ATHENS -- The Georgia offensive line still has its issues. It still might be the teams biggest concern, and the man who coaches the unit is still stingy with praise.
Except when it comes to David Andrews.
He was supposed to be too short to be an SEC center. Perhaps he was too inexperienced. He came from too small of a high school.
Instead, as Georgia prepares for the stretch run with Saturdays game against Georgia Southern, it is Andrews who has emerged as the most dependable player on an otherwise inconsistent offensive line.
Hes been the most consistent, offensive line coach Will Friend said. Hes playing good right now, and weve gotta keep that going.
This past week, Andrews was named the SECs offensive lineman of the week. Its still going to be awhile before the sophomore is considered for anything more than that, but Andrews has at least avoided the false start penalties and lineup juggling that Friend has had to employ.
Andrews was a curious choice when the Bulldogs pegged him as the heir apparent to Ben Jones, now a starting guard for the Houston Texans. Andrews was a three-star recruit out of the Wesleyan School in Norcross and is listed at 6-foot-2 and 295 pounds. Jones, by comparison, is 6-3 and 303.
But the coaches felt confident in Andrews, who goes by Boss around the team.
There was never any doubt in my mind that Boss could play in this league. Or anybody else in our rooms mind, Friend said. Hes very intelligent. Hes been a good leader. He was able to kind of work under Ben and kind of see how that role needs to be, and hes kind of taken it on. Hes doing a great job.
I think Ive proved some people wrong, Andrews said this week. But its not about that. Id rather see the team do good than me do good. Because at the end those are gonna be the memories that stick with you the longest time.
Nose tackle John Jenkins has been battling with Andrews since last spring, the pair matched against each other in drills and team practices. At first, by everyones account, Andrews struggled, but it might have prepared him well for the rigors of SEC play.
Jenkins laughs when asked about Andrews size.
I didnt know the height requirement of being the center, Jenkins said. I thought you had to be low to gravity and be able to snap the ball. Man I dont know. David Andrews is showing that hes capable of playing at this level.
As for the rest of the line, that remains a work in progress. Right tackle John Theus is the only player who has started at the same spot all year, and he has been prone to a number of freshman mistakes. Right guard Chris Burnette also has been solid, but he has been hurt the past couple of weeks and is questionable for Saturdays game.
The left side of the line has been in a lot of flux. Whereas last year Friend picked a starting five early and stuck with it, this year there has been more tinkering.
I would love to play 10 guys, to be honest with you, Friend said. Its kind of the same thing (with) good defensive lines. When you play against a good team on defense, their front is constantly (rotating). I would like to do that. I dont have 10 guys.
Lately, the statistics indicate the line is performing better. The Bulldogs are on pace to allow fewer sacks than last year, and the rushing yards also have increased.
But Friend calls all that a team deal. And he starts ticking off the success at the other offensive positions: Freshmen tailbacks Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have been outstanding, receivers coach Tony Ball has done a good job coaching his unit to be better blockers, and quarterback Aaron Murray is getting the ball off quicker.
So was all that on those guys last year? And is it this year? I dont know, Friend said. Its kind of (that) were all in this together. Thats kind of how we look at it. We have goals that we dont want to give up sacks and those things. That all can change in one week, as we all know.
But Andrews does think his unit is getting it together.
Were definitely starting to really, really click. And we knew we could do it, Andrews said. Weve still got a lot of work to do and a long way to go.