April 22, 2009

Breakdown: Offensive Line

Georgia offensive line coach Stacy Searels still can't tell you who will make up his starting offensive line when the Bulldogs kick off their season against Oklahoma State. But at least there will be plenty of healthy bodies from which to choose.

Can somebody knock on wood?

Injuries nearly decimated the Bulldogs' offensive line in 2008, most notably the torn ACLs suffered by starting left tackle Trinton Sturdivant and his subsequent replacement, Vince Vance.

By the time Georgia was wrapping up its Capital One Bowl victory over Michigan State, the Bulldogs were actually down to five healthy linemen after Josh Davis went out with a shoulder injury and was unable to return.

Although Searels is by no means ready to start turning cartwheels until he sees his walking wounded back on the practice field, there is reason for optimism as the offensive linemen Georgia has returning boasts a total of 98 career starts.

With the possible exception of Davis, injured linemen like Sturdivant, Vance and Chris Davis (hips) are each expected to be ready for the start of fall camp leaving Searels with a problem he'd much rather handle - decide which players wind up playing where.

"I'm still not sure about that quite yet. Cordy (Glenn) has got snaps at both guard and tackle this spring and done a good job at both spots," Searels said. "I'm not sure yet, but through this summer and fall camp we will iron out who will play tackle and who will play guard."

As UGASports continues its post-spring position breakdown, we take a look at the offensive line and the players Searels and head coach Mark Richt are depending on to help carry the Bulldogs this fall.

UGASports on Clint Boling (Jr., 6-foot-5, 290): Steady, dependable, reliable. Whichever adjective you choose, Boling is it. The juniors plays four of the five positions on the offensive line, the exception being center, and he could no doubt excel there too if asked to do so. Boling took over the left tackle spot when Vance went down against Tennessee, but is expected to slide over assuming Sturdivant is ready, which from all accounts he will be.

Wherever Boling winds up, he will be solid as a rock.

UGASports on Trinton Sturdivant (RSo., 6-5, 305): Before he tore his ACL in preseason, Sturdivant was on his was to becoming one of the better left tackles in the SEC. The injury was a particularly brutal one, but Sturdivant is well on the mend and from last reports is expected to be cleared by June.

Although the jury will remain somewhat out until Sturdivant actually gets back on the field, there's been no reason to believe he won't be his old self once fall camp begins.

UGASports on Vince Vance (Sr., 6-8, 330): Another versatile lineman, who like Boling, can play four of the five spots on the offensive line. Although Vance is a tick behind Sturdvant behind in his recovery simply because the injury occurred two months into the season, he is expected to be ready for fall camp. Vance is expected to see most of his time at right tackle, where competition will come from Justin Anderson, Cordy Glenn and possibly Boling, for the starting job.

UGASports on Justin Anderson (RSo., 6-5, 328): Anderson has that mean streak that Searels loves. Another players who can line up at either guard or tackle, Anderson has the ability to be the best run-blocker on the team but still needs to work on becoming more consistent with his technique to live up to his full potential.

UGASPorts on Ben Jones (So., 6-3, 300): Another player with an attitude. Solid, dependable, will fight you to his last breath. You're looking at Georgia's starting center for the next three years. No ifs, ands or buts.

UGASports on Chris Davis (Jr., 6-5, 292): Davis remains somewhat up in the air due to his hip surgery, but as long as he's healthy, the former Jefferson High standout will figure into the mix, both at guard and as a backup to Jones at center.

UGASports on Cordy Glenn (So., 6-5, 330): Glenn started seven games at left guard and three games at right guard for Georgia last year. So where did Searels have him see much of his time this spring? Right tackle. Whether or not Glenn plays there remains to be seen. Not that he can't, but because he did such an excellent job on the inside last fall, it would be somewhat of a surprise to see him make the move.

UGASports on A.J. Harmon (RFr., 6-5, 318): Harmon was moved over from the defensive line midway through last season and has impressed Searels with his transition. Although he spent much of last year at left guard, Harmon began working at left tackle in the spring.

Harmon doesn't figure to challenge for a starting role quite yet, but he will provide excellent depth and should develop into a standout performer over the next couple of seasons.

UGASports on Ben Harden (FSo, 6-3, 320): Harden continues to work primarily at guard for Georgia but at this point in his career is strictly a backup at this time.

UGASports on Josh Davis (Jr., 6-6, 295): Surgery on both shoulders kept Davis out for the spring, and although he's expected to make a full recovery, UGA officials say it may be late preseason or early into the 2009 campaign before he's able to fully resume workouts. When he does, look for Davis to play a backup role at right and left tackle.

UGASports on Tanner Strickland (RSo, 6-5, 327): Searels tinkered with Strickland at center in the spring which only adds to his versatility. Slowed by an ankle injury last fall, Strickland is healthy and remains one of the strongest players on the team. He should work his way into some sort of rotation at one of the two guard positions.

UGASports on Kevin Perez (Jr., 6-3, 285): Much like Harden, Perez remains in strictly a backup role. He entered spring as the third-team center behind Jones and true freshman Dallas Lee, but also saw time at guard.

UGASports on Dallas Lee (Fr., 6-4, 305): Although he was listed in spring as the No. 2 center, Lee is a good candidate to redshirt simply because Georgia's depth is what it is. Lee had a tough first couple of days during spring drills but is another player, ala Ben Jones, whose toughness is sure to win favor with Searels as his career moves along.

UGASports on Chris Burnette (Fr., 6-2, 310): Burnette has a bright, bright future and is currently expected to play guard. But like Lee, the former Troupe Count star could be a redshirt candidate due to the team's improved depth.

Others to Watch: Freshman Austin Long will miss the season after undergoing surgery on his back. … Casey Nickles (Jr., 6-4, 263) and John Bodin (RSo., 284) add quality depth but are not expected to play.

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