ATHENS -- Will Friend, the man who coaches Georgias 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.
Friend was asked how many he felt like he did have. The answer was six or seven as of Tuesdays practice -- an increase from Saturdays G-Day game, when Georgias 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 Tuesdays practice.
Theus and Gates started every game last season. Theyre 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 wont 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 havent 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 isnt 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, its 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, were gonna be one of those guys you can count on, Friend said.
There was another positive sign Tuesday for Michael Bennett, who was the teams 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 hes 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 Thursdays final spring practice.