Georgia’s offensive line still a concern

semerson@macon.comApril 9, 2013 

ATHENS -- Will Friend, the man who coaches Georgia’s offensive line, prefers the blunt approach. He was asked if, on the heels of head coach Mark Richt saying the coaches wanted eight or nine players good enough to play this season, Friend had found eight or nine good enough.

“Um …” he said, looking down and thinking.

After a second or two, Friend just shook his head.

“Naw. Nope.”

Friend was asked how many he felt like he did have. The answer was six or seven as of Tuesday’s practice -- an increase from Saturday’s G-Day game, when Georgia’s offensive line again looked like a glaring weakness in an otherwise stellar offense.

Friend said he was disappointed in the effort his first-team unit displayed on G-Day. Two of those players, John Theus and Kenarious Gates found themselves on the second team at Tuesday’s practice.

Theus and Gates started every game last season. They’re not guaranteed to be out on the field Aug. 31 at Clemson.

“They know that they better be one of the top five or they won’t play,” Friend said.

The offensive line has been an issue since the 2010 season, when an experienced group, expected to be the core of the offense, instead faltered. Friend was then hired, and the past two seasons the unit has gotten better as the season went along but even then was not very strong.

This year the line returns everybody, but Friend is finishing spring practice still trying to find the right combination of players. He indicated Tuesday that only two players -- right guard Chris Burnette and center David Andrews -- are likely set as starters.

The fact that Theus and Gates haven’t nailed it down is a testament to the state of flux -- or how much Friend wants to motivate them.

Gates, who will be a senior this season, was appointed the starter at left tackle entering last season and has 26 career starts.

Theus was a five-star recruit who had a solid freshman season and was moved to left tackle midway through spring practice. Effort isn’t an issue, according to Friend, who indicated that Theus was hurt a bit by missing the first couple of weeks of spring practice after foot surgery.

Ultimately, it’s hard to see Theus not starting at Clemson. That leaves what could be a pretty fierce competition for starting spots between Gates (who can play both guard spots and both tackle spots), Dallas Lee (a guard), Mark Beard (tackle and guard) and Xzavier Ward (a right tackle). Greg Pyke, who redshirted last year as a freshman, could also move into the equation at guard.

Friend wants to nail down a plan by about midway through August, at the latest.

“But somebody needs to step it up and let us know that, Hey, we’re gonna be one of those guys you can count on,” Friend said.

Injury updates

There was another positive sign Tuesday for Michael Bennett, who was the team’s leading receiver when he tore his ACL last October. Bennett was running routes with the other receivers during the early portion of practice, the first time he’s been seen to do that this spring. ... Defensive lineman John Atkins sprained his knee on G-Day but will not require surgery, according to defensive line coach Chris Wilson. Atkins missed Tuesday and will also be out for Thursday’s final spring practice.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service