to use at different times during the game.
Sturdivant admits even he does not know how many different lineups Searels could potentially use.
"I haven't but there area lot. We've got so many guys who played last year, who got some reps last year and this spring that we can just roll in and out, roll in and out," Sturdivant said. "We've got depth at tackle, guard at center. We could even put some O-linemen at tight end. We've got some players this year. Before we've only had like five or six who could play but now we have eight or nine, maybe 10 who can play."
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