ATHENS - It has the potential to change with one really bad game, but for now Georgia's offensive coaches hope their line is settling into a rotation and a strategy:
They will play about nine men, including a true freshman, and each series could feature a different lineup.
That's a departure from the strategy that worked the past few years, when after rough starts to the season the team settled on a front five and stuck with it. But offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said this year's season opener at Clemson convinced him that they needed to use more players.
"I told you all after the first game I thought we got tired up front," Bobo said. "At the end of the second quarter and fourth quarter playing 40 snaps. We had to IV a couple guys at halftime. We needed to roll those guys to keep those guys fresh. Not just at receiver or running back but offensive line too. I think it's good for morale. How many snaps they get depends on how good they do in their series. But it's more about keeping those guys fresh. ... We lost some of our edge because I thought we were more mentally and physically fatigued in that Clemson game."
So in Saturday's game against North Texas, Bobo and offensive line coach Will Friend used a number of different combinations. Not only did John Theus come off the bench to spell Kolton Houston at right tackle, but junior Watts Dantzler spent time at guard and Mark Beard at left tackle. On the game's final series true freshman Brandon Kublanow played left guard, burning his redshirt.
The coaches liked the way it went enough - 4.4 yards per rush, zero sacks allowed - that it will be how things are handled Saturday against LSU, and going forward.
"There were some good things," Friend said. "Obviously it wasn't a great ballgame. But I thought they played with pretty good energy, and I thought they played pretty well. Anytime I guess you throw for as much and run for nearly 200, you've at least a few decent snaps. But they've got a long way to go, and about four days to get there."
There are a few key changes that occured last Saturday that will continue:
- Houston, who started at left guard against South Carolina, will stay at right tackle for now, meaning he and Theus are back in head-to-head competion.
- Kublanow will see his playing time increase, and serve as the main backup to left guard Dallas Lee. Friend said he should have put Kublanow in earlier against North Texas.
"I think he's ready to play, and he's ready to go," Friend said. "He's getting it really well, and he's a physical kid. He's gonna be a good one for us if he continues to improve."
Beard will continue to sub in for Kenarious Gates at left tackle, and Dantzler (who had about 20 snaps vs. North Texas) will sub in for Chris Burnette at right guard.
So would anyone spell center David Andrews? The starting guards, Lee and Burnette, are the backup centers in case of injury. But there isn't any indication yet that Andrews will be subbed out just for rest.
The offensive linemen aren't giving interviews these days, which Friend said was a request by the players themselves.
"That was something they came to me about," Friend said. "I think they just kind of want to be a quiet group right now."
Georgia's running game seemed underwhelming in last Saturday's game against North Texas, averaging 4.4 yards per rush. But if the Bulldogs manage close to that average this weekend, Bobo will be ecstatic.
In fact, Bobo wasn't that disappointed with what happened against North Texas.
"I tell you this, we better be happy with a four-yard run," Bobo said. "Sometimes if we're not getting 15, 20, 30 yards a run we get upset. But you've gotta be happy with a four-yard run in second-and-6, or happy with sometimes getting a dirty two or three and making them come up and stop it. It'll open up other parts of your offense."
Bobo pointed out that Georgia managed 193 rushing yards "against a defense that was dead-set on stopping the run." Indeed, the Mean Green stacked the box for much of the game, and the Bulldogs reacted by passing for more than 400 yards.
Bobo said the blocking up the middle was "decent," but was worse on outside runs. Still, it was a better run-blocking performance than it seemed on the stat sheet, according to Bobo, in large part because of the lack of long run plays, until J.J. Green in the final drive.
Tight end Jay Rome (ankle) was missing some practice, leaving his status for Saturdays' game in doubt. Rome re-injured his ankle against North Texas while making his one catch of the game.
Reserve outside linebacker James DeLoach (concussion) appears to be out this after sustaining a concussion.
Receiver Jonathan Rumph, a junior college transfer who has yet to play because of a hamstring, was practicing in a non-contact jersey on Tuesday. Head coach Mark Richt has appeared uncertain about Rumph playing against LSU, but the fact he practiced is a positive step.
Tailback Keith Marshall (shoulder contusion) and receiver Justin Scott-Wesley (shoulder sprain) both practiced in non-contact jerseys, but Richt said he expects them to be fine to play.
Grantham on Mettenberger
Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham didn't get to know Zach Mettenberger before his dismissal from Georgia. Grantham was hired after the 2009 season, and Mettenberger left in April, so Grantham only saw him in spring practice, and therefore it's not a fountain of inside information on the LSU quarterback.
"You could tell he was a talented guy," Grantham said. "Had a big arm. Could put it where it needed to be put. But other than that, not really (much help)."