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As far as depth is concerned, Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend conceded Saturday his Bulldogs are in a better position than they have been for the past couple of years.
Not only does Georgia have five starters back from last season, but there finally seems to be enough bodies to actually make for some competition, not only in preseason but for the rest of the year.
"I do like the fact with the numbers we have, we'll be able to have some competition and we'll be able to carry some competition over so where they'll have to worry about performing throughout the season," Friend said. "Probably last year and the year before we didn't have the ability to do that, but we do with this group as long as we don't get anybody hurt kind of deal."
In regards to being one of the bigger camp storylines in regards to the offensive line, senior Kenarious Gates appears to be close to locking up the left tackle spot, the same position he started 12 games at for the Bulldogs last fall.
"Gates has had a good camp. He came in better shape, he's moving around better," Friend said. "He's probably performed the best out of anybody at this point."
Right guard Dallas Lee and center David Andrews are also certainties, as is Chris Burnette at right guard, although Friend continues to pace his amount of reps considering he's coming off shoulder surgery back in February.
"He's a guy (Burnette) who has played a lot of ball, and from where he had the surgery, you don't want to throw it all out there at once," Friend said. "It will start picking up as we go and we knew going in that was the way we were going to go."
John Theus and Kolton Houston are currently the top candidates at right tackle, with Theus also an option to slide over to right guard if Burnette's recovery limits his playing time.
Either way, Friend feels the position will be in good hands.
"If you had to say right now, we've got two guys really competing to be the starter in Kolton and John so we'll see how that plays out over the next week or so and go from there," Friend said. "Both those guys, too, can handle more than one spot. I think that's a plus for both that they can because as this thing plays out because as the year goes on, to get your best five out there someone may need to play somewhere else."
There is, however, one aspect of Houston's game that he still needs to fine tune as a result of not being able to play due to his ban from competition by the NCAA.
Although the former Buford standout practiced with the team while suspended, his absence and lack reps took a toll that Friend says he's having to pay now.
"He's got to understand
let me word this the right way
that just because he's been here he hasn't got the reps that a lot of the other guys have gotten and that sometimes he thinks he's got it all down because he's been in meetings and been around that type stuff," Friend said. "But he needs to think of it a little bit more like a freshman and try to get because he hasn't had the reps for it to become habit. He knows it, but Ken Gates knows it because he's done it so many times, Dallas Lee has done it so many times. They know what to do by habit. Kolton kind of knows it but it's not a habit yet."
Mark Beard, Watts Dantzler, Hunter Long, Xzavier Ward and freshman Brandon Kublanow (in no particular order) appear to be next in line for playing time.
Friend said he likes what he's seen in Kublanow, who on Friday received reps with the second unit at right guard.
Of the freshmen linemen, Friend says the former Walton standout has the best chance to play.
"I think he's more physically ready and he's a guy that as he gets I a little more and more he will get better because he is a strong guy," Friend said. "He's a very physical guy, it's just a matter of getting it all together."
D-linemen will have interchangeable roles
Defensive line coach Chris Wilson continues to preach depth and the ability to have options when it comes how his unit will be able to line up this fall.
"Here's what I say, football is about matchups nowadays. What we want to do is put the best players out there and create the best matchups for Georgia. That's it. X's are all X's. I just want to get my best guy against their worst guy and get a chance to make a few plays. We try to focus on that instead of this is the nose and this is the end. We want to create the best matchups," Wilson said. "I think guys at the end of the day are a lot more efficient playing 40 snaps than 60 snaps and in this day and age of hurry-up offense and tempo, to tell a guy to play full speed for 85 snaps, that's not fair and it's not realistic so we've got to detailed roles for guys when we put our game plan together."
Currently, Wilson said he feels he has anywhere from six to seven players he can use in different roles, and that doesn't include junior college transfer Chris Mayes who continues to recover from a recent concussion.
"The thing that Chris is doing a good job of is he's watching all the practices, he's going through all the walk-throughs. He's a smart guy, so I think he will get right back into it," Wilson said. "The one thing you never want to see is injured guys, especially with how much work they put in this summer. Chris had a great off-season, so this is a minor set-back. We've still got a few weeks before we get ready for our first opponent and I feel good about him. He's done everything he can do up to this point to get ready to play."
Battle continues for third-string RB spot
Running backs coach Bryan McClendon says it's still a three-man race to see who becomes the Bulldogs' third-team running back behind Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
Right now, former Camden County standout J.J. Green would seem to have the edge, but former Aquinas standout Brendan Douglas continues to impress, as has A.J. Turman, who remains out with a right ankle and right knee sprain.
"There's a lot of familiarity with him right there so we think he can do a good job there for us," McClendon said. "He's going to be a guy I feel can help us all over the place."
Ditto for Douglas, who was singled out this week by head coach Mark Richt for his pass-protection skills, one advantage he currently appears to have over Green.
"Brendan does a good job. He's very attentive and everything we like about him during recruiting," McClendon said. "He's a tough kid, he runs the ball extremely well, he's a bigger kid and he's physical."
McClendon doesn't think Turman will be out for long.
"The bottom line is, you've got to get all those guys ready as if they're going to be THE guy," McClendon said. "At that position, in this league and the style of offense that we play, they're one nick away from one of those top guys to having to play."
Carter continues to impress
Inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti says freshman linebackers Reggie Carter continues to impress, much like he did as an early enrollee last spring.
"Reggie's a good football player, he's a smart guy and he tries to study everything," Olivadotti said. "I would say he's more of a veteran than a freshman, because when you get through spring ball you've heard it all before."
It's definitely been a new experience for Olivadotti having so many young players at his disposal.
With the exception of juniors Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson, all of Georgia's inside backer backups are freshmen, with Ryne Rankin, Tim Kimbrough and Johnny O'Neal getting plenty of reps in preparation for the 2013 campaign.
"It's different than having a bunch of guys who now exactly what you're saying, but it's refreshing. It keeps you on your toes as coach because you have to talk about all the details that sometimes guys who are more experienced understand," he said. "I say something now and everybody has to write it down, but they do a good job of that in the meeting."
Olivadotti said the entire group will continue to cross-train at both the Moe and Mike.
We try to cross-train everybody, get them all ready to go so when it comes time to put the best 11 out there, they'll know what to do," Olivadotti said. "We recruited the right kind of guys, I think, at that position. They're all working at it and I think they see some opportunity there. They work pretty hard, but I don't know if it's a sense of urgency other than every day they get up and try to get better. I just think that's who they are."
This and that
Georgia cancelled Saturday's morning practice in lieu of taking the players to the Ramsey pool. But apparently somebody forgot to tell Wilson, who arrived at Sanford Stadium only to find there was nobody there.
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said he expects most of his defensive wounded back for the team's next practice on Monday. That includes safety Tray Matthews, along with linebackers James DeLoach, and [db]Davin Bellamy.
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