Intact and battle-tested, Georgia line eyes 2013

semerson@macon.comDecember 17, 2012 

ATHENS -- Some time after the SEC championship game, Georgia offensive line coach Will Friend stood in front of his players and basically put an end to the 2012 season. The competition to be a starter in 2013 was beginning.

The line has that luxury, despite there still being one game left in this season. There are no seniors, so the unit fans see now is basically the same one you’ll see in 2013 -- except, the team hopes, for a major recruit.

In any case, after just trying to block well enough to get through this season, Georgia is back to figuring out its offensive line future.

“We’ve got an opportunity to have a very experienced line here next year,” sophomore center David Andrews said.

Very experienced -- but very good? That’s the main question. This year the story line for Georgia’s line was that it was the biggest question mark on the team. So what will be the story line next year?

“I think it’s gonna be, ‘Can they hold up, they’re experienced now, can they dominate games now,’ ” Andrews said. “By the end of the season we were a very good offensive line, I feel like. Yes we had some great opportunities to block for some really good people. But next year we could even be that much better.”

The left tackle spot will be very interesting to watch. Junior Kenarious Gates, who moved there from guard before this season, hasn’t put a stranglehold on the spot and was rotating with sophomore Mark Beard in the latter half of the season.

Georgia is heavily recruiting Laremy Tunsil, a five-star recruit from Lake City, Fla., who would be an immediate candidate to be the quarterback’s blind-side protector.

Austin Long, a redshirt sophomore who played sparingly this year, is also one to watch. Long is getting a chance to earn a starting spot for the Capital One Bowl.

“Obviously Ken can play it, and we can play at a good level with Ken. Now is Ken suited better for guard if someone’s a better left tackle? Maybe,” Friend said.

John Theus, who started every game at right tackle this year, doesn’t appear to be a candidate for left tackle.

“I kind of like him over at the right side,” Friend said. “If we’re able to sign – get a couple more bodies and some guys are able to improve, then John could possibly even add depth at guard.”

While every spot is officially open, Friend acknowledged that Andrews and right guard Chris Burnette are fairly secure.

“You don’t want to say they’ve got it, but at this moment in time they’re the guys we’ve got,” Friend said.

The hope for Georgia is that 2012 proves to be the year this group was baptized by fire, going through rough spots (South Carolina obviously, but also some other games).

“We were a new offensive line playing together for the first time,” Andrews said. “Two new starters, a new starter in a different position. So yeah, we were thrown in there, and expected to do our jobs, and coach didn’t expect anything less from us. And yeah we all had our rough spots, but we were able to bond together as a unit and compete and play and win games.”

Key recruit hurt

Receiver Tramel Terry of Goose Creek, S.C., confirmed via his Twitter account on Monday that he tore his ACL in Saturday’s Shrine Bowl All-Star Game. Terry tweeted that he would get surgery in Athens this week.

Terry was hurt on the opening kickoff of the Shrine Bowl, which matches the top players from North and South Carolina.

Terry planned to enroll for the spring semester at Georgia, which he still may do. But the surgery would definitely prevent him from going through spring practice, and it makes taking a redshirt year very likely. That is a setback not only for Terry but the Bulldogs, who graduate two starting receivers (Marlon Brown and Tavarres King), and could use the depth.

During the course of this season, Georgia lost Brown and sophomore Michael Bennett to season-ending knee injuries. Bennett, who was hurt in practice in October, said recently he expects to be fully healthy by preseason practice for the 2013 season.

The Bulldogs are also set to have Malcolm Mitchell, Chris Conley, Rantavious Wooten, all of whom were members of the regular rotation this year. Justin Scott-Wesley, Rhett McGowan and several other recruits will also figure into the mix.

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