Kolton Houston's place on the offensive line

semerson@macon.comJuly 26, 2013 

Mark Richt's statement upon the reinstatement of Kolton Houston was telling. The big thing, Richt started out by saying, was that they were happy for Houston, and glad that he'll be able to "participate for Georgia."

"We don't want to put any pressure on him like now he's got to be a star," Richt said.

It may be that Houston eventually contributes to this line. Some day, he may start. But right now we just don't know. He has not been an active participant in practice since last season, and even then he was just a scout-teamer. He didn't go through spring practice with the team.

Hope seemed to be fading over the past year that Houston's situation would ever be resolved. So now with the sudden news of a positive result, for the coaches who must cobble together a line it's a pleasant addition, and another option. But it would be a stretch at this point to call him a quick fix.

Much is being made of the fact that Houston finished spring practice in 2012 as the first-teamer at right tackle. But keep in mind, John Theus wasn't on campus yet, so had Houston been eligible his job was by no means guaranteed. Whether he would have played last year is impossible to know.

The official UGA depth chart, released over the summer, has Houston listed as the fourth-teamer at left tackle. But he might also fit in at guard, where he also worked in spring practice of 2012.

The news of his reinstatement is more important for depth and the future of the line. As for this year, we'll have to see. If nothing else, he's one more player the coaches can point to as they try to create a better line out of competition. And as you go around the line, there's plenty of it:

- John Theus and Xzavier Ward could be neck-and-neck at right tackle.

- Theus is also competing at left tackle with Kenarious Gates and Mark Beard.

- Gates could move to left guard, which would squeeze out fellow senior Dallas Lee.

Now you have Houston joining redshirt freshman Greg Pyke and junior Watts Dantzler as guys who could also push for playing time. There's finally depth on the line, but only five can play at one time.

Mike Bobo made a point several times Wednesday of saying they would find "the best five." He also kind of hinted that Gates has a better chance of being one of those five after slimming down this offseason.

“Kenarious is a very good athlete who can run, was a good basketball player in high school. That was one of the main reasons we signed him, is his athleticism," Bobo said. "But we thought he had gotten a bit heavy, a waist-bender, and he looks good to me. It’ll be interesting to see when camp starts, how he looks.”

Another player who has probably slimmed down? Houston, thanks to everything else he's had to work on. How quickly he gets back in game shape just adds to a great amount of intrigue on Georgia's offensive line.

***

I'm in Cincinnati on an assignment, and asked some of Houston's former teammates, now with the Bengals, about what kind of player they think he can be.

Shawn Williams talked about how happy he is for Houston on a personal level.

"I remember sitting in class with him last year, and him being so down, not being able to do something he always wanted to do," Williams said. "They're gonna let him play. See what he can do and add to that powerful offense."

Clint Boling was a senior offensive lineman during Houston's freshman year.

"I think he's got a lot of talent," Boling said. "Obviously I haven't seen him in awhile, he has gotten a lot bigger since his freshman year. I think he's got a shot to contribute. I remember hearing from some of the younger guys who I used to play with saying he's one of the best linemen we have, but he just can't play. So now that he's actually able to get out there, that's huge. ...

"I talked to him, I think during the spring. He told me (about his situation) because I didn't know a whole lot about it. But that's definitely a huge deal, that's awesome for him just playing, but also for him to get through all that. That's pretty big."

Boling also thinks Houston's ability to play tackle and guard - and Kenarious Gates' ability to do the same - will be beneficial. Boling rotated between left tackle and right guard in 2010.

"The more versatile you are, the more you'll be able to help people out, if somebody gets hurt, or if somebody needs a break, being able to play more than one position is obviously huge for them," he said.

Orson Charles hadn't heard Houston was reinstated until I told him. Charles was happy about it, obviously, and called him "a great addition to the offensive line." As a tight end, Charles worked next to Houston on the offensive line for a couple years.

"I mean the offensive line has been together for what, two years? I don't think anyone left last year," Charles said. "So that's definitely great to have depth, and somebody at that caliber and eager to play, who's been sitting out."

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